The Best Way People of Faith Can Deal With Disappointment

Life can be described as a series of disappointments and unmet expectations. We have this romantic idea of what marriage is going to be like, of what parenthood is going to be like, of what our grown up life is going to look like. We aren’t prepared for the realities of life, with the hundreds of disappointments that will meet us along the way, some small, some devastating.

What do you see?

It reminds me of the day our vacuum broke. I had only cleaned halfway up the first of three flights of stairs in our townhouse when the hose attachment to our dust-buster stopped working. 

“What am I supposed to do now,” I wailed in frustration. 

“You could try the shop-vac in the garage!” my husband suggested.

I had forgotten about our shop-vac. We hadn’t used it since our move three years ago. I lugged the heavy beast out of its’ corner in the garage, pushed my glasses up the bridge of my nose, and set out to finish the chore I had started. I plugged it in and flipped the switch.

*Poof* A giant cloud of dust and old pet hair shot out of the side vent, coating our entry way with a thin layer of gray.

With a sigh, I brought the whole thing outside and cleaned out the filter before going back in to clean the extra mess. I plugged it in and flipped the switch again. A tiny cloud of dust shot into the air. This time I just vacuumed over it and finished the stairs.

I brought the trash outside and marveled at how dark it had become at only four in the afternoon. As I walked toward the dumpster, I had a thought that stopped me in my tracks: it’s dusty out here. How could it be dusty outside? I looked to my right, and the bushes looked dusty. I looked to my left and the neighbor’s patio looked dusty. I’m embarrassed to admit how long it took me to figure out that the cloud of dust from the shop-vac had covered my glasses. No wonder everything looked gray and dirty!

Disappointment Pins

How to deal with disappointment

Just this weekend, my husband and I had planned a hike to take advantage of the beautiful weather. But when we got home from church, the boys had devolved into bickering, whining, and fighting. Our youngest was still sniffling from allergies. As a result, we canceled our plans. I was so disappointed; I’d really been looking forward to this hike. 

I spent some time moping around the house and feeling sorry for myself, glancing at the sunshine out the window in between heavy sighs. Meanwhile, my boys seemed content to play inside. In fact, my oldest was begging me to play a card game with him. Had I continued to focus on the failed hike, I would have missed the small joys right in front of me. When you focus on the dust, that’s all you’ll see.

If you are facing disappointment in your life, whether it’s mildly annoying like a missed hike, or it feels heavy and life shattering, I offer you two suggestions:

  1. Remember

Spend some time in reflection: where have you seen God’s blessing and provision in your life? What can you look back on like touchstones to remind yourself that God has never abandoned you, never stopped loving you?

Remember that God never promised us that our life would be easy. Just because we are Christians does not mean that we are immune to tragedy, sickness, discomfort, or pain. In many other countries, choosing to follow Christ means choosing a life of suffering for your faith. Following Jesus doesn’t mean that our circumstances in life will suddenly change. But it does mean that we have a divine perspective: we are living in His story, furthering His Kingdom, knowing that He has overcome the world.

  1. Reframe

In psychology, reframing is when you take a negative situation and look at it in a different (more positive and hopeful) way. Kind of like cleaning the dust off your glasses so you can focus on the sunshine.

In your situation, consider: what can you choose to be thankful for despite your circumstances? What positive outcomes could happen as a result of this disappointment? How might God use your disappointment so that your pain is not wasted? And then watch and wait with the eager expectation that God will redeem your pain.

Although feelings of disappointment aren’t bad, continuing to focus on the “what could have been” instead of trying to make peace with the “what is” will steal the joy from your life. Instead I encourage you to remember and reframe, then move ahead with renewed faith in the One who loves you.

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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