Originally published Tuesday, 08 April 2014.
Some days our plans just don't come to fruition. All that we expected and looked forward to goes awry. We struggle and push forward only to fall back down again.
And we wonder, why?
The world tells us that we can do whatever we put our mind to do. If we wish hard enough, we can click our heels and end up wherever our heart desires most. There are some Christians who say the same thing, that Jesus is our spiritual candy machine, dispensing dreams and hopes at the push of a prayer.
But the reality of our Christian life speaks otherwise. Disappointment is part of our lives. As Christ followers, we shouldn't be surprised when things don't work out, when we face trials, or when life is chaotic and unmanageable. "Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed." (1 Peter 4:12-13)
Instead, we can face our disappointments with joy, knowing that God is at work, changing us through it. "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4).
God is preparing us now, in this life, for eternity. He uses our struggles and challenges to sanctify us and make us holy. Stripping away the layers of sin and removing the counterfeit loves in our heart, he is makes us increasingly more like Christ and ready for life forever with him.
So what do we do when disappointments come our way? How do we respond? Like the Psalmist, we can cry out to God in prayer.
Father in Heaven,
I come before you with a heart weighed down by disappointments. Life hasn’t turned out like I expected. I feel let down, like I’ve been failed in some way. I struggle with facing these disappointments. Part of me wants to complain, part of me wants to give up in despair, and part of me wonders why do I even bother.
I guess my question is, why is life so disappointing? Why can’t I make any headway? Will I ever reach my goals or see an end to these constant uphill battles?
Yet even as I ask these questions, your Spirit prompts me in remembrance. I know why life is disappointing. I know that it’s not supposed to be this way. You created everything to work together in perfect harmony. But ever since that day when my first parents ate the fruit you told them not to eat, life has been marred and broken by sin. Disappointments rule the day. Everything from the earth itself, to my body, to relationships, to my dreams, they all fail to work the way they are supposed to.
Father, forgive me for complaining about my situation. Forgive me for wallowing in my self-pity. Forgive me for my discontentment. Yes, I know why life is disappointing and I should not be surprised. But what do I with those disappointments? How do I wake up every day knowing that life will not work the way it is supposed to and that a struggle or trial will appear at some time in my future?
Your Spirit prompts me again and I remember your Son. The Man of Sorrows. He knew the disappointments of this life. Your word says, "He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not" (Isaiah 53:3). He willingly entered this dark world, filled with brokenness, pain, sin, and sorrow. He took on the same weak flesh that I wear. He experienced everything I experience. Yet he did not sin. He did what I cannot do. He woke up every morning knowing that it was one day closer to the day he would give up his life for me and he willingly took those steps forward. For me. And then when the time had come, he took on all my sin and shame at the cross, suffering the curse I deserved. In that moment, he reversed the curse that started the day Eve bit into the flesh of that forbidden fruit.
I thank you Father for providing a way out of that curse. I thank you that because of your Son, I have the hope of heaven and eternity with you forever. I long for the day when all things will be restored to its rightful place, where there will be no more disappontments and sorrows and I'll be shed of this sin forever.
Until then, I live in this in-between time, where Jesus has won the victory but skirmishes still remain. Though he has conquered the power of sin in my life, the presence of sin still remains. Disappointments remain. I continue to face trials and challenges.
Help me Father to have an eternal perspective. Help me to see my disappointments in light of what Jesus purchased for me at the cross. Help me to seize those disappointments as opportunities to draw closer to you and not away from you. Help me to see Jesus in them, to see his love and grace for me.
I want to maintain the tension between knowing why there are disappointments and knowing that they will one day come to an end. I want those disappointments to drive me to you. Help me to hunger and thirst for you, more than for anything else. Help me to see that only you can comfort my disappointed heart, only you can fill up my emptiness, only you can give me the joy I long for. Holy Spirit, strengthen me for this fight. Give me gospel joy even in the midst of failed expectations. Prompt my mind and heart to always remember Jesus, the Man of Sorrows who conquered sin and death to bring peace to the chaos, healing for the broken, and forgiveness for sins.
Please be present in my sorrow this day. Give me grace to stand and walk forward in faith, knowing that eternity awaits on the other side.
In the name of Jesus I pray,
“In this world you will have sorrow, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33