Overcoming Disappointment

John 11:32: “When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Luke 7:20: “When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?'”

Luke 24:20-21: “The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel…”

We all face times, seasons and situations that greatly disappoint us; sometimes even devastate us. Certain events occur (some deeply personal) that are completely contrary to what we had prayed, thought, imagined, expected, hoped, desired or dreamed. Life often is full of disappointments. Each of the three passages cited above deal with a situation where that was the case. And inherit in disappointments is great danger.

The danger inherit within disappointments is that disappointment can be a “faith” robber. In fact the enemy will use disappointments to plant seeds of doubt in our minds and hearts regarding the word of God, character of God, promises of God and person of Jesus Christ. Disappointments can lead not only to doubts but disillusionment and bitterness with God. Many people have turned away or are staying at a distance from God because of disappointments. Because of this many are “stuck” or at a “standstill” in their walk with God where they are not experiencing God’s power and movement in their lives because of the fruit of disappointment.

Therefore it is vital that we learn how to overcome disappointment before we are overcome by it! Let’s take these three situations and stories and note a few helpful points in helping us overcoming disappointments.

  • Pour out your heart and give all your sorrow, anger, pain, disappointment to the Lord.

John chapter 11 is the story where two sisters, Mary & Martha, send word to Jesus regarding their brother Lazarus who had fallen sick. Their message was simply this: “Lord, the one you love is sick.” (John 11:3). In that “prayer” is an expectation that Jesus will come and heal him, especially since they were good friends. The reasoning perhaps was: “If he healed people he did not have a prior relationship with, surely he will come and heal one he is friends with!” They had no doubt in His ability or that he would make himself available! Yet when Jesus doesn’t show up to heal him or even come to his funeral (he waited until the fourth day) their faith (and hearts) are shattered.

Mary in fact is so hurt by this that when Jesus does come, she stays where she is and at a distance. This is likewise true for many people right now. They have been disappointed by God so they have put walls up around their heart and lives. They won’t draw near or have stopped drawing near to God and stay at a distance.

It is interesting to note that Jesus does not force his way into her presence, but waits for her to come into his presence. During this time Jesus is working in Martha’s heart and life, but nothing is happening in Mary who has chosen to sit in her house and wallow in her pain.

Sometimes the reason why some people are not experiencing the movement of God in their lives is because they are not moving towards Him. If we sit drowning in our sorrow, rather than pouring out our sorrow at his feet, Jesus will not turn away, but neither will he force his way upon those who are not willing or ready. Rather he stands still and waits for us to come to him.

There is also a big difference between “shaking your fist in his face” verse falling at his feet like Mary will eventually do and pouring out your heart and pain to him. One posture speaks of pride and defiance; a holding onto rather than a letting go and releasing to.  One of the most important things we need to do when we are facing disappointments is give it all over to the Lord, rather than “give it to him” in the sense of “letting him know how we feel” while continuing to hold onto it and the bitterness that comes with it.  Fall at his feet rather than pointing a finger in his face. 

Also, it is important to note again, that it wasn’t until Mary moved to Him, that He began to move in this situation. And it wasn’t until Martha rolled away the stone in obedience to Jesus command, that Jesus actually worked a greater miracle than merely healing a sick man; He raised a dead man to life! 

Sometimes, the very situations we are disappointed by or devastated because of, are actually situations God has something greater in mind planned than what we had in mind! But it takes someone who will continue to believe rather than succumb to unbelief and “give up.” Don’t give up! Dare to roll the stone away! As Jesus challenged Martha right before he raised Lazarus from the dead: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”   (John 11:40).

  • Don’t focus on what you don’t understand that is causing you doubts; re-focus on what you do know that builds your faith!

The second scripture passage comes from a time when John the Baptist had been put in prison. He was actually the first to testify and witness and boldly declare to the people that Jesus was the long-awaited and promised Messiah. At that time, he had no doubt in his mind, as God had confirmed it to him.

Yet now, fast-forwarding years later, there he sits in a prison confused and having second thoughts. Why? Because Jesus wasn’t doing what he thought he would do. John expected that Jesus was going to physically set him free, because after all the Messiah when he came would “set the captives free.” It’s not that this promise was false, it was that John’s understanding was incomplete.

This likewise can happen to us and cause us disappointments and doubts. We interpret a promise of God or the word of God a certain way and when it doesn’t turn out the way we thought it would we get discouraged and can waiver in faith.

What Jesus tells John is crucial. It was essentially two things. First of all, he called John to refocus on the evidence (or signs) that were clear: people were being healed, delivered and saved!  This was just as was prophesied (John 7:22).

Secondly, Jesus said: “Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Luke 7:23). In other words, Jesus was saying to John, “blessed is the person who does not succumb to unbelief and turn away from faith in Me, just because I don’t meet their expectations or do things the way they think it is supposed to look like. Blessed is the person who keeps believing despite their disappointments, rather than the person who gets offended and turns away from me.”

We need to give our disappointments to God, dare to continue to believe despite them, while focusing on the evidence or confirmation that is clear from the past and in the present!

  • Keep moving forward and look up; rather than staying still consumed with and crippled by, disappointment.

As “Rocky” puts it to his son in one of the Rocky movies: “Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward.”

The third passage is in regard to a few of the disciples who were out walking on the road to Emmaus after Jesus had been crucified. It has now been three days. Some of the women and other disciples have been claiming to have seen Jesus alive, but these disciples are too consumed with grief and disappointment to even perceive that the man talking with them was indeed the risen Christ!!

That’s another problem with disappointment, it clouds our ability to perceive the person and presence of Jesus right there with us! Luke 24:17 tells us that: “They stood still, their faces downcast.”

There are those who have come to a standstill in their walk with God because of disappointment. Their heads are hung down in defeat and despair; rather than looking up in faith and hope. They have lost faith and lost hope. And so they cannot discern the presence of Jesus or His voice anymore in their lives even when he is right there “speaking” to them!

Disappointment can be crippling to our faith. That is why we must remember to apply these three principles when dealing with disappointment:

  • Pour out and give over to Jesus all your disappointments, anger, sorrow and pain. Don’t shake your “fist” at him and “give it to him” in the sense of “telling him off” rather fall at his feet in surrender and release it all to him!
  • Don’t focus on what you don’t understand that is causing you doubts; re-focus on what you do know that builds your faith! God has already provided plenty of confirmation to us both in our past and in the present if we but have “eyes” to see it.
  • Keep moving forward in faith and “look up”; (believe even when it doesn’t make sense & hurts) rather than stopping and staying still, consumed with, crippled by and wallowing in disappointment.

Ultimately it comes down to whether we will succumb to unbelief or persevere in faith. In all three cases, Jesus challenged their faith. In the first he said: “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” In the second he said: ““Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” And in the third he said: “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25-26).

What will your choice be?

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