Dealing With Disappointment

Of all the negative emotions we can experience…fear, anxiety, worry, shame, etc….I believe disappointment is one of the worst.

We’ve all experienced it. It’s that feeling of sadness or dissatisfaction when things don’t turn out like we’d hoped or prayed or counted on.

You wanted a new bike for Christmas. Instead, you got a sweater.

You thought for sure this would be the month you’d get pregnant, but didn’t.

The interview went so well. You just knew you’d be getting the job. But someone else did.

Your spouse promised to do better, then failed. Again.

You prayed. Your friends prayed. You believed. But the biopsy revealed cancer.

After saving for two years, you take your dream vacation. And it rains.

Negative emotions can be paralyzing. Fear keeps us stuck. Anxiety robs our joy. Worry steals our peace. Shame keeps us from intimacy with God.

And disappointment can block us from experiencing the abundant life God desires for us.

A number of years ago, I fought a losing battle with disappointment. I was praying and hoping and believing. I was expecting God to come through. And when He didn’t, at least not when or how I’d hoped He would, I was disappointed. Unfortunately, I nursed my disappointment until it grew strong and became disillusionment, anger and bitterness.

My solution was to take what I thought was the safe course of action…lower my expectations. If I expected little, I would be disappointed little. If I expected nothing, then I could avoid disappointment altogether.

So for many years, my prayers were small. They were general in nature. I avoided specific requests to protect me from the inevitable disappointment that would follow.

But thinking and praying like that is offensive and hurtful to God. If my children ever told me they were afraid to ask me for something because they knew I wouldn’t come through, I’d be devastated. I would feel like I’d failed as a father. How must God feel when I intentionally lower my expectations of Him?

Luke 11:5-8 says…

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.

Shameless audacity. I love that. It’s like God is saying, “I dare you to ask big and keep on asking until I come through.”

What if during the month of November, we were to replace our disappointment with delight?

Psalm 37:4 says…

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

To delight in Him is to make Him the priority. It’s spending time with Him. It’s talking with Him. It’s allowing His word to penetrate our hearts and renew our minds. It’s learning to desire Him more than we desire things or easier circumstances. It’s choosing to believe He’s good, no matter what happens.

No, it won’t be easy. It will require faith. We will have to choose to believe God, not our circumstances or feelings.

But if we will choose to delight in Him, He will begin to shape our desires to match His. He will put His dreams in us and give us the courage to reach for them. He will dare us to ask for not only what we need, but what we want.

John 16:23-24 says…

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

If you’re like me, you’ve wrestled hard with verses like these. What about all those times we asked and were disappointed?

I don’t have a magic formula. I can’t explain why some people are healed and some aren’t. I don’t know why a teenage girl gets pregnant the first time she has sex and a godly woman who has tried everything can’t conceive.

But I do know this…God is good. And I cannot afford to allow my disappointment to ever chip away at that foundational truth. Doubting His goodness will lead to lowered expectations. And when I lower my expectations, I miss out on the joy of seeing Him do things only He can do. Read the passage again. The joy is not in the asking. The joy is in the asking AND receiving!

So choose to delight in Him. Crank up your shameless audacity and pray big. If the answer doesn’t come, then keep asking, but while you wait, also thank Him for being good. Try that everyday for a month. See what happens.

“Lord, I’m asking You for ________________. And I’m thanking you for being a such a good Father that You always know what’s best for me.”

I’d rather ask God for too much and perhaps suffer some disappointment along the way than lower my expectations and miss out on all He wants to do in me, through me and for me.

What about you?

Do You Understand…Yourself?

Jake grew up in a home with a mom, dad and older brother. He played basketball like his dad, but wasn’t nearly as good as his older brother. Actually, Jake loved guitar and piano more than sports. Unfortunately, his father didn’t have much of an appreciation for music. He valued practical skills like repairing a car and fixing stuff around the house, things Jake didn’t have a knack for.

As far back as she can remember, Anna loved learning and school came easy to her. Of course the teachers all loved her. She actually enjoyed being at school more than being at home since her parents fought a lot. They divorced when Anna was 13-years-old. That’s when her dad moved out of state. One day, Anna overheard her mom talking on the phone to a friend, “She’s not the prettiest, but she sure is smart.”

So Jake and Anna meet in college, fall in love and get married. Then about six months into marriage, they begin to experience some problems. Jake has especially been working long hours. Some nights, Anna goes to bed before he gets home.

One Friday afternoon, Jake takes off early and stops off at Victoria’s Secret to surprise Anna with some lingerie. He can’t wait to see her put it on, so he hands her the bag the minute he gets home. She looks inside and smiles. Clearly, she’s not as excited as he is, but he tries to not let that dampen his enthusiasm.

