“Let’s Make a Deal!”
Week One: Dealing with Disappointment
“What’s wrong, Stephen?” “I can tell something’s bugging you.” Is it that obvious? Yes, I know it is. I don’t have a poker face. I can’t lie. I have experienced some profound disappointments lately, some of which are quite personal. Others are superficial and selfish. And some pertain not only to my future as a United Methodist pastor, but also to the future of this church and the advancement of God’s kingdom. How’s that for a heavy opening statement?
Okay, before some of you start freaking out—worrying about whether I’m going to lay a bunch of burdens on you…or make this a gripe session about all that’s wrong with the world…I want to make this a more generalized message about dealing with disappointment. But you need to know that my reasoning for this sermon series is entirely personal. God is dealing with me over some issues that, I believe, if handled appropriately and biblically, will yield positive results for this church and the kingdom of God. Let’s Make a Deal…with Disappointment!
According to one source, Disappointment is defined as “the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the defeat of one’s hopes or expectations.” The “defeat” of our hopes and expectations. I think that’s pretty accurate, don’t you? Basically, when situations, other people, and even ourselves don’t meet our expectations, we tend to be disappointed, don’t we?
Last Monday I was preparing for a restful day off filled with reading, a little light house cleaning, etc. One quick visit into the office to tell Elaine something and I was there three hours responding to visits, phone calls, and the like. Productive but disappointing.
Last Tuesday, I was supposed to meet someone at 11 am for an important meeting. I had reminded that person of the meeting two days earlier. I texted one hour earlier. At 11 am, no show. Very disappointing.
Last Wednesday, I woke up a bit later than normal, but still in plenty of time to spend an hour or more in prayer and devotion. I had a full day planned and would hit the ground running at about 8 am. At about 6:45 am my 8 am appointment notified me that he was on the way. I was still in my night clothes!
I quickly jumped in the shower, got dressed and made it to my office—a 27 step commute—just in time. That meeting lasted WAY longer than expected, which pushed everything else back. I felt rushed and crammed the rest of the day. I was…DISAPPOINTED!
Silly, right? All these little ways I found myself disappointed at situations and people. From a kingdom perspective, none of it was worth getting frustrated over. The fact still remains that, for some of us, when we don’t get what WE expect when WE expect it, then we’re angry…disappointed.
Some situations, like the events of last week, are trivial and not worth the emotional energy of being discontent. But there are other situations where being disappointed is purely appropriate. The challenge, I think is discerning between situations that warrant our disappointment and which don’t.
Let me share a biblical example where disappointment was clearly warranted. Last week Zach rightly compared the difference in the way King Saul and King David handled sin and correction of that sin. Saul, having been warned in 1 Samuel 15 to utterly destroy the Amalekites and all their belongings, kept the best livestock and spared Agog, their king. When Samuel rebuked Saul, he made excuses and even blamed his soldiers. He was more concerned with what the people thought of him than what God thought of him. He feared man more than God.
In contrast, when David was confronted by Nathan the prophet in 2 Samuel 12, David declared, “I have sinned against the Lord.” He feared God more than man. He looked to God for forgiveness, strength, direction, and even discipline. THIS is one of the reasons that David was a man after God’s own heart. He was not perfect, but he WAS a true worshipper of Yahweh!
When we think of David, many things come to mind: shepherd boy who slain Goliath the Philistine. Mighty warrior for king Saul. Great king of Israel. Songwriter and player of the lyre. And yes, adulterer and murderer.
But we don’t often think of David as disappointed, discouraged, or doubtful. And yet, the entire second half of 1 Samuel is devoted to David’s tumultuous relationship with King Saul.
After Samuel confronted Saul about his sins, declaring that the kingdom would be torn from his hand and given to someone more worthy, Samuel goes to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem and secretly anoints the shepherd boy David, the youngest of eight sons, as the next king of Israel. The Lord looks at the heart, not at outward appearance. David would not become king until Saul dies, which would be some years later.
Saul had a son named Jonathan who would rightfully be heir apparent to the throne. But God’s kingdom does not operate like other kingdoms. God regretted making Saul king. Saul was really the people’s choice. David was NOT who the people would have chosen, but he was God’s choice. He was Jonathan’s too. David and Jonathan became like brothers. Jonathan loved David like he did himself.
After the Spirit of God left Saul and fell on David, Saul became an even more troubled soul. It’s like he had a split personality. One day he would be decent and cordial to David…another day he would try to pin David to the wall with his spear for no good reason. Saul was a paranoid, narcissistic leader who feared David because he knew God was with him and God was going to make him king one day.
So…even though David had been anointed king, he would have to wait years before that would be a reality. And while he waited, he was on the run. Saul hated David because he saw him as a threat. Time and again Saul tried to kill David. Chapter after chapter in 1 Samuel, we read of David’s exploits in the wilderness, in caves, in cities of refuge…anywhere he can run to get away from Saul. It’s enough to make anyone disappointed.
I thought when God was on our side, everything was supposed to be rosy! As Mike Hensley puts it, “Sunshine, blue skies, and Mamma’s apple pie.” All David saw was dark caves and had to beg folks for food. At one point, David and his men ate the consecrated bread given to him by the priest, Ahimelek, at Nob.
Life was not fun and games for David. It was not filled with prosperity, security, and comfort. In fact, 1 Samuel 22 records that David had amassed a small battalion of followers (mighty men as they would later be called). Listen to how they are first described in verse 2: “All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him” [David]. It seems the only guys willing to hang out with David are in the same boat he was—disappointed at their lot in life!
The disappointments in each of our lives have been many. Our disappointments are different, but we all have them. Yours are as real and crushing and painful to you as mine are to me; and they linger, needling our hearts, despite our best intentions to leave them behind.
