Who hasn’t been disappointed by another person’s choices? I was talking about the state of American politics with a friend yesterday who cynically (and honestly) said, “I don’t think there is a single politician who isn’t corrupt!” Yes, that’s an overstatement, but it reveals a common thread of disappointment in our ‘leaders’ who seem too often to serve self-interest and those with deep pockets. In my own profession recent years have brought one preacher scandal after another, seriously eroding trust in pastors as a whole. Then, there is a biggest issue – when the circumstances in which we find ourselves are completely at odds with what we expected.
Robert Burns, the Scottish poet, wrote To A Mouse, a poem that expressed his regret at ruining her nest with his plow. Included are these memorable lines:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley, (go oft awry)
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
When cancer took my wife 7 years ago, I dealt with the grief of losing my life partner as well as the death of so many dreams and hopes for our future together. Working at acceptance of ‘what is’ rather than ‘what I hoped might be’ was a long process, a necessary work to find peace again.
What choices can we make in life when missed expectations come our way so that we will live in ways that are healthy and that please God?
1. As I mentioned a moment ago, we must learn to accept life as it is, even as we refuse to resign from hope!
It is a kind of childishness and naivete to imagine that life will always work out as planned, that people will always be good, that disease will never come our way, that even those we love will always fit into our plans or act in ways that are consistent with our values. 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.
For example, I am very aware that parts of me are capable of sin. I don’t deny it or excuse it. That acceptance does not mean that I indulge temptation. Living in the truth causes me to rely on the Spirit, to regularly seek His course corrections for my life. In a similar way, accepting the reality that others are imperfect and may well fail- causes me to pray for the genuine love of God to overcome my natural resentment.
2. We must reject bitterness.
The Bible says we risk allowing a “…root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. (corrupted) ” [Hebrews 12:15 (NKJV)] Who does not know a person who has become an angry, bitter, toxic individual as a result of missed expectations?
In our hard times we have a choice – Faith that trusts God to heal us in our brokenness; or bitterness that turns us sour and hard-hearted! Remember Jesus’ promise – “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4, NIV) Let yourself feel the pain of brokenness and let God become your Hope and Healer.
3. Forgiveness is part of God’s answer to disappointment.
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! Jesus’ reply shocked the disciples: “Seven? Hardly. Try seventy times seven.” The challenge is to give up our self-importance, to be willing to extend mercy, and to understand the meaning of real forgiveness.
Does this mean we sweep away the other person’s offense as though their harm to us is without importance?
Are we required to attempt to forget the deep wounds caused by the sins of others?
Do I just look at my own sins that disappoint me and shrug, “I’m human”?
Those responses are not at all like the forgiveness we are taught by Jesus. He purchased our forgiveness at great expense to Himself. He gave us the gift of restoration to God. We take the pain to ourselves even as we make the choice to to hand over the disappointment to God releasing the debt we feel is owed to us to Him. “Impossible,” you say. No, friend, it isn’t. Hard, yes – impossible, no.
4. Keep hope in the promise of eternity!
The ‘game’ is not over today or even in a decade. We are eternal beings, saved by God and brought into His purposes that extend beyond the margins of time. Sometimes the only way I can manage missed expectations is to pray for eyes of faith that hold onto the great moment when all things are made right, when sin is defeated, when God’s will is finished in me in His glorious Heaven.
Oh, how I look forward to that day when disappointment is wiped away. Won’t it be a great day? Yes, I pray often “May Your Kingdom come, Your will be done – on earth, as it is in Heaven!” Those words inspire such hope in me.
Here is a word from the Word. Review it often, keeping these promises at hand and you will be able to deal with those missed expectations.
“Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will give us later. For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. Against its will, everything on earth was subjected to God’s curse. All creation anticipates the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay.” (Romans 8:18-21, NLT)
“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. For we don’t even know what we should pray for, nor how we should pray. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:26-28, NLT)
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name
On Christ the solid Rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand
When darkness veils His lovely face
I rest on His unchanging grace
In ev’ry high and stormy gale
My anchor holds within the veil
His oath His covenant His blood
Support me in the whelming flood
When all around my soul gives way
He then is all my hope and stay
When He shall come with trumpet sound
O may I then in Him be found
Dressed in His righteousness alone
Faultless to stand before the throne
Edward Mote | William Batchelder Bradbury
© Words: Public Domain