We all have expectations. That vacation we planned for a year will be the best ever, we hope. Sometimes reservations get cancelled, weather intervenes, plans get shuffled – and we experience disappointment! People can delight us and they can disappoint us, too, when they change into a person we no longer recognize, or walk away without explanation. It happens all the time. Life is a mixture of delight and disappointment. Are you wrestling with missed expectations, struggling to stay faithful to the Lord even as you are living in a plot you never anticipated for yourself?
I never thought I’d be alone but the Lord allowed my wife of 41 years to step into His Presence 5 years ago and rewrote the script of life for me. As I prepare to step away from the leadership of the local church after a lifetime of pastoral ministry, I pray that I will find new and fulfilling ways to serve Him and others. But, there is the real possibility that the road ahead has curves and hills I have not anticipated, too.
So, how do we deal with missed expectations and disappointment?
Many allow themselves to turn inward and become bitter.
Who has not known someone who is miserable, sour in spirit? Tragically, bitterness can grow to overtake all of life. [Hebrews 12:15 (NKJV)] speaks of a “root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” Have you turned into one of those people who can’t find a nice thing to say about anyone, cynical, withdrawn, and toxic to be around?
Spiritually and emotionally healthy people learn acceptance.
The Serenity Prayer includes this line – “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” Acceptance is not passive, it is not resignation to fate, it is not cowardly! It is a lot of hard work, a willingness to set aside Self and to learn to live with a less than desirable situation. A Christian has God’s help in this work. That person is able to ask His strength to take life as it is, not as it was ‘supposed’ to be. With faith, we can accept who we are, where we are, and the people with whom we live and find new opportunities in the unforeseen circumstances of life.
If we insist that the only path to joy is living a life that matches our expectations we are acting like a child. If we convince ourselves that people will always be good or act in ways that are noble, we are simply naive. A measure of our maturity is the ability to deal with people as they are, discerning the good and the bad in others and in ourselves, and acting appropriately. Accepting people become loving people.
Then, too, there is true joy to be discovered in honest acceptance of ourselves. None of us is all that we hoped to be in some way or another. We all fail, despite our best intentions. God equips us in various ways by His Spirit and when we know who we are and what we do best for Him, we find a wonderful centered peace in which to live.
Forgiveness is an important tool in dealing with disappointment, too.
Forgiveness – does that mean we sweep away the other person’s offense as though what was done is without importance? We model our forgiveness on God’s forgiveness. Our sins broke His heart, offended His majesty, and earned us judgment. But He, at great expense to Himself, offered to forgive us and to create a path to reconciliation with Him for each one of us. His forgiveness is not partial nor conditional.
The Psalm celebrates His grace. “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:8-12, NIV)
We can know great inner peace IF we will forgive others in that way. We need not excuse offense or write off the wrong. Instead, by faith, we take that person’s actions to God and surrender judgment to Him, even as we choose to release the debt we feel is owed to us to Him. “Impossible,” you say? No, friend, it isn’t. Hard, yes – impossible, no.
Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Matthew 18:21 (NKJV) Since the Law of Moses only required 3 instances of forgiveness thought he was being big-hearted to offer to forgive seven times! But you remember the Lord’s response, don’t you? Jesus replied, “Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven.”
Finally, in faith we choose to keep hope alive!
There is one hope that will never disappoint – the hope of Glory! The day of the defeat of evil is coming with the revelation of the King. Oh, how I look forward to that day, when sin’s power over us is completely destroyed, when disappointment is wiped away. Won’t it be a great day? So, I live in hope.
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later.” (Romans 8:18, NLT) “And even we Christians, although we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, also groan to be released from pain and suffering. We, too, wait anxiously for that day when God will give us our full rights as his children, including the new bodies he has promised us. Now that we are saved, we eagerly look forward to this freedom. For if you already have something, you don’t need to hope for it. But if we look forward to something we don’t have yet, we must wait patiently and confidently.” (Romans 8:23-25, NLT)
It’s just fine to feel broken, but never allow yourself to become bitter!
Here is a word from the Word.
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’” (Matthew 6:9-13, NIV)
In those words we find the hope that defeats disappointment!
I’ve been held by the Savior
I’ve felt fire from above
I’ve been down to the river
I ain’t the same a prodigal returned
All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God that yesterday’s gone
(Yes) All my sins are forgiven
(Oh I’ve) I’ve been washed by the blood
(Come on and sing)
I’m no stranger to prison
I’ve worn shackles and chains
But I’ve been freed and forgiven
And I’m not going back I’ll never be the same
That’s why I sing
There’s a kind of thing that just breaks a man
Break him down to his knees
God I’ve been broken more than a time or two
Yes Lord then He picked me up and showed me
What it means to be a man
Come on and sing
David Crowder | Ed Cash
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