Disappointment is part of life. As early in life as we can anticipate what is to come, we experience circumstances that do not go as we wish. The result is disappointment. We focus on the contrast between what we desired and what was the result. Unlike regret, disappointment is rarely related to our actions. It’s not that we have made poor choices that led to outcomes we didn’t like; it’s that despite doing what we should, we experienced a result we did not expect.
The best illustration of disappointment might come from the word itself. It’s rooted in the idea of being removed from office. When someone held a role which was rightfully theirs but then was removed, it would result in disappointment.
The common response to disappointment is to deal with it. We have to learn to accept that some things won’t go as we wish. We encourage our children to understand that life isn’t fair and to keep trying no matter what may come. It’s all good advice.
But for a Christian, there is an additional perspective on disappointment. Believing that life is not just up to chance, a believer can accept disappointment with more faith than one who doesn’t believe in God.
The Bible shows God sometimes allows disappointments in our lives in order to direct us where He wants us to go. This isn’t the meaning behind every situation. Sometimes we make bad choices which result in bad outcomes. On occasion, we suffer because of the choices of others or just living as fallen people in a fallen world. But we often forget an additional element regarding sorrow. God will allow (if not orchestrate) the endings of good things because He has other plans for our lives.
To us, the endings seem random. They feel unfair. It appears like a random outcome. But in reality, they are divine moments in which God allows us to endure momentary suffering to teach us, direct us, and empower us to accomplish what He desires.
In the words of Jesus, He “prunes” us. Just as a gardener trims plants and bushes in order to direct their growth in the way the gardener desires, so too, God will impede growth in one direction so that we can experience it in another. To us, it’s painful. To God, it’s purposeful.
While we shouldn’t deny the pain, we can embrace the purpose and find hope even in disappointments. Just because something doesn’t go the way we desire, doesn’t mean we were wrong or our hopes were misguided. It simply means God desires for us to spend our time and resources in a more fruitful endeavor. He directs our growth so that we can become what He desires us to be…not simply what we desire to be.
This can radically change our view of disappointment. Instead of fixating on what did not go our way, we can look with expectation toward what God is going to do next.
It’s easy to see in others:
We know when a college student’s long-term relationship ends, God could be positioning them for someone else.
We know when a friend loses their job, God could be preparing them for a new venture.
We know when someone doesn’t get into the graduate program they desire, God could be planning something else.
It’s not as easy to see in our own lives. But it’s just as real.
Some good, proper, well-intended, and well-purposed dreams of ours will not come true because God has a different plan for our life. Some fulfilling and exciting seasons of life will come to an end because God desires us to move to the next season. Some obvious next steps will not be so obvious because God desires us to go down a path we do not immediately desire. When it happens…mourn it, but also embrace it. Know that while a reason doesn’t seem obvious to you when your disappointment has occurred, God has a plan which will eventually prove more desirable.