The Christian life often feels like a roller coaster ride when strong hope and faith clash with an unpredictable reality. If our prayers aren’t answered as we wish, and our dreams become shattered, disappointment is the inevitable outcome.
THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE TO DISAPPOINTMENT
If you are a Christian, you are well acquainted with disappointment. Everybody, whether a new convert or lifelong believers, battle feelings of disappointment when life goes wrong. Deep down, we think that following Christ will give us special immunity from trouble. We are like Peter, who tried to remind Jesus, “we have left all, and have followed thee.” (Mark 10:28).
We may not have left anything, but we have made some painful sacrifices. Isn’t that something that counts? Should that not give us a free pass when it comes to disappointment?
You know the answer to that already. As we all deal with our personal failures, godless people seem to be thriving. We wonder why they are doing so well, and we’re not. We fight our way through disappointment and loss then wonder what’s going on.
THE SHADOW OF DISAPPOINTMENT
Disappointment comes in all sizes. Whenever our hopes are not realized, or our expectations or wishes are not met, we feel disappointed. Disappointment can be a fleeting emotion over a temporary loss, or it can hit profoundly when something fundamentally affects our lives. A major disappointment will remain within us all the time, affecting our responses to everything.
We all experience disappointment for a variety of reasons. Feeling disappointed is not a sin. How we deal with it is a crucial issue. Disappointment is so common to mankind that it has been difficult to choose which biblical character to explain it better. The Bible contains several people who were disappointed!
Think of the years of disappointment that Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth have felt. Monthly, yearly, they saw signs of childlessness. Job and Joseph had a good reason to be disappointed, both in men and in God. The prophet Elijah predicted that the great evidence of God’s power on Mount Carmel would bring salvation. Instead, it was only put a price on his head. He was very disappointed that he asked to die.
MOSES—A MAN WHO UNDERSTOOD DISAPPOINTMENT
If anyone had ever faced a recurrent disappointment, it was Moses. In his childhood, he was rescued from death by his parents’ faith and the ingenuity of his mother. God has arranged for him to be adopted by the princess of Egypt. But he spent the first developmental years of his life growing up with his mother. He heard from them the promises of God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was told that the Israelites were the people of God, chosen to redeem the earth, and would inherit the lands of the heathen
Moses never forgot what his parents had taught him, even after he went to the palace to stay with Pharaoh’s daughter, his foster mother. This dual identity must have caused him a great deal of tension. While he grew up, he saw the Hebrew slaves suffering under awful slavery while he was living luxuriously, enjoying royalty privileges. Finally, Moses was trying to do something to support his men.
“And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel. And seeing one of them suffer wrong, he defended him, and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not.” (Acts 7:23-25).
Many years before God called him, Moses longed to be the deliverer of his people. He was willing to use his strength and influence to improve their dire circumstances. But he was refused. He had to flee from Egypt for his life to live in the desert for another forty years after he murdered the Egyptian.
TWO KEY REASONS FOR DISAPPOINTMENT
There were two reasons for Moses to be disappointed. First, he was disappointed by people — because his hopes that his people would understand what he tried to do for them and support him were not fulfilled.
Second, he was disappointed by his circumstances. After years of luxury and schooling in Egypt, he had never imagined that he would spend the remaining of his life tending sheep in the desert.
Today, for the same two reasons, we are disappointed. If we set our hearts on individuals or situations, we are bound to be disappointed. God wants us to set our hearts on Him alone. He wants us to trust Him, even amid our greatest disappointments.
Moses led a herd of sheep across the Sinai desert when God spoke to him from the burning bush. It was a great shock to know that this was the time for him to do what he once wanted to do — to liberate his people from Egypt.
The LORD said I have also seen the distress of my people in Egypt. I have heard them cry because of their slave-drivers, and I am concerned about their pain. I have come down to release them from the Egyptians’ hand and bring them out of that land into a fair and spacious country, a country flowing with milk and honey. (Exodus 3:7-10)
Despite the exciting experience of hearing the voice of God from the burning bush, much of Moses’ self-confidence was gone.
Throughout the remainder of Exodus 3 and half of Exodus 4, God kindly replied to each of Moses’ objections and uncertainties. He agreed that he would stay with him, give him the ability to perform miracles. He promised him that this time the Israelites would obey him and that God would force the Egyptians to release them by His great strength.
But Moses was a man who has once been discouraged and defeated.
Even the glorious promises of God did not convince him. This time, God was furious, but he decided to allow Aaron, Moses’ brother, to accompany him and be his mouthpiece.
Moses and Aaron told the elders about the word of God to Israel. Moses and Aaron called together all the elders of Israel, and Aaron told them all that the LORD had revealed to Moses.
He performed the signs before them, and they believed. This time, the people accepted and worshiped Him, and Moses was encouraged.
Everything was working out the way God had said they would. It was time to tell Pharaoh now.
“After Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ‘this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Let my people go, that they may hold a feast for me in the wilderness.”
“And Pharaoh said, who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.” Exodus 5:2
With these words, the lines of battle were drawn between God and Pharaoh. Pharaoh abused the children of Israel even more until life became intolerable to them. And who was to blame for that? Moses.
“And they met Moses and Aaron, who stood in the way, as they came forth from Pharaoh: And they said unto them, The Lord look upon you, and judge; because ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh, and in the eyes of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to slay us.” (Exodus 5:20-21).
