Disappointment is unavoidable. If you are reading this, chances are that you have experienced being let down.
Friends will let us down, parents will let us down, and we’ll let ourselves down. But what do we do when our church or leaders disappoint us?
There is not a universal response to this question, but here are four major keys that can help in moving us toward the place of healing and reconciliation.
1. Acknowledge the disappointment.
You can’t fix something that you don’t know is broken. Our culture has a tendency to pretend nothing is wrong. We also seem to play the comparison game with our hurts and disappointments.
Recently I was talking with a friend about a situation in her life causing her feel to hurt and disappointed. As she wept, she kept saying that she shouldn’t be upset because other people have much bigger problems.
The problem with using comparison to minimize our heartaches is that it doesn’t make the pain go away.
You and your feelings matter. Your experiences and emotions are unique to you, and it is OK to allow yourself to feel them. Ignoring the pain will not make it go away, and avoiding the pain will not help it to heal. If you cut your finger open, you don’t ignore the injury and wait for it to heal on its own. You clean it to avoid infection, and then tend to it carefully. Our hearts need the same attention and it all starts with acknowledging that there is a wound.
2. Check your expectations.
Once you acknowledge that you have been disappointed, you have to pinpoint who or what has disappointed you and why you are disappointed by it. This is not always an easy process and can take some time and prayer to realize.
In recent years, I can identify three leaders who have deeply disappointed me. The disappointments hurt tremendously, and by the grace of God, I have been able to heal from the situations. What I discovered in the healing process was life changing.
I admired these women greatly, and assumed the relationship to be one of mentorship. However, they were each going through seasons in their lives where their human frailties were obvious. Instead of being humbled by the reality that these ladies trusted me with their raw feelings, and the inner workings of their lives, I was offended. I was offended at the fact that they were not “pouring into me” (this is another article entirely) and that monuments I had built to them in my mind were crumbling down to rubble.
I expected them to have perfect lives and be so strong in their faith that they had no weakness. This was an unrealistic expectation that literally set me up for disappointment. The Lord used these three women to show me that I was holding every leader in my life to an impossible standard of being completely blameless and without fault. The only faultless human was Jesus, and people were still offended by him.
No one is perfect, and no one will meet all of your expectations. This has to be become OK to us.
The women I described are human, the leaders over you are human and your pastor is human. They, like the rest of us, have shortcomings, face challenges and are working out their salvation daily.
A good way to evaluate the standards to which you are holding others is your own ability to meet those same expectations. Even then however, we should remember Hebrews 12:15: “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
3. Remember that God is sovereign.
It is easy to want to stay in our disappointment and rage against the circumstances and people we believe caused it.
However, it is important to remember that if something is happening in your life, God is allowing it and that He has a plan that is working for your good (Romans 8:28).
If now was the right time for you to be using your gift or holding that position, you would be doing it. If that leader was meant to counsel you, you would not have been assigned to someone else, and if you were meant to be seen, God wouldn’t have you hidden.
Only the Lord knows what your future holds, so trust him to order your steps and to orchestrate your healing.
4. Check your heart and your perspective.
In my walk with the Lord, there have been times when I have felt overlooked and unnecessary. In those times an examination of my heart often revealed that my perspective was skewed.
Earlier, I mentioned being disappointed by my mentors. My perspective contributed to that disappointment, because I was seeking to be served and not to serve. In the midst of hearing about some pretty serious life circumstances that they were dealing with, I was focused on the fact that they were not helping me. In hindsight, I didn’t actually need help with anything during those seasons. I was simply so puffed up with pride that I couldn’t stand to feel that I wasn’t the center of their attention and praise.
We are the body, and as such should seek to serve and not be served. I have learned that when I approach my church and the kingdom of God as servant, truly desiring nothing more than to see the Lord encounter His people and set them free, I am often privileged with the opportunities to be a chosen vessel. Beyond this, the burden of disappointment is lifted, because I am living Hebrews 12:15.
Nothing is too far for the grace of God to reach. When we walk in this, it is easier to not be offended and not be self-centered. Beyond this, when we do become hurt or disappointed, it is easier to surrender the pain to God and not spread the infection by attacking the character of the offending party.
As we journey through life, it is important to keep a posture of service. When we keep our hearts, perspectives and expectations in check, disappointment has a hard time rooting and growing into bitterness. There is freedom in Christ to live full, meaningful lives. Don’t fall into the traps of pride and self-promotion. They are elevators to the pit of constant disappointment.