After dinner, Jake is flipping through the channels (which in itself is a little frustrating to Anna because the smart thing to do would be to use the guide). Anna notices that he’s a little slow to click past a beer commercial showing several women in bikinis, but doesn’t want to start a fight, so she lets it go.

Half way through a movie, Anna tells Jake she’s tired and is going to bed. Before closing the bedroom door, she says, “Are you going to look at that leaking faucet tomorrow?”

“I said I would!” he says, louder than he’d intended. Jake wakes up at 2:00 a.m. with the television still on. He turns it off and goes back to sleep on the couch.

I don’t think it takes a counseling degree to know Jake and Anna brought some emotional baggage into their marriage. You see it. And I see it.

The problem is…they may not see it. Just like you and I don’t see our stuff.

Jake and Anna might think the way they perceive life and respond to each other is “normal.” And rather than seeing they have their own issues to work on, they assume the other person is at fault. Jake thinks Anna doesn’t understand his needs. She feels the same about him.

But as long as they focus on trying to get the other person to understand them, it’s going to be a frustrating stalemate of two people trying to be understood and neither trying to understand.

Maybe the solution is to begin with self-understanding.

Jake might say he’s working long hours to impress his boss and get the promotion. But is he? Maybe he’s actually trying to win his father’s approval. Of course that’s hard to do since his father died during his senior year.

Maybe Jake’s long hours at work and not coming home until late have triggered in Anna some of the same feelings she felt when her dad stopped coming home. And the lingerie feels like confirmation that Jake doesn’t think she’s pretty enough.

So Anna goes to bed feeling hurt and insecure. Jake, who dreads the thought of tackling the faucet in the morning, falls asleep feeling frustrated and inadequate. Neither of them feel understood. They don’t even understand themselves.

What if the way forward for Jake and Anna, toward the marriage they dreamed of when they were engaged, is to identify and reject the wrong beliefs they have about themselves and replace them with the truth? And what if one of the reasons they’re together is to help each other do that?

Some of these questions might be helpful for them:

  • What are some words you would use to describe your father? Your mother?
  • What did your father do that frustrated you or made you angry? What about your mother?
  • Was there a teacher, coach or other adult that had a significant influence on you? Was it positive or negative? What was it?
  • Is there something your spouse does or says that seems to hurt the most? Why do you think that is?
  • What lies are you believing about yourself? Where did they come from?
  • The truth is whatever God says about you. So what does He say?

By the way, Jake and Anna aren’t real. But you and I are. And if our past continue to hinder our marriages, then it’s time to do something about it. Just because we’ve believed a lie about ourselves for a long time…doesn’t mean it’s true.

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

This article is not intended as a substitute for the counsel of a licensed therapist. The reader should consult a licensed Christian therapist in matters relating to his/her mental or emotional health and particularly with respect to any symptoms that may require diagnosis or mental health attention.


 

 

Knowing God’s Will

Have you ever wanted to know God’s will beyond any shadow of a doubt? I mean no wondering, no second guessing, no trying to figure things out? Well, keep reading…but let me start with a few more questions…

Would you describe yourself as “grateful?” Are you thankful for what you have? Or do you feel entitled to not only what you have, but what you don’t have?

Until recently, I would have told you I’m grateful and that I do not have an entitlement mentality. In fact, the way so many people expect the government to provide for them really, really bothers me.

But I’m afraid I’m not quite as grateful as I thought. And while I don’t expect the government to give me things, I do expect God to.

Now I realize God makes wonderful promises regarding our provision. Matthew 6:31-34 says:

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

We were not made to run after the things we need. Jesus said that’s what those who don’t even know God do. Instead, we were made to run after God. To seek Him. To desire Him.

But have you noticed that God’s timing and His ways aren’t usually like ours? I expect things to happen right away. Seek first His kingdom? Check! Now where’s my stuff, God?

It doesn’t work that way, does it?

There’s almost always a delay. There’s a season of waiting before we see God work. And in the waiting, we must trust, which God enjoys. Hebrews 11:6 says:

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

That’s one of my favorite verses in the Bible. Faith pleases God. In other words, He likes to be trusted. I believe He gets pleasure when I choose to not panic, but instead believe that He will come through for me.

So let’s get back to the issue of gratitude.

When we experience an unmet need or desire, it’s very easy to feel discontent. And without even realizing it, we can become ungrateful. And if you’re like me, it’s also easy to become resentful.

Rather than trusting that God is good and faithful and rather than seeing my current circumstances as an opportunity to know Him better and be conformed to His likeness, I become angry or discouraged. I become tempted to give up. I begin to doubt God is really all that good. I can feel like He’s treating me unfairly.

