Disappointment happens to all of us. For some, it slaps us in the face. We live in a fallen world and disappointments are just part of it.
People will disappoint us. Circumstances and events will not always live up to our expectations.
You didn’t get the raise or promotion you thought you deserved.
Your children made poor choices.
Your marriage hasn’t been the fantasy you read about in the book.
You wrote your best paper ever but your professor disagreed.
The list could go on and on with your own unique experiences.
One such experience is recorded in John chapter 11.
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were siblings and also close friends of Jesus. When Lazarus became sick the sisters sent a message to Jesus stating, “He whom you love is sick.” They expected Jesus, the Healer, would come. But He didn’t come for two more days and by that time Lazarus had died. When Martha finally sees Jesus she says,
Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
Clearly, Martha believed that if Jesus had been there Lazarus wouldn’t have died. Martha was disappointed and she couldn’t see past her disappointment to understand that Jesus had a purpose in his delay.
Recently, I’ve felt disappointment. After 30 years of teaching I thought that retirement would bring many good things I had hoped for and even planned for. They were worthy aspirations and I sought God for His plans and purpose for me. Yet, a condition in my lower back left me in tremendous pain. I’m not kidding when I say that for four long months (which included the holidays) all I did was cancel plans, skip projects, and decline joyous events…even watching my family attend them without me. UGH! During this season I also struggled with rejection letters from publishers and irritation as a result of one of my adult children’s silly decisions. I was disappointed in myself and even in God when He didn’t answer my prayer the way I had hoped.
God does have a reason for the disappointments He allows in our life. He could prevent them, but He wants us to discover His purpose for them. Martha didn’t see the purpose of Lazarus’ death. But Jesus said,
“This is for the glory of God.”
This… death… for God? How can this be?
After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead the question is answered:
“Then many believed in Him.”
Mary and Martha didn’t have the Gospel of John to read and know how things turn out. The Bible was written to teach us the ways of God. Likewise, I didn’t have the next chapter of my life written with the end results to my season of disappointments. But here’s what I do know. When I can’t do anything about another person’s choice, or when I don’t have control over a condition in my body, all I can do is pray. A fresh wave of trusting in God to care for the things I had no control over, enveloped me.
When pain kept me from sleeping at night…I prayed.While away from my children…. I prayed. When missing events…I prayed. Unable to manipulate or control my disappointments, I submitted to trusting…
trusting that God is using these disappointments to mold me into the person He wants me to be. A woman whose initial instincts of fear, worry, or flipping out evolved into trusting God as a her first reaction. The disappointment doesn’t feel good now but fits into a pattern of good when the whole picture is complete. (Romans 8:28)
What is God’s desire for our disappointments?
1. That we begin to operate out of trust.
2. That we allow our circumstances to bring Him glory (draw attention to Him).
3. That we become or remain teachable.
4. That we move closer to God, praying and seeking direction.
We don’t have to become derailed from God’s purpose when we experience disappointment. In retrospect, my hope for retirement was different than God’s. But His hope for me was better.
Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.
Isaiah 49:23b (NIV)