When my husband, Budd, was studying for his driver’s exam he asked his dad, “May I have a car for my birthday?” “Sure,” came the ready reply. As Budd tells it, the morning of his 16th birthday he awoke with an anticipation that was unprecedented. He raced downstairs and out the front door. Seeing only the family station wagon, he raced to the side of the house. Nothing. He ran back into the house where his parents were having their morning coffee.
“Where’s the car?”
“You said I could have a car for my birthday!”
“And you can. You just need to buy one. I didn’t say we would give you a car.”
Now, this exchange can make you think my father-in-law was cruel. He truly was not. He had grown up working to support himself since he was very young. He was a hard worker and good provider. This was a lesson for his eldest son. I can honestly say that while Budd told the story often with a tinge of humor, there was also the faint scent of the disappointment he had felt so many years before. Big expectation = big disappointment.
Don’t you hate disappointment? I hate it!! I think its one of the worst feelings for me. Large or small….important or not….I don’t like disappointment.
Disappointment is the result of an expectation that doesn’t work out. By definition it is “to fail to fulfill the expectation or hope of.” When I expect someone to do something and they don’t, I’m disappointed. When I expect a gadget, appliance or car to function a certain way and it doesn’t, I’m disappointed. These disappointments are just a way of life. My 3-year old granddaughter is disappointed to tears when she can’t have a cake pop. Life is not easy.
Some disappointments are life altering. I have a friend whose pregnancy was a gift of joy and expectation. She and her husband were ecstatic, as most soon-to-be-parents are. Their baby girl was born and lived just nine days. Nine days. Disappointment is almost too small a word for their grief. They expected so much more…so much different. Their journey held days, months and years of dealing with that sad disappointment. Belen is the model for this snapshot.
When a couple in love get married their expectation is that they will be happy and build a life together. Few people believe it will be perfect or even easy, but there is still the expectation that they will be able to make it work. Divorce can be a crushing disappointment. Even if the divorce seems necessary, it is still the death of what could have been. I know of graduates who have studied for years to pursue a career that does not work out; the hope of parents that their children will return and reconcile but never do. In this Covid-World so many have felt the bitter taste of disappointment as loved ones die alone in hospitals. So much sadness and disappointment.
Where is disappointment affecting your life and relationships? Is it disappointment in yourself? In others? In God? This Christmas, let’s release ourselves and others…even God…from the weight and burden of disappointment. Forgive, extend grace, and choose to learn and live in the truth that makes us free. We cannot avoid disappointment, but it certainly does not need to own us.
The truth is, I am usually most disappointed in myself. I’m disappointed that I wasn’t or am not a perfect mother and grandmother with the ability to love perfectly, to have exactly the wisdom or resources my kids need every single time they need something and to never respond out of anger, frustration or self-centeredness. That’s all I want. I know what you’re thinking…lighten up! I know that, I just don’t always feel it.
And to be honest, I am sometimes disappointed in others. Why don’t people appreciate my obvious gifts and abilities? Why do my friends sometimes hurt or disappointment me? How can my friends confront me when I say something the wrong way…don’t they understand my heart?
I can be disappointed in God. He didn’t come through, He didn’t listen, He didn’t heal, He is silent…. All of these conclusions are based on the expectations of who God is and how He should act. Not surprisingly, He usually does not mold himself to suit our expectations.
“My God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory.” [Philippians 4:13] I need a new roof on my house. Where is that coming from? I need a job…or financial help.
“God will not allow you to be tempted more than you’re able to bear.” [1 Corinthians 10:13] Well, I can’t take anymore. God isn’t coming through like he said he was. I’m on my own.
“By his stripes we are healed.”[Isaiah 53:5] “The prayer of faith will heal the sick.”[James 5:15] I have prayed with all the faith I can muster. I have trusted and tried and wept and pleaded with God….nothing. I am sometimes disappointed in God.
In the Old Testament God continually shows up for His people, Israel. He does magnificent miracles like parting the Red Sea, defeating the huge Egyptian Army (Exodus 14), providing bread from the dessert floor and quail drifting through camp to be caught and eaten (Exodus 16). He brought water from a rock (Exodus 17) and knocked down enemy cities (Joshua 5-6). That’s just a handful of His great and visible feats. And the people responded how? With worship and gratitude forevermore, Amen? No, they were disappointed with the bread because they wanted meat. They were disappointed with the meat because there was no variety. They were disappointed that God made them wander around the desert for 40 years – though it was the result of their own lack of trust.
Joseph was disappointed that God allowed him to sit in prison (Genesis 37-50). David was disappointed that he was hiding in caves after God had anointed him as future king (1 Samuel 19-25). Elijah was disappointed that he was the only prophet of God left in Israel, and on it goes (1 Kings 17-19). When God shows up with power and pizzazz we still end up somehow disappointed.
When God came to earth – people were disappointed. The prophets had promised big things! Deliverance and freedom! And people expected a mighty Warrior King! Jesus, the very Son of God, came as a baby. He never took on the political power they anticipated. It’s still true, right? He just doesn’t perform for us, or do things our way.
Why are we so disappointed in God and in ourselves? I believe the crux of it is that we expect God to act a certain way because we think we fully understand Him. We don’t.
Isaiah 55:8-9 My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your way and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”
God, the Creator of all things is “Other” than us. He is not just a shinier version of us. He is magnificently above everything even as He is lovingly present with us. Wrap your brain around that if you can. We cannot earn, purchase or require His goodness toward us, it is a gift He is delighted to give. God’s ways, His plans and His presence will always hold mystery for us. His ways and thoughts are so very different from ours.
When life feels out of control, lean into Him. He doesn’t move or change. When you are disappointed in life or in God, tell Him. He can take it. When you are suffering, reach out to God and know with absolute assurance that He is close, He cares and He will use our pain to work goodness and grace in us. I know that doesn’t sound as good as having a Great-Genie-in-the-Sky who is at our beck and call, but then our purpose in life is so much greater than being served and comfortable.
Expect God to love you. Expect His ultimate good for those who love Him. Expect Him to offer grace to you. You won’t be disappointed.
“Who is like you among the gods, O Lord— glorious in holiness,
awesome in splendor, performing great wonders?
O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.
As for me, since I am poor and needy, let the Lord keep me in his thoughts.
You are my helper and my savior. O my God, do not delay.
You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior.
You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas.
For the glory of your name, O Lord, preserve my life. Because of your faithfulness, bring me out of this distress.
But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.
Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was healed at that moment.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!