Some folks just want to hang around others who are frustrated with the cards that life has dealt them so they can feel better about their own situation. “Misery loves company,” as they say. Some of us, when we’re disappointed, turn to self-destructive behaviors like alcohol, drugs, pornography, or even marital unfaithfulness.
Others take out their disappointments on others. Frustrated and discontent, we blame others for our situation. “If only my company would have appreciated me more, then I would have given them my best efforts.” “If my spouse hadn’t been so insensitive and resentful toward me, I might have paid her more attention.” “If only my kids had showed me more respect, I would not have screamed at them like I did.”
We’re not sure WHY those 400 men started hanging out with David (which turned into over 600), but it seems like the responsibility to rise above disappointment would fall on David.
And rise he did. On at least two occasions, David had a clear opportunity to kill King Saul and become king himself. In both instances, however, he chose to leave vengeance in the hands of God rather than taking into his own hands. Ultimately, Saul takes his own life after being wounded in battle against the Philistines. And even then, David weeps and mourns for Saul. NOT because Saul deserved David’s condolences, but because David recognized the significance of the office to which God put Saul. Being king over Israel is a big deal. David would learn that soon enough. But for a moment, David would weep for the fallen king.
You see, David loved God. David believed God what who he said he was. And David trusted God and His plan to sovereignly rule over Israel as a light to the nations. The king was to look to Yahweh for guidance and to live before his subjects in such a way that the people could SEE how to live before Yahweh. Saul didn’t get it. David did…despite his personal sins.
I think this gives us hope as we face disappointments. Let me leave you with a few suggestions along with some biblical truths that may help us overcome disappointment in our lives. These are by no means an exhaustive list of truths we can mine from the riches of God’s Word, but just a few precious nuggets to polish and allow to shine in and through us. Let me credit Christian blogger, Tara Ziegmont, for helping me organize my thoughts on handling disappointments.
1.Believe in God’s plan. Our God is a miracle worker. He can part waters, cause the rains to cease and return, raise the dead, heal the sick, save lost souls, destroy the wicked, bless, and curse. He can do anything, everything, and all things beyond our comprehension.
“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 ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” –Isaiah 55:8-9
We simply HAVE to believe that God has got this thing in His hands. He is looking out for you. He is working out a plan that is bigger than you, and you are going to be better for it in the end. Listen to this often quoted promise from Jeremiah 29:11à“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Sometimes, it takes a painful disappointment to teach us a skill or strengthen our faith or to put us in the right place at the right time. We don’t know His ways or His thoughts. We just have to believe in His promise.
1.Own our disappointment. Things have not gone the way we wanted. Our hopes and expectations have been defeated. We need to spend some “alone” time sitting with our disappointment. It’s okay to be sad, mourning the way you thought things would be.
On one occasion, David penned this cry in Psalm 10:13à “Why do the wicked get away with despising God? They think, “God will never call us to account.” David was disappointed with how wicked people seemed to get away with everything while righteous people suffered.
God understands. Remember, Jesus was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, according to the prophet Isaiah. Here this promise from Psalm 34:18à The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Cry. Go outside and scream at the sky if you need to (just make sure nobody is around!). Exercise. Read. Do whatever it is that releases the sadness, the disappointment, the defeat. And then, eventually, we need to stop grieving and move on. Remember the words of Psalm 30:5àWeeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.
Disappointment is not meant to define you and me, my friend. It is not meant to hold us hostage or weigh us down into the mire of depression. Don’t give disappointment that power. And only YOU can give the emotions of grief, regret, discontentment any power.
Discern. It’s important that we ask ourselves the gut-check question: “Why am I disappointed?” “Am I simply not getting MY way on MY time? Or is there a deeper reason? It may be you are justified in your disappointment, like David was in our early story. Maybe your child or grandchild is defying the will of God for his or her life. Maybe the unhealthy and selfish choices of others are hurting people you love. Maybe you truly WERE wronged at work. Sit with those emotions. Cry, scream, but don’t linger in despair too long.
Pray. You had to know this was coming, right? Spend some time talking to God about your disappointment. Tell Him your heartache. Tell Him about the plans you had and ask Him to show you why He’s taken them away.
I promise you that He has good in this for you, and it’s okay to ask Him what that good is. Listen to this great promise found in Romans 8:28à And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.
Talk to Him like you’d talk to your best friend. Your prayer doesn’t have to be pretty or sound like one at your church. It just has to be honest and come from your heart. Here’s another powerful truth from Psalm 55:22à Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall. If you put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, then you, my friend, are the godly in this passage. If you are chasing after God, trying to do the right thing, seeking a better understanding of Him, then He’s talking about you.
1.Listen and wait. Big things happen when we pray. Sometimes, they are blessings beyond our expectations. Jesus gives us this promise during his Sermon on the Mount about the benefit and effectiveness of prayerà But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. -Matthew 6:6
Sometimes God responds quickly, but more times than not, we come to understand later in life. All we can do is pray, watch, and wait. In most cases we cannot change the circumstances or the people who caused disappointment in our lives. The best we can do is change our perception and attitudes toward those things. We can allow God to change US. But that takes patience. So, here’s one more biblical truth as we close out this morning. Again, it comes from David the Psalmistà Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. -Psalm 27:14
Here’s the deal. You and I will find ourselves disappointed with our circumstances in life and with others IN our lives. We may even get there before we make it to the lunch table! But if we will (a) believe in God’s perfect plan BEFORE we encounter disappointment, (b) own our disappointments when they come, discerning which are selfish and which are legitimate, (c) pray to God about our disappointments and (c) wait patiently for God to either work out the circumstance or work IN us a change, THEN I believe we can deal with disappointments appropriately. Deal? AMEN.