Disappointment is an unavoidable aspect of life in this sin-riddled world. Disappointment comes in many forms: lost jobs, financial problems, divorce, prodigal children, lost opportunities, and more. Because of this, we need to learn how to handle disappointment in God-honoring ways. As we learn how to properly handle disappointment, the chances decrease that the disappointment will lead to more long-term problems such as depression, anxiety, or panic attacks.
Just what are God-honoring ways of handling disappointments? There are several key beliefs to guide our actions. Our actions – your actions and mine – always reflect our beliefs, so we must get our beliefs to line up with the Word of God.
5 Steps to Handling Disappointment
- Realize that God is still – always has been and always will be – in control. God’s sovereignty is absolute. He created everything (Genesis 1) and through Christ holds all things together (Colossians 1:17). He has power over everything (Psalm 103:19) and everyone (Psalm 59:11; 77:15), although He lets us exercise our free will and does not control our actions (Romans 1:18-32).
- Accept that you live in a world of sin (Romans 8:22), with a body of sin (Romans 7:23), and surrounded by sinners (Romans 5:19). The existence of sin in this world means heartache and disappointment will be the normal occurrence in life. No-one gets through this life without pain and suffering, although some have far more than others.
- Confess your part in the disappointment, if any. Confess and accept the forgiveness God freely offers (Psalm 32:5; 1 John 1:9). Few problems in this world are entirely of someone else’s making. Most of the time, we bear some responsibility, even if only for our attitude toward others.
- Acknowledge your dependence on God for guidance and direction (Proverbs 3:5-6). Depending on the Lord is the only way to be sure that you are not walking blindly into another disappointment. He will be faithful in guiding and directing as you determine in your heart to follow and obey.
- Pray for wisdom as you plan for going forward (James 1:5). As hard as it is, you must make a plan for going forward. There may be a time of grieving what was lost in the disappointment – and that time may be short or long – but eventually, you must go forward. To refuse to go forward into what God provides and guides next is to stay stuck in the past, in anger, in depression, and in regret.
An Example of Handling Disappointment
Using the loss of a job as an example, we will look at how these steps play out in our experiences.
First, you must acknowledge God’s sovereignty. This is not to make light of losing your job, or to suggest that you should not feel disappointed, scared, angry, or a host of other feelings. It is, however, to admit that God is still in control, even in the bad times. You must anchor your faith on this fact, or your god is not the God of the Bible. Only He is sovereign – but He is sovereign! Spend time in prayer and the Word for as long as necessary to nail down this fact into your heart.
Second, recognize the sin that may have surrounded the loss of your job. Did someone bad-mouth you or give you a poor review? That’s sin unless warranted. Did another company buy yours and you ended up with a pink slip? The effects of sin – greed – puts profits over people.
Third, confess your role in the loss of your job. Were you let go because of shoddy work performance, attendance, or attitude? Confess your sin. Did you have a personality difference with your supervisor that contributed to your dismissal? Differences in personality are not sin, but how you handle them could be. Were you ungrateful for your job, complaining constantly instead of thanking the Lord for a job that provided for your family?
Fourth, admit your dependence on the Lord to find and be successful at a new job. Spend time in prayer over your situation as much as you spend time polishing your resume, networking with contacts, and applying for jobs. The time doesn’t have to be equal in amount, but prayer should definitely be more important in your heart than the steps of finding a new job. Keep God in His place of prominence in your life.
Finally, ask God for wisdom. Maybe you were miserable in your previous job, and this unexpected loss will open the way to a job you enjoy more. Perhaps the Lord will redirect you to change career fields. Possibly you’ll want or need to go back to school for more training or to learn new skills for the marketplace. Let God lead you, and don’t limit Him.
Final Thoughts on Handling Disappointment
Disappointments can lead to more serious issues, such as bitterness, anger, unbelief, depression, or fear. Be prepared to deal with these emotions in Biblical ways. Such preparation might include studying a topic (fear, for example), confessing a sin (bitterness), or learning how to cope (depression). Other preparation might be enlisting the help of an accountability partner or being honest and transparent with your small group.
Depression is a reaction to disappointment that I am very familiar with. I’ve had some serious disappointments in my life and have often, although not always, struggled with depression as a result. I’ve had several episodes of depression that were serious, and most were the result of deep disappointments. However, I have learned to cope with my depression over the years. I’ve written a book to share how I’ve learned to cope with that depression in a faith-filled manner. It is available on Amazon if you are interested: Rising Above the Fog: A Christian’s Guide to Habits for Healing Depression.
Finally, choose grace, mercy, and forgiveness towards those who disappoint you. Although this post is mostly about disappointments that happen to you, often outside of your control, don’t forget the human element involved. People, like you and I, need grace. Without grace, we descend into retribution and revenge. God’s grace is freely available to us; we need to freely share it with others.