When Disappointment Knocks

I know a little bit about disappointment. It’s something I’ve faced quite a bit in my life. Jobs I thought would come, opportunities I hoped would come my way, relationships I believed would be restored. We’ve all felt it one way or another. Even though we all experience it, we often don’t give ourselves the permission to feel it. It seems that in Christian circles there is so much shame that comes when we question or doubt or have feelings that are less than our Sunday best.  We stuff it and keep it secret. We do and say the right things. But if we don’t acknowledge it, it just festers.

Several months ago I was stuck on those few verses in Romans 5.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint.”

I sat down on the soft, brown leather couch across from my counselor (and new best friend) and told him about this verse.  The disappointment over my divorce had been sitting heavy for awhile but I was afraid to admit it. I thought if I expressed how deeply disappointed I was that somehow meant I didn’t trust who God was.  My disappointment, I believed, was directly equivalent to my lack of faith.

And then it all came tumbling out.

“But you know what,” I said. “I think that’s a load of garbage*. For months, I’ve done nothing but hope and here I am dis-a-poin-ted. Every expectation I had has been shattered and I did the right things and prayed the right prayers and I hoped so hard. So I just think it’s a lie. It feels like some kind of bad joke. Like, I’m supposed to hope for something that I’m just never going to get.”

I cried big tears that day because even as the words were coming out of my mouth I didn’t feel hopeless. I hadn’t lost all faith. I knew God was close. And somewhere deep down I believed He could be trusted. But, I needed some time to sit with my disappointment. I had to experience the tension (again). It was important for me to feel it and wrestle with it and give it up and dig through the stuff to find hope again.

Being disappointed is not the problem. Staying disappointed is the problem.

We aren’t very good at sitting with our stuff. We’re told to be strong and take heart and be positive and pray harder and yada yada yada. It’s all good stuff and, for the most part, usually comes from a kind place. But there is a time to feel the disappointment. There’s time to feel the grief and anger and sadness and hopelessness.  Feeling disappointment doesn’t mean you’re faithless or entirely void of hope or that you don’t trust in God’s goodness.

They aren’t mutually exclusive.

Feeling disappointed just means I’m feeling disappointed. 

The hope we have in Christ doesn’t disappoint us. It never has and it never will.

But the disappointment you feel over the promotion you didn’t get, the house you didn’t win, the relationship that fizzled out…you’re allowed to feel that. And the fear that comes when you have to choose to hope again. You’re allowed to feel that, too.

The Lord can handle it.

So, the next time disappointment knocks? Let it in. Sit in it and feel it and allow the Lord to meet you there. There is freedom in being true to your feelings. And then. Let hope rise. Reject the fear. Remind yourself of who God is. Be encouraged that He is for you. Remember that He is good.

*There may have been some choice words other than “garbage.” It’s fine. That’s why I pay him.