Articles

A Christian Counselor’s Response to Disappointment, Part 1

By Rick McGregor, MA, LMHCA, Seattle Christian Counseling, PLLC

RICKMC 6026651354_4982c0530d_bFor many and various reasons all of us get disappointed from time to time. Maybe you didn’t get the job or the promotion you had your sights on. Your spouse, child, or friend did something that you thought they would never do. Perhaps your visit to the doctor gave you news you were not expecting. Whatever the circumstances, things didn’t turn out as you expected, and now you are disappointed. You prayed about it, meditated on the Scriptures, sought godly counsel, and things still didn’t work out as you hoped or planned. You’re left paralyzed, wondering how to pick up the pieces and take the next step. To say you are struggling is an understatement – no matter the size of the disappointment. If you stop for a moment to consider, you will realize that the Bible is full of disappointed people – Moses, David, Jacob, Gideon, the Disciples, Hannah, and others. Even Jesus experienced disappointment on many levels during his life: when the disciples struggled with doubt, when people didn’t receive his message, when he encountered the legalistic and hardened mindset of the religious leaders – to name a few. The positive news is those Biblical personalities overcame their disappointment and accomplished great things for God. Disappointment is a part of life, but we must learn how to respond to it and not allow our emotions to go on a roller coaster ride every time we don’t get what we want or what we expected. It is also important to remember that God did not disappoint you – life’s circumstances and people disappointed you. When something bad happens, it is not a time to blame God, but rather a time to turn to him. Since disappointment is something we all experience, it is important to be able to cope with it in a positive manner. In this article, I explore some healthy ways in which we can respond to disappointment.

Give Your Disappointment to God

When something has happened in your life, it is natural to grieve and to be upset or frustrated. You need to take the time to feel sad, but you also need to then pick yourself up. This is not always a natural or spontaneous response so it might take time, but it is important that you make a decision to move past the disappointment. Don’t run from it, but face it and release it. Pray about it and be honest with God about how you feel and what you are experiencing. But don’t allow disappointment to dominate your life.

Take Time to Heal

RICKMC Forget about the Sunshine When it's GoneIt is great to express your feelings and to acknowledge that you are feeling sad and disappointed. However, I don’t recommend that you wallow in self-pity as a long-term plan. There is no guideline on how long this should take, but the sooner you begin to adjust and to think positively, the sooner you can move forward. Perhaps these suggestions will help:

  • Take some time for yourself physically. You may feel better after a long walk, a stop at the gym, or a nap.
  • You may need to take some time to lick your wounds. Doing so is natural, but don’t isolate yourself for a long period of time.
  • Engage in a hobby or activity that you find stimulating and rewarding.
  • Listen to music, journal, or perhaps call a friend for support and encouragement.

Adjust Your Expectations

Being honest with yourself and assessing your disappointment can be a starting point for readjusting your expectations about the things you want in life. Many people remain in a disappointed state because they are hung up over their expectations of what they think reality should be. It is natural and normal to want certain things and to excel in certain ways. But issues arise when our happiness and fulfillment is tied to one specific event, circumstance, or person and disappointment occurs when your expectations are unrealistic. Therefore a key to dealing effectively with disappointment involves dealing with your expectations.

Put Your Problems in Perspective

In the immediate aftermath of a disappointment, it is often exceedingly difficult to see it with a different lens.  Ask yourself: Will this matter one year from now? One month? One week? Often asking this question will bring you back to reality. It is terrible that you dented your car, but it will be fixed in a week. You got laid off from your job or didn’t get the promotion, but perhaps better opportunities are around the corner. You failed the quiz, but what matters is the final grade at the end of the semester. Try talking to a rational, calm, sympathetic friend or relative about your situation, perhaps someone older who has had their share of setbacks and disappointments. Writing your feelings and thoughts down can also help you to express frustration, anger, fear, and other negative feelings. Doing so will help to take the focus off your disappointment and enable you to see that perhaps your situation is not as bad as you thought and that tomorrow will be a better day.

Contact a Christian Counselor

Everyone experiences life’s disappointments, struggles, and hardships. The good news is that we don’t have to walk through them alone. As a pastor, I have walked alongside scores of people through some of their darkest hours. And now, as a Christian counselor, I have the privilege to support, encourage and help individuals to find the healing they need as they deal with life’s hardships and disappointments. If this applies to you, I would be honored to enter your disappointment with you and help you find renewed hope and purpose.
Photos “Anousha at Cape Disappointment,” courtesy of Razvan Orendovici, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); Forget about the sunshine when it’s gone” courtesy of Meg Wills, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0)

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