The Christian life can sometimes feel like a roller coaster ride in which hope and faith collide with unexpected reality. When our prayers are not answered as we desired, or our dreams become shattered, disappointment is the natural result. In my previous article, I explored some healthy ways of responding to disappointment and in this article I continue this discussion, with additional suggestions for dealing with disappointment.
We are Not Alone in Our Disappointment
If we consider some of the reasons why you and I get disappointed, we see that we are not alone. Job felt discouraged and was disappointed by his wife and friends. They didn’t understand him – they didn’t get it. In the middle of his suffering, they tried to be helpful yet ended up heaping more shame and blame on Job and his many afflictions. You and I can also be let down by friends and family. They don’t understand what we are experiencing or don’t offer the help and support we wish they would. Elijah became discouraged with life’s circumstances. He had hoped or believed that after all the miracles the Israelites had seen performed on Mount Carmel, Israel would repent and put God first, but they did not. As a result Elijah felt exhausted, disappointed, and discouraged. He even believed for a while that his ministry was a waste. Despite your faithfulness and persistent prayers, things do not always turn out the way you hope they will. Jeremiah temporarily lost hope and became angry and discouraged with God. The disciples were disappointed after Christ was crucified. Peter was disappointed with himself when he realized that he was not as courageous as he thought he was. We too can become disappointed when we fail to live up to our own expectations or those of others. But we need to recognize that even to the strongest and best of people experience disappointment.
Be Grateful Even When Things Go Wrong
Perhaps that is not you were expecting to read and it is certainly not what you want to be told. How can I be grateful at a time like this? This is exactly why you need to stop sulking about what went wrong and begin to focus on all that is right in your life. The chances are that you have much to be grateful for: a great family, a good job, a nice home, good health, and a pet that greets you enthusiastically when you get home. When you focus on the things that you don’t have, you don’t take the time to acknowledge the many blessings that you do have.
As human beings, even though we know that certain things are not real, we still find it difficult to accept this. It is not uncommon for people who are disappointed and feel overwhelmed by their emotions to withdraw and blame others. They want to wallow in their disappointment. Each time this happens I have to accept that I will be disappointed and feel this way again. It is simply part of life, part of being alive. I also have to accept that I will probably continue to struggle to accept this fact at various points throughout the rest of my life. This thought is an ongoing challenge and is fundamental to dealing with disappointment. I will be disappointed, but it will pass. We need to recognize that disappointment exists, practice acceptance, learn from it, and focus on the positives that life also brings.
Take Time to Learn from Your Experience
Disappointment is an emotion that occurs when what you want to happen does not happen. Sometimes it is simply bad luck, but more often than not we need to ask ourselves a couple of questions. Was your expectation realistic? What can you do better next time? Even if you had something to do with it, give up the regret and move forward.
Move On from Disappointment
As I have already said, it is not healthy to remain in our disappointment or to wallow in it. This is not productive and can actually be harmful. Get your mind off of your circumstances and become active. Move forward with your life. Take up a hobby, visit friends, or volunteer at an organization you believe in. Use your experience to impact and help someone else. Disappointment can also bring about renewed resourcefulness. Try something else, go in a different direction, or perhaps approach things in a new way. If one dream dies, start another one and keep moving forward in life. We will all face disappointments many times in our life. We were never promised what we want or an easy life. We live in a broken world and perfection is not possible. In fact, Psalms tells us “the righteous person may have many troubles” (Psalms 34:19). However, you can rest assured that even though you didn’t get what you thought you wanted or needed, God is with you and will never forsake you (Deut 31:6) . In fact, He will use that disappointing situation for your good (Romans 8:28).
Contact a Christian Counselor
In my own practice and in my own life, I see how hard people struggle to come to a place of acceptance when their reality is far from ideal. But my experience as a Christian counselor has taught me that it is precisely at this spot that an individual can grow and change. It is only through a deep acceptance of our present circumstances that we will find peace and the source of inspiration that can free us from our disappointment. As a Christian counselor, I believe that you can resolve your pain and disappointment with God’s help and look to the future with renewed hope and excitement.
“Desparate Man,” by David Castillo Dominici, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Image ID 10070653, merged with “Bedroom Curtains,” by Emily May, Flickr Creative Commons (CC By 2.0); “He Didn’t Call Calendar Displays Disappointment From Love,” by Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Image ID: 100264623; “Heart Rotto,” by Idea go, FreeDigitalPhotos.net, Image ID: 10016236