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7 Faithful Ways to Wrestle with Disappointment

Whitney Hopler

Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Published Feb 22, 2024
7 Faithful Ways to Wrestle with Disappointment

Disappointment is an inevitable part of life. We all encounter moments when life doesn’t go as planned--unmet expectations, broken relationships, unexpected hardships, missed opportunities, and other disappointing situations. As Christians, we’re not immune to disappointment because we’re living in a fallen world.

However, we have a loving and powerful God to help us in disappointing situations. 

Jesus warns us in John 16:33 that we’ll encounter disappointment in our earthly lives, but he also encourages us to rely on his help to overcome it: “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Romans 15:13 promises that when we ask the Holy Spirit to help us, the Spirit will give us the hope we need: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

God never wastes hardship. When we trust God, he will bring us through disappointment and help us find peace of mind and joy in any circumstances

Let’s explore 7 ways Christians can wrestle with disappointment and handle it well.

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1. Acknowledge and Process Your Emotions

Disappointment often brings with it a flood of emotions--sadness, anger, and even doubt.

It’s important for us to acknowledge and process these emotions in a healthy way, rather than suppressing or ignoring them. The Bible affirms the validity of our emotions and encourages us to bring them to God in prayer.

Throughout the Book of Psalms, we see people praying emotionally, and Psalm 34:17-18 declares: “The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

When we face disappointing circumstances, we can find encouragement in knowing that God is near to us, ready to listen to our cries and offer comfort and healing. As we process our emotions, we can also find encouragement by reflecting on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he experiences anguish in a situation the human part of him doesn’t want to go through--his upcoming crucifixion.

Matthew 26:39 records Jesus’ prayer to God the Father: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus’ vulnerability and surrender to God’s will serve as a powerful example for us as we process our own emotions in times of disappointment.

It’s okay to be honest with God about our disappointment. In fact, God wants us to pray authentically, from our hearts. Psalm 55:22 assures us that when we express our concerns to God, he will help us: “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” 

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young black man praying with eyes closed and hands folded, how to trust in the Lord with all your heart

2. Remember God’s Sovereignty

In the middle of disappointment, it’s easy to lose sight of God’s sovereignty--the truth that God is in control of all things, even when life doesn’t go according to our plans.

Remembering God’s sovereignty helps us trust that he has good purposes for our lives, even when we go through disappointment. In Isaiah 55:8-9, God reminds us: “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”

The way certain situations turn out in our lives may disappoint us from our perspective, from God’s eternal perspective they may still ultimately benefit us.

God says in Jeremiah 29:11: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” When we trust in God’s sovereignty, we can find peace knowing that his plans are ultimately for our good, even when we can’t see or understand them.

Joseph, in the Old Testament, had to deal with great disappointment after being sold into slavery by his brothers and unjustly imprisoned. But God helped him and eventually used those circumstances to save many other people besides Joseph.

Joseph says in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Joseph’s story reminds us that God is able to redeem even our greatest disappointments for good purposes. 

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3. Evaluate Your Expectations

Disappointment often results from unmet expectations. As Christians, it’s important to evaluate our expectations and align them with God’s truth and promises.

Are we expecting more from people or circumstances than we are from God? Are our expectations rooted in worldly desires or in the eternal promises of God?

Proverbs 19:21 reminds us: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” When we align our expectations with God’s promises and purpose, we can find greater contentment and trust God even while we go through disappointment.

The story of Martha and Mary in Luke 10:38-42 points out the danger of misplaced expectations. Martha becomes distracted by her many tasks, while Mary chooses to sit at Jesus’s feet and listen to him. When Martha expresses her frustration to Jesus, he gently corrects her in Luke 10:41-42: “‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed--or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.'”

Like Martha, we can become so focused on our own expectations and plans that we miss out on the greater blessing of simply being in the presence of Jesus.

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woman reading bible in purple shirt by ocean

4. Seek Encouragement from the Bible

The Bible is filled with stories of hope, perseverance, and God’s faithfulness in disappointing situations, so we can find encouragement in our own disappointing situations by reading the Bible.

Romans 15:4 reveals: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.”

Psalm 40:5 points out: “Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.”

Reading about God’s wonderful work in the Bible can inspire us to discover more about the wonder of God’s work in our own lives. Then we can see that God truly is at work in our lives, even while we go through disappointing circumstances.

The Old Testament leader King David encountered many disappointments throughout his life, but turned to God for strength in hard times. In Psalm 27:13-14, David declares: “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”

Like David, and so many other Biblical examples, we can find hope in God while dealing with disappointment.

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5. Lean on Your Faith Community

God designed us to live in community with one another, and our faith community can support in powerful ways when we’re going through disappointment.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 reminds us: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” So, let’s turn to our brothers and sisters in Christ for prayer, encouragement, and accountability during disappointing times.

In Acts 2:42-47, the Bible describes early believers devoting themselves to fellowship, prayer, and sharing the Gospel message. As a result, they experienced a deep sense of unity and support, even in the middle of disappointing hardships like persecution.

Like the people in the early church, we can find encouragement by leaning on our faith community in disappointing circumstances. 

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6. Look for Opportunities to Learn and Grow

While disappointment is never easy, it can also be a valuable opportunity for learning and growth. We can trust that God is using even our disappointments for good purposes.

James 1:2-4 encourages us: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

By embracing our disappointments as opportunities for growth, we can use what we learn from them to grow closer to God.

The apostle Paul faced many disappointing situations in his ministry work. But Paul stayed faithful to God and committed to working hard to serve God.

In Philippians 4:12-13, Paul writes: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Just like Paul, we can allow disappointment to strengthen our relationships with God.

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7. Trust in God’s Will and Timing

7. Trust in God’s Will and Timing

Ultimately, our response to disappointment should be centered in trust--trusting in God’s will and God’s timing. Even when life doesn’t go according to our plans, we can trust that God is working all things together for our good.

Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

When we trust in God’s will and timing, we can find true peace, knowing that we can rely on God to help us with whatever we need during any circumstances--including disappointing circumstances.

Despite facing years of disappointment while waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise of a son, Abraham and Sarah remained hopeful and ultimately saw God provide a son when Isaac was born. Genesis 21:1-2 records: “Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.” We too can trust in God’s perfect will and timing, even when we feel disappointed in our current circumstances. 

In conclusion, disappointment is a natural part of life in our fallen world. But we have the opportunity to respond to it in a way that draws us closer to God. We can handle disappointment well by acknowledging and processing our emotions, remembering God’s sovereignty, evaluating our expectations, seeking encouragement in the Bible, leaning on our faith community, looking for opportunities to learn and grow, and trusting in God’s will and timing.

We can rely on our loving and powerful God to give us real hope in disappointing situations.

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headshot of author Whitney HoplerWhitney Hopler is the author of the Wake Up to Wonder book and the Wake Up to Wonder blog, which help people thrive through experiencing awe. She leads the communications work at George Mason University’s Center for the Advancement of Well-Being. Whitney has served as a writer, editor, and website developer for leading media organizations, including Crosswalk.com, The Salvation Army USA’s national publications, and Dotdash.com (where she produced a popular channel on angels and miracles). She has also written the young adult novel Dream Factory. Connect with Whitney on X/Twitter and on Facebook

Originally published Monday, 26 February 2024.