Dealing with Disappointment . . .

During the first quarter of my freshman year at Miami University, in the fall of 1975, I was treated to hear J.J., a sister in Christ, recount a story that she heard Josh McDowell tell during one of his talks on the campus. Josh had had a great dating relationship with a wonderful sister in Christ, and everyone who knew them both, including a number of Christian leaders, told them that if any Christian dating couple should get married, that they should be that couple.

Then God stepped in, and they both simultaneously had the sense of his leading that their getting married was not where he was leading them. They cried together during the breakup, and Josh boarded the airplane for his next destination. He recounted that for the first time in his Christian life he cursed God out of the depths of his disappointment. Then the scripture came back to him, “ . . .  no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). He then said how on the basis of scripture he could see that God would have someone even better for him than the one that he renounced out of obedience to the leading of the Spirit of God, and his momentary curse of disappointment turned to praise. And he went on to tell how he met the woman who became his wife.

So many times when believers talk about any kind of disappointment with their circumstances – a situation that did not turn out as expected, someone who acted in a way which they did not expect, someone who made a decision contrary to what they would have expected – it does come down to the kinds of expectations that they heap upon God. Some corrections are in order. Here are the possible reasons for corrections to one’s expectations.

  • What I wanted was not really good for me according to the infinite wisdom and goodness of God.
  • What I wanted from someone else was not really good for that person according to the infinite wisdom and goodness of God.
  • I did not pursue what I wanted with believing prayer.
  • I did not pray for what I wanted while living in the will of God (John 15:7).
  • I did not pray for what I wanted for the glory of God (John 14:13-14).
  • I expected to receive something that I wanted in this life with no effort, struggle or affliction.
  • I expected that someone else would fulfill my expectations without a frank and open discussion of my expectations.
  • I expected blessing to come by doing the same things that I did in a previous situation in which I thought was successful.
  • I thought that the problem with this other person was that he or she was not doing things the way that I would have done them.
  • I thought that the problem with this other person was that he or she was not like me.

These are by no means an exhaustive list, but they cover a lot of the reasons why there might be disappointment in our lives with our circumstances and with other people. If you’re harboring any kind of disappointment, try one or more of these on for size.

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