An open letter on Disappointment and Faith
Have you ever had what you thought to be a “God- dream” that ended in major disappointment?
After this last season of my life, I have found myself trying to untangle a huge mess of disappointment in the wake of my life’s sudden twists and turns. And through this season, I have come to the recent realization that sometimes my best plans and dreams end up wilted.
I drew the picture below to illustrate disappointment as a heart full of wilted flowers.
Over the last year or so I had several different disappointments hit one after the other and in quick succession. Disappointment number one came…then number two… then three… then by the time disappointment number four hit I didn’t want to pray for the impossible anymore. My heart was broken and my relationship with God felt strained.
I know from personal experience that disappointment has a way of robbing the heart of its fire, especially if you are a Christian with a fervent prayer life. I think this happens because disappointment is such a complex mixed emotion and can be very hard to process through. I did some very brief research on the mixed emotion of disappointment, and one article I read said that the anger and sadness a person associates with someone who disappoints them directly correlates to how much the person believed, loved, or trusted in a person.
So you can probably guess where I am going with this. If we strive to love God with all of our being and we feel disappointed in him, our feelings of anger, sadness and betrayal can be through the roof. They can be really hard to express and untangle.
Today, if you’re dealing with significant disappointment in your life, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- You need to identify the source of hope in your life. Be careful what you put your hope in. If we are putting our hope in anything that is of this world, it has the potential to fail us. This includes outcomes of dreams and hopes. If we put our hope in an outcome, we are not hoping in God anymore but in what we want. It’s so easy to do this. Hope in Christ does not disappoint.(Romans 5:3-5). Hope in a specific outcome can likely disappoint.
- Identify the true Source of disappointment. Often our perceived disappointment in God is partly a projection of our disappointment with man. While God is sovereign, people have free will to make decisions. This can be very hard to understand. But Christians and non-Christians alike make bad decisions everyday that are not God’s best for them. And none of us live in a vacuum. So how is it fair to blame God for a decision that another autonomous human being made that hurts or disappoints us? What if he wanted something different for us? For them? Though God is never caught by surprise, I know that he does not approve of many decisions you and I make that hurt the people around us. Be careful that you are not projecting man’s faults onto a perfect God.
- Identify any Disappointment in Self. Man, disappointment with self is hard to deal with. If you’re disappointed with yourself, you have to come to a point where you cut yourself a break. God has already forgiven you and empathizes with your pain. The whole point of the gospel is that a perfect God paid for our shortcomings. God promises in the Psalms that he holds all of our tears in a bottle, and that he is close to the broken-hearted. So he is near to us in our grief and disappointment. He understands…
- God wants us to come before him with unveiled face… even with the ugly stuff. So we’ve talked about projecting disappointment with man onto God. But sometimes we are also just legitimately disappointed in God, and he wants us to talk to Him about it. I’ve seen so many Christians (myself included) encounter horrible disappointments with statements like “it’s fine…God’s got it.” When truly our hearts are saying secretly “I’m angry at God and disappointed with Him.” In my experience, God wants me to be honest with him about my anger and disappointment instead of hiding behind religious sayings that I’ve heard. He wants me to admit the hard stuff.
The Psalmist pens in Psalm 51 that God desires more than elaborate religious sacrifices “a contrite heart.” That means he wants our honesty. In my own life, I’ve learned that my God loves to hear my heart even when it’s not pretty. He’s more concerned about having a relationship with me then maintaining perfect positive communication.
5. It is okay to be disappointed with God. God already knows you’re disappointed with him before you even express it to Him, and he still loves you. In the silence is where the enemy of our souls comes in and whispers lies, establishes strongholds, and sticks a wedge between Our Father and us. And distance from Our Father is dangerous. I know from recent experience.
So now what? If you have disappointment in your life today…
First, know that you’re not alone. It’s okay that you’re feeling this way. I and many other Christians have been there and you are not the only one.
Second, try to filter your disappointment. Ask… Am I disappointed with myself? Another person? Was I hoping in an outcome instead of God?
Start talking…to God. Stop avoiding the issue or self-medicating. Tell him how you feel. Fall apart. It’s okay 🙂
Start talking… to a close trusted friend about what you are going through. James 5 tells us that when we confess to God we are saved, but when we confess to man we are healed. So tell someone about it. Likely, they will be able to relate and will pray for you.
Ask God where he was when the thing that disappointed you happened… He will show himself. You will see his heart toward you and what you are going through.
Ask God to share new promises. Ask him for new opportunities to “get back on the horse” in re-establishing your belief and trust in him.
Friend, whoever you are, thank you for reading my thoughts and insights on disappointment. I have spent months trying to hash all of this out in a way that may be helpful for you. God will get you through this, even if your heart is wilted. <3