Can you imagine the disappointment that Moses would feel when he heard their words? He assured them that God would save them. Then, their conditions were worse than ever before. Moses was also disappointed. But in handling his disappointment, he taught us what to do when our expectations are not realized.
Moses blamed the Lord for all the trouble. He accused God of failing to keep His promises. But the essential thing is that he came to God and shared his concerns, fears, and feelings. God can handle that; he knows how we feel. If we honestly tell Him of our disappointments and sorrows, He will encourage and console us and provide us the strength to move on.
Poor Moses! He was in the pits! He relied on his ability, instead of knowing that he was simply the instrument in God’s hand. God would achieve the deliverance of his people, not Moses. His faith had a great deal to do, and God was very patient. He let him suffer disappointments because it led to know God, allowing Moses to trust Him to a higher degree. Of course, he is doing the same thing with us.
We’re all familiar with this tale of how God revealed His great strength in the destructive plagues that came upon Egypt and her people. On the first night of the Passover, as the Egyptians mourned the death of their firstborn, Israel triumphantly marched out of the land of long and cruel slavery.
God parted the Red Sea to allow them to pass through the dry land. He led them in the day with a pillar of and in the night with a pillar of fire. He gave them the manna. He gave them water from the rock. He supplied their every need. The Israelites heard the voice of God in Sinai as He gave them the ten commandments.
But the people protested over and over. They were frustrated with one thing and then another. Although Moses grew in his faith and dependence on God, his strength was drained by the people’s relentless grasp. They murmured in Numbers 11 about the monotony of eating manna every day. Again, Moses was disappointed and discouraged.
Moses was worn out. Instead of happy, joyful people ready to suffer anything to get to the wonderful land God had promised, he had to play nursemaid with a bunch of babies who were not satisfied, no matter what he or God had done.
Have you ever been disappointed and exhausted by the boring routines of life? There’s such a monotony of doing the same thing every day: food, carpool, kids, shopping, laundry, house cleaning. Do you have elderly parents to take care of, to the extent, your interests have had to be seriously limited? Are your children so demanding and too young to understand your efforts? Or do you have a job that is far below your qualifications? God recognizes the real stress and is going to support us. Look at the way that God relieved Moses:
God told Moses to bring seventy of the elders of Israel, who are known to you as rulers and officials of the nations, so that He may come down and speak with him, and take of the Spirit that is upon him, and place the Spirit upon them. They will help him bear the burden of the people so that he won’t have to do it all alone.
God gave the people the change of diet they wanted. But He showed His displeasure about their persistent complaining and ingratitude by sending death with the quail He provided. To others, their first bite of quail was the last thing they ever ate.
MOSES’S FINAL DISAPPOINTMENT
Moses was not through with disappointments. Imagine how his heart must have broken when the multitude refused to go to the Promised Land because of the evil reports of the ten spies. When God punished them with extra thirty-eight years in the desert, Moses had to endure it with them, even though he wanted to inherit the land.
His final and worst disappointment came when he was forbidden to enter the land. This was because of his outburst of anger. He begged God to allow him to cross the Jordan. After all, he has been a faithful servant for forty years. But the response of God was a resounding “No.”
Imagine God forbidding Moses about pray concerning it! Moses had to be satisfied with the bird-eye view of the land from the mountain before he died, but he didn’t lead the people into it. Some situations will never change. Despite our disappointment, we must learn to accept them and to keep trusting Him. Only in doing that would we be able to appreciate life at its fullest.
DISAPPOINTMENT: THE FIRST SEED OF DOUBT
The first seed of doubt that interrupts our faith is the seed of disappointment. Disappointment sounds so harmless, but it is the tip of a wedge that will hinder our spiritual growth and make us angry and defeated. Think of disappointment as a test that God has given to see whether you can continue to trust Him, obey Him, and believe that He is good. This takes us back to the two sources of most disappointment: people and circumstances.
HAS A PERSON EVER DISAPPOINTED YOU?
We are usually disappointed when we place our expectations on people. Has your close friend turned away from you? Has anyone deceived you? If you have set your hopes that your children will be everything you want them to be, you might be heading to a major letdown. Did you marry, hoping that your spouse will meet all your needs? I have to say something to you: no man can meet all the needs of a woman, and no woman can meet all the needs of a man. God has created us with a vacant place in our innermost being that only He can fill. So He’s always going to let us experience disappointment with people so that we are driven to find fulfillment in Him.
ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED IN YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES?
If our happiness depends on circumstances, we’re in trouble because the circumstances always change. There are too many variables for them to remain the same. Did you expect a promotion, and someone who was less eligible got the position instead? Has illness disturbed and permanently altered the family’s plans? Has a divorce you never wished for drastically changed your circumstances?
THANKSGIVING—THE ANTIDOTE TO DISAPPOINTMENT
No matter what we’re going through, we should find something to be grateful for. Firstly, we should be grateful that we belong to God. If we believe in Jesus Christ, and God, who is our heavenly Father, every bad thing in our way will work together for our benefit. So we can thank Him for His grace, His devotion, and His blessings. We should rejoice that He has a good plan for our future and that we receive His care daily, no matter how dark our circumstances appear.
Today, you might feel like everyone has forgotten you and that no one can take away the pain that you feel. But remember that Christ loves you, and He has come to give you the fullness of joy. Even during hard times, I urge you to:s “Be joyful always; pray constantly; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”