Handling disappointments in life – with God and people and myself
I’ve had my share of disappointments in life. Difficulty getting pregnant. Miscarriages. Weight problems. Broken promises. Lost dreams. Unfulfilled desires. I could go on, but you get the idea: life, everyone’s life, is full of disappointments.
Perhaps you have had disappointments that you blame on yourself (I have – my weight problems are a big one!), others (hello – marriage!), or even God. I remember clearly, during a crisis in our marriage, sitting in our (one-and-only) car in a darkened parking lot, screaming and crying my pain out to the Lord. I couldn’t handle the pain, the disappointment. I couldn’t face the possibility that this pain could mean the end of my marriage. I was helpless in the face of pain and disappointment – and I hesitate to use the word ‘disappointment’ because it doesn’t seem strong enough.
My methods of dealing with the disappointments have varied, depending on the season of my life, the depth of the pain, and how long I might anticipate the pain enduring. But always, my methods of coping were grounded in the word, and in my relationship with the Lord.
What did I, and do I, do to handle my disappointment with the Lord?
I pray. And pray. And pray some more. I pray when it feels like the ceiling is as far as my prayers go, when the ‘heavens are as brass.’ I pray when all I can utter are cries of “Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God…” I pray in a fetal position, and on my knees, and in my car. I pray until peace breaks through – not solutions, not miraculous victories, but indescribable peace.
And once that ‘peace that passes all understanding’ has come upon my heart and mind, I keep praying. I pray for victory, for solutions, for wisdom, for guidance, for answers. I pray for things I’ll never get this side of heaven (answers to the ‘why’ questions), and for that which I already have (the peace I possess is something I cannot afford to lose). I pray for the situation, the people involved and hurting, those involved and responsible for the hurt. I pray for godly counsel. I pray for grace to accept that counsel.
Getting the picture: my first and most important coping mechanism in the midst of my disappointment with God (and with life in general) is to pray, pray, pray.
But that is not all. I also immerse myself in the Word, reading, highlighting, memorizing, and meditating. I ask for comfort from the Lord and through the Word – and I get it. I underline and highlight verses that speak peace and comfort to me, and repeat them to myself so much that I unconsciously memorize them. I meditate on the truths of Scripture that mean so much during times of discouragement. Passages like Psalm 37: 1 – 6 (underlined, circled, and notated in my Bible) or Isaiah 43:1 – 2 (also marked up).
So, how to deal with disappointment? As I’ve already said, pray and pray some more, read and meditate on the Word. And, finally, surround yourself with believers who love you and will uphold you in prayer, especially when your prayers are of the ‘I’m in too much pain to pray’ variety. Some of you may have the wonderful blessing of having those ‘believers who love you’ be your family members – I don’t. My blood relations (except for my now-grown children) are unbelievers. All of them. So I look to good and godly friends to support me in prayer and comfort and counsel me in crisis. I could not have gone through many of the crises I survived without godly friends. Good friends will pray for you, but they’ll also answer the phone at 3 AM. They’ll provide godly counsel, and also bring you ice cream and pizza. And when your teenaged son calls one of them, concerned you’re having a real breakdown (been there), they’ll drop everything and rush over to offer comfort and support and Kleenex.
Final thoughts: the time for preparing for crises and disappointments are before they happen. I could pray, read, and call on friends because these were all a part of my life before my desperate need. So start today, cultivating habits that will see you through the worst disappointments, pains, and discouragements you can imagine – and when they come, as they will, you will be prepared to face disappointment with grace, and come through shining like gold, refined as silver.