Being disappointed sucks. I think the general population would agree with that.
I consider myself an optimistic person, a “glass-half-full” person. Disappointment ruins my positive vibes faster than you can say, “ugh.”
In my thinking on this topic, disappointment hits me deeper than other people. Most other people say they can just “move on.” Those people are better at this life thing than I am because disappointment causes me to question my life’s direction and my worth.
Disappointment isolates me and sets me on edge with others. It can lead to a sense of powerlessness or discouragement. It can be avoided in some situations but ultimately, disappointment is something we all experience. Every single one of us has experienced the shock and the pain of an unfulfilled expectation whether it was self-inflicted or not. My preferred method of dealing with disappointment is avoidance, but I’m definitely not above some good old-fashioned self-pity. Because I am not the best example of how to deal with disappointment, I’d like to look to see how two important characters in the Bible dealt with bad news.
Two kings, two grave situations, two responses that we can use to learn from. Let’s take a look:
King David When He Makes a Mess of His Life
King David was the Lord’s anointed. He was God’s golden boy and he’s described in the bible as a “man after God’s own heart.” King David made a huge set of mistakes, one that would have repercussions throughout his entire lineage as long as his family was alive. David, the young man who had trusted the God of Israel in the field and became the greatest king in Israeli history, gave in to lust, greed and murder and ALMOST got away with it. If you were to read 1 and 2 Samuel, you would read the amazing story of David and how God, even after his fall from grace, fulfills His promise to establish David and his heritage forever.
David is not the only one of God’s children who has experienced a deep error in their path. Maybe you’re living in the consequences of your error today and you can only blame yourself. No one knew how it would all turn out when you took that wrong turn, and you are still paying for that decision or lack thereof to this day. You may have given up hope that your circumstance will change for the better, but David shows us how to respond when we make our own mess. In Psalm 51, he cries out to God in humility and repentance:
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. When his wrong was exposed, he did not deny it. He did not excuse it. He acknowledged his sin was first against God and confessed it. Then, he turned to the God that he had grieved and asked him to restore him.
What I’ve gathered from this situation is that if you had made your own mess (whether you sinned or not), and you are disappointed in your decisions and their consequences, these are the steps you take:
Humble yourself: Pride will keep you from experiencing the restorative power of God. You can’t handle your disappointment without this step first. Let this situation bring you to a place of clarity with God and his plan.
Confront your choices: Do not avoid or make excuses for why you did what you did. Take responsibility. Don’t pretend that it didn’t happen or that it didn’t affect you. It happened; see it for what it is and learn from it. Nothing more, nothing less.
Pour out your honest feelings to God: God is merciful. He delights in showing mercy to those who genuinely come before him as His children. He knows what you’re thinking, honesty from you is a step toward intimacy with God.
Allow God to restore you: You may be living with the consequences, but God’s restorative power can bring everything back to you in a moment. Hold on to hope.
When we make a mess in our lives, the restorative power of God can turn the biggest disappointment into the most powerful display of God’s kindness.
King Hezekiah: The Brunt of Bad News
King Hezekiah served the Lord faithfully as king of Judah since the age of 25. In 2 Kings 18, it says that there was no king like him in all of Judah, before or after him. He trusted God and he depended on Him for the deliverance of Israel many times. This guy was pretty much perfect. In 2 Kings Chapter 19, God had rescued Israel from their enemies and they seemed to be coming off from a ‘mountaintop experience’ with God.
Hezekiah must have felt pretty optimistic about they way things were going for him and his people. In 2 Kings 20, we see that he becomes so ill, he’s at the point of death when the prophet Isaiah comes to him to let him know he’s reached his last days. Hezekiah turns his face to pray to the Lord and weeps bitterly, asking the Lord to remember his faithfulness and his wholehearted devotion.
Have you ever been blindsided by bad news? Were things going really well for you and then someone close to you passed away or you were burdened with something financially? Those things can come out of nowhere. No one can explain it, no one can give any real advice on how to handle it—it just seems like there’s nothing anyone can say to make it better.
Let’s be honest. Getting terrible news is not easy to swallow. Dreams can disappear. Hopes are deferred. Your expectations for your life and the way it would go seems to be “up in the air” as you scramble to try and find something firm to stand on. Hezekiah understood that. But Hezekiah also knew how to respond to his disappointment in a way that would evoke a response from God. Here’s what we can learn from Hezekiah:
Emote: Let it out in a safe place. Don’t suppress your hurt, pain or frustration. Find an outlet and pour your emotions into that outlet. Be sure not to let it out on another person, but in a healthy way, find a way to feel the gravity of what is happening to you. King Hezekiah wept bitterly.
Converse with God intimately and honestly: The significance of Hezekiah turning his face to the wall to pray was to get away from spectators. Even though he had devastating news, he knew who to bring his concern to. He did not avoid God or wallow in self-pity. He brought his concern before the Lord because he believed this truth: God cares about the way you feel and desires to respond to your heartbreak.
Trust in the goodness of God: Though we can ask the question “why,” God may not always give us the response we are looking for. From the rest of 2 Kings 20, we learn that God responds to Hezekiah and says, “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.” God adds 15 years to Hezekiah’s life and delivers him from the king of Assyria.
God sees and hears us when we pray. It doesn’t always turn out like this, but God is able and willing to intervene in a situation. I know that He would move heaven and earth to communicate to us that He is not heartless or idle, but that He is active and involved and desires to care for us when we need it.
Disappointment is a universal feeling. I’ve learned in my own life that disappointment, self-inflicted or not, is not a dead end. Disappointment is a doorway. A doorway to my own character growth, to an outcome that showcases God’s kindness, to a deeper relationship with my Father in Heaven. If you find yourself in the trenches of disappointment today, treat it as such. Walk through the muck and into the restoring, attentive arms of God and His plan for your life.