Some days our plans just don't come to fruition. All that we expected and looked forward to goes awry. We struggle and push forward only to fall back down again.
And we wonder, why?
The world tells us that we can do whatever we put our mind to do. If we wish hard enough, we can click our heels and end up wherever our heart desires most. There are some Christians who say the same thing, that Jesus is our spiritual candy machine, dispensing dreams and hopes at the push of a prayer. They say that God wants us to be happy and wants us to have everything we've ever wanted. We just need to believe and pray harder.
But the reality of our Christian life speaks otherwise. Disappointment is part of life in this fallen world. Things don't work the way they are supposed to. People let us down. Hard things happen. As believers, we shouldn't be surprised when things don't work out, when we face difficulty, or when life is disappointing. That's because Adam fell into sin, we all fell into sin. The imprint of sin is on everything. Even the earth itself groans with the weight of it. We apply for a job and are told we aren't qualified. We work hard for a promotion only to have someone else get it. We've turned thirty and there's no ring on our finger. We finally have enough money to buy our first house, only to be outbid by someone else. The pregnancy test comes back negative. We feel left out of community in our church. Our children struggle in school, choose the wrong friends, or have no interest in spiritual things. The ministry we've worked so hard to create never gets off the ground.
Indeed, the list of disappointments in this life are too many to count.
But there's gospel hope even in the midst of our disappointments. As Jesus said, “In this world you will have sorrow, but take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus said we will have sorrow. We will have disappointments and heartaches. Anyone who tells us otherwise is preaching a false gospel. But Jesus also pointed to our hope, "I have overcome the world." The disappointments of life in this fallen world remind us that our Savior has come. He has fought sin and death and won. He broke the power of sin, cancelled our debts, and secured our eternity with him. Our hope and joy and contentment are not found in the things of this world but in Christ and what he has accomplished for us.
In fact, these disappointments we experience rather than being walls we can't climb, instead become doorways to something else entirely. They become opportunities for change. The change we need most: heart change. They are opportunities to draw near to God, to seek his face, and to find him as the greatest desire of our heart.
God is preparing us now, in this life, for eternity. He uses our struggles and challenges to sanctify us and make us holy. He is making us increasingly more like Christ by stripping away the layers of sin and removing the counterfeit loves in our heart. So when disappointments come, we can ask ourselves, "What might God be doing?" "What do I need to learn from this?" "How can I seek him in this?" And rather than despair over our disappointments, we can remember that what disappoints us now will in the end make us more like our Savior (James 1:2-4).
Is life disappointing you today? Cry out to God in prayer.
A Prayer for the Disappointed Heart
Father in Heaven,
I come before you with a heart weighed down by disappointments. Life hasn’t turned out like I expected. I feel let down, like I’ve been failed in some way. I don't know what to do with these disappointments. Part of me wants to complain, part of me wants to give up in despair, and part of me wonders, Why do I even bother?
I guess my question is, Why is life so disappointing? Why can't anything go the way it should? Why can’t I make any headway? Will I ever reach my goals or see an end to these constant uphill battles?
Yet even as I ask these questions, your Spirit prompts me in remembrance of your word. I know why life is disappointing. I know that it’s not supposed to be this way. You created everything to work together in perfect harmony. But ever since that day when my first parents ate the fruit you told them not to eat, life has been marred and broken by sin. Disappointments rule the day. Everything from the earth itself, to my body, to relationships, to my dreams, they all fail to work the way they are supposed to.
Father, forgive me for complaining about my situation. Forgive me for wallowing in my self-pity. Forgive me for my discontentment. Yes, I know why life is disappointing and I should not be surprised. But what do I with those disappointments? How do I wake up every day knowing that life will not work the way it is supposed to and that a struggle or trial will appear at some time in my future?
Your Spirit prompts me again and I remember your Son. The Man of Sorrows. He knew the disappointments of this life. Your word says, "He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not" (Isaiah 53:3). He willingly entered this dark world, filled with brokenness, pain, sin, and sorrow. He took on the same weak flesh that I wear. He experienced everything I experience. Yet he did not sin. He did what I cannot do. He woke up every morning knowing that it was one day closer to the day he would give up his life for me and he willingly took those steps forward. For me. And then when the time had come, he took on all my sin at the cross, suffering the curse I deserved. In that moment, he reversed the curse that started the day Eve bit into the flesh of that forbidden fruit.
I thank you Father for providing a way out of that curse. I thank you that because of your Son, I have the hope of heaven and eternity with you forever. I long for the day when all things will be restored to its rightful place, where there will be no more disappointments and sorrows and I'll be finally freed of my sin forever.
Until then, I live in this in-between time, where Jesus has won the victory but skirmishes still remain. Though he has conquered the power of sin in my life, the presence of sin still remains. Disappointments remain. I continue to face trials and challenges.
Help me Father to have an eternal perspective. Help me to see my disappointments in light of what Jesus purchased for me at the cross. Help me to seize those disappointments as opportunities to draw closer to you and not away from you. Help me to learn from them. Help them to shape me more and more into the image of your Son. Help me to see Jesus in them and to see his love and grace for me.
I want to maintain the tension between knowing why there are disappointments and knowing that they will one day come to an end. I want those disappointments to drive me to you. Help me to hunger and thirst for you, more than for anything else. Help me to see that only you can comfort my disappointed heart, only you can fill up my emptiness, only you can give me the joy I long for. Holy Spirit, strengthen me for this fight. Give me gospel joy even in the midst of failed expectations. Prompt my mind and heart to always remember Jesus, the Man of Sorrows who conquered sin and death to bring peace to the chaos, healing for the broken, and forgiveness for sins.
In the name of Jesus I pray,