Really?! Seriously?! It’s popular to respond to disappointment with these words, spoken with a mock shock that communicates disapproval and sometimes, how dare you!
Disappointment does often lead to hurt feelings, frustrations, and stress. Whether it’s a relationship struggle, missed opportunity, thwarted desire, or unmet expectations, disappointments are tough.
Yet God uses these trials in surprising ways. When we honestly face painful disappointments and nestle into our Savior’s love, we discover a variety of gifts that he has for us. Let me walk you through a recent disappointment in my life to explain.
A Hard Disappointment
About a year ago, I was invited by a ministry to collaborate on a new book. Basically, I’d write up a proposal, their leaders would edit it and submit it to a major publisher. The sense from the leaders was that the publisher’s acceptance of the book was a slam dunk. It truly seemed like a dream come true for me in light of wanting to multiply myself out by equipping others for gospel centered ministry! A world respected ministry, a renowned publisher, and me putting on paper the various things God has planted in me through many years of ministry.
But the publisher rejected the proposal. The timing wasn’t right for them and obviously, me either! God did not allow it to go through. Errgh…disappointment to the core, and while I did seek to tuck into the Lord, the whole thing was deeply confusing to me. What?! Really Lord?!
Yes, really. And through that ‘no’, God invited me once again onto a path of accepting three gifts.
Three Gifts in Disappointment
He drew me more deeply to himself. I got the ‘no’ from the publisher on Valentine’s Day, about two hours before teaching a bible study on Hebrews 12:1-12 (#nocoincidence). God was inviting me to fix my eyes on Jesus afresh, and to run the race marked out for me. To stay in the lane he had for me, meant not a book at this time, in this way. I didn’t doubt his goodness, but the disappointment of his ‘no’, stung. Once again, he wanted me resting in his promise that he would withhold no good thing from me. I nestled in, was comforted, and grew to trust him more.
My heart was revealed. This possible project had been surrendered to God, thankfully. Even though the ‘no’ stung, I was encouraged with the Spirit’s enabling power that grounded me to not spiral emotionally. Thank You Lord, for growing me! Yet, in the days after receiving the news, I saw things in my heart that I’d been blind to. Envy and discontentment (at what others had and what I was not getting) slowly bubbled up. Hmmm, Lord, maybe that surrender needs to go deeper! Because God had tenderly drawn me to himself, I could receive his loving light shining on both the growth and sinful heart responses in me. His kindness led me to repentance in ways that he’d uniquely designed for me at this time in my race of faith.
Such freedom and comfort is ours when we acknowledge that we just don’t know the whole story but we have a loving, powerful, holy God who DOES. In fact, he is the author of our lives (Hebrews 12:1-2) and does indeed use disappointments as his appointments to draw us near to himself. To surrender to his purposes in our lives.
That leads to a third way God uses disappointment: to guard his Ephesians 2:10 purposes for us. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” This book obviously isn’t one of the ‘good works’ prepared for Ellen Dykas in 2017. Will I write it eventually? I sincerely hope so but for now, I rest in knowing that God is ‘guarding’ other beautiful, fruit-bearing opportunities for me.
Within a week of that ‘no’, I received a request to endorse a new book. The author is one of the wisest men I know, and he has a platform of influence that far exceeds mine. The topic of the book? Helping people apply the gospel to sexuality and relationships! When I made that connection I laughed out loud with the Lord, delighting in what he was doing and thankful that my heart was actually rejoicing at this opportunity to serve. Within a month, I received two more requests by authors to endorse their books, both of which had topics that overlapped with my dreamed-about book. Ephesians 2:10 in action as his plan wasn’t for me to write a book in 2017 but to get behind others who were.
Your experiences with disappointment may be much more painful (betrayal, thwarted desires for gifts like marriage, children, health, meaningful employment, etc.) but these three ‘gifts’ are for all of us. Jesus is always at work, consistently seeking to draw us to himself in more intimate ways, transforming our hearts into his likeness, and sending us out in his name through loving good works. I hope my story encourages you and helps you navigate disappointing terrain in your own life.