Navigating Disappointment

Disappointment is defined by Google as, “sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.” This nonfulfillment can lead to a simple frustration, a quickly passing sadness, but in cases of high hopes and high expectations, disappointment can lead to deeper levels of sadness or despair.  Our chance of experiencing disappointment seems perpetual in varying levels as a human being. The coffee you paid $4 for at Starbucks wasn’t as foamy and creamy as you hoped. You don’t get the end of year review you hoped for after putting in long hours and diligent work. You go to the doctor for a standard checkup to find that your blood work shows a high level of white blood cells and additional blood work is needed. The plane you planned to board at 7:00am was delayed and you sit in the airport for hours. Almost daily you could experience disappointment. Disappointment is a valid and at times stressful emotion. Now, what do you do once you recognize it has entered your heart and mind? Do you ignore it? Do you sit and let the disappointment crash on the beaches of your dreams for the day, month, year… lifetime?

If navigated properly, disappointment can be an opportunity to grow. I recently looked in the face of disappointment and acknowledged its warning sign on the gauge of my heart and mind. I said, “Thank you for the awareness to a piece of my heart not walking in healing, but you disappointment may not take root and bud despair.” Yet, as I began to truly study the lines of the face of disappointment, I saw wrinkle patterns not caused just by an unfortunate circumstance or another individual.  I saw wrinkles that match my own smile lines. Oh yes, some of the disappointment I experienced was due to my own lack of responsibly and discipline in my daily life. That stings and liberates all in the same moment. I have a choice in how the disappointment grows and what fruit it bears. It is how I begin to respond to the presence of disappointment in my life that fertilizes the soil for personal growth or roots into despair.

I have found that these three practical steps allow me to walk through disappointment and find a path to healing on the other side of sadness or displeasure.

  1. Acknowledgement: I allow myself to recognize the emotion and acknowledge its existence in my day and where the source of disappointment came from and then cast it back to Jesus. Recognizing the source of disappointment allows me to know if there was an action or behavior of my own that could be changed to prevent future disappointment. Acknowledgement is vital. In times that I haven’t acknowledged my feelings of disappointment, they continued to build and it became harder to walk through to joy. This is also where I begin to pray. Here my prayer is simple, “God my heart is hurting and sad and I just want to come and take these feelings to you.” In 1 Peter 5:7 we are promised that God cares for us, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
  2. Conceptualization: I try to conceptualize the level to which I should really let this affect me, or in more general terms where it falls in the great scheme of life. In Jeremiah 29:11 we are given a promise from God, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” If God has plans to give me hope then I can rest in knowing that the nonfulfillment of my current situation is temporary. The promise of eternity my soul rests in may overcome many earthly passing sorrows; yet glory is forever in Christ Jesus.  This step can take a little time for me depending on the precise situation; and I allow that time knowing that it leads to good things.
  3. Action: This step is different depending on what I decided in step 2. If I find that by looking at the big picture I have moved on and let go, this is where I give thanks back to God for walking with me and allowing me to process emotions with him. If I found in step two that the situation was a larger loss of hope or one that was caused by my own behavior, this is where I begin to take action. This action can look as simple as setting up a better morning routine so I’m not disappointed after running late due to an unpacked diaper bag and lunch for work the night before. This step can also be a bit drawn out in cases where I am really disappointed and struggling to move out of disappointment. I will at times bring in others to pray and counsel me and carry this burden with me. Praying with them and seeking God’s perfect action plan. I may watch or listen to a sermon to fill up my hope tank or watch a really funny movie to lift my spirits. The purpose of this step is finding my path to walk back into joy.

This is another key I use to battle disappointment: testimony is powerful and breeds hope. When my hope is low, I crave and intentionally seek out evidence of personal testimony to see and hear proof that God moves in power and grace today in the lives of believers. Reading how others have carried the burden of disappointment and walked through with strength gives me hope for my own walk, even if it is limping at times. Recently during a season of disappointment that really began to root I started reading Lysa TerKeust’s new book, It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way. She is the president of Proverbs31 Ministries, wonderful speaker and not a stranger to disappointment. She has walked through colon surgery, breast cancer, and marital strife and come out the other side with a rich well of knowledge and beautiful writing, still praising Jesus for his goodness. I would recommend this as a great resource if you find that in step three the disappointment is still hanging on. We are members of an incredible body in Christ, and we must rely on the strength and testimony of others to continually renew our own strength and spur us on to hope.

There is no cure all for disappointment, no essential oil, no perfect supplement to re-fuel your hope tank. In walking through acknowledgement, conceptualization, and action, we are reminded that our hope is eternal. Begin moving towards new behaviors, fresh grace, and reaching out to the body of Christ around you. In time, you will find disappointment is an emotion worth hiking through all the way to the other side where peace and joy spring eternal.

Emma Shetterly
Junior High Pastor

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