Of course, when my kids were younger, I never let them get away with saying things like, “That’s not fair!” Why? Because life isn’t fair, so there’s no sense in whining or complaining about it. And when it comes to God, you and I really don’t want Him to be fair. Fair would be we all get to pay for our own sins. Unfair is Jesus dying in my place. Let’s be glad God isn’t fair.

So here’s where the rubber meets the road for me. Am I willing to be grateful for whatever circumstances I’m facing? And are you?

Whether we’re dealing with a health issue, a broken relationship, problems at work or a financial crisis…we have a choice to make. We can thank God for whatever it is we’re going through or we can complain and whine and grumble about it. Like me, the Israelites were grumblers and it never turned out well for them. You can read about one of those times HERE. So why in the world would I think my grumbling and complaining about my hardships would turn out any better?

Think about this way…if God wanted to change our current circumstances, He could. He could do it in an instant if He wanted to. But if He hasn’t done that, then just maybe He’s up to something much greater. Something that takes more time. And something that takes our cooperation rather than our complaining.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says:

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

So there it is. As clear as it can be.

God’s will for us is to rejoice always, pray continually and give thanks in ALL circumstances. Even the ones we don’t like.

Maybe once we start doing that, we’ll start to see things change in the direction we’ve been hoping for.


If you want to grow in your faith and believe God, not your circumstances, then check out my 40-day devotional by CLICKING HERE.

Thankful

20 Days of Believing God (Day 18)

I wouldn’t consider myself to be someone who is ungrateful.

But then I realized that I often focus on what I don’t have. What I’m lacking. What I still want.

And so I feel discontent. Disappointed. Sometimes like I’m failing.

So today I thought I’d turn it around…for once…and focus on what I do have to be thankful for. Both big and small. Here’s just a partial list…

Jesus. He loves me. He’s forgiven me. He’s for me. He’s committed to me. He died in my place.

Robyn. She’s amazing. An off-the-charts blessing. I hope I get to be married to her for another 30 years.

Rachel, Erica, Amy and Rob. My kids are such a blessing to me. They’re walking with God and making good choices.

Richard and Ross. My sons-in-law serve their country and my daughters well.

Wes and Tyler. My two grandsons are a great joy.

My health. Other than an occasional cold or headache, I’ve rarely been sick.

My friends. The ones I grew up with, the ones I have now, the ones I rarely see…

My sister. Who doesn’t think like me or vote like me!

The ministry of Young Life.

A house to live in and cars to drive.

Air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter.

A pocket-sized computer I carry around that also functions as a phone, a camera and video-recorder.

Football. The opportunity I had to play it and now only watch it. What a great game!

The opportunity to write books and create courses.

Parents who loved me, supported me and encouraged me.

Readers who like my books and ask for more.

The Bible, through which God speaks, leads, convicts and encourages.

My MacBook Pro.

Snow. I love it.

The beach.

Hawaii.

The opportunity to have visited 49 of the 50 states so far. I’m coming for you one day, Nevada.

Pie. Oh, I love pie. Pecan. Pumpkin. Blueberry. Coconut Cream.

Ice Cream. Especially when it’s really hard and has some crunch to it.

Naps.

Couples who’ve entrusted me with their pre-marital counseling.

Books.

Did I mention my wife? And kids?

God’s faithfulness. Even when I doubt.

And His patience. Boy, do I need that!

The backyard swimming pool we had when I was a kid.

Getting to go to the Razorback basketball game tonight with Robyn and Rob.

God’s provision for me and my family.

Beautiful sunsets.

The aroma of fresh, hot cinnamon rolls.

Music.

Hearing my grandsons laugh.

Sex.

The anticipation of heaven.

Meaningful work to do.

So many wonderful memories.

Young Life camps.

A fire in the fireplace on a cold night.

Cold water after a run on a hot day.

The smell of freshly cut grass, which always reminds me of football.

I’ll stop there for now. I’m sure there’s a lot more I could add. So thank you, Lord, for Your love and faithfulness and kindness toward me. You’ve been way better to me than I deserve.

So what are a few things on your list?

God With You

20 Days of Believing God (Day 11)

God is with us.

Not far away. Not unconcerned. Not uncaring.

God is with us.

He’s not just the God of 2,000 years ago. He’s not just the God of the future. He’s the God of the here and now.

He’s present with you. Right now. In this moment. Jesus is with…you.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  (John 1:14)

God became human and lived with us.

Jesus lives with you. Today. You don’t need to ask for His presence. He’s already present with you. Right now.

He is with YOU.

Are you afraid?

He is with YOU.

Are you in pain?

He is with YOU.

Are you discouraged?

He is with YOU.

Are you worried?

He is with YOU.

Is your marriage in trouble?

He is with YOU.

Are you lonely?

He is with YOU.

Not just with other people.

Jesus is with YOU.