Facing Disappointment

John 11:21 (ESV)
“Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Have you ever felt like Martha, being disappointed, thinking that “if only God would have….”? We all have faced varying degrees of disappointment throughout our lives, so much so that we have learned to tolerate it, submerge it, and go on with life. But each disappointment hurts and has the capacity to leave a lasting scar, some which can morph into unhealthy feelings.

Sometimes disappointments can fester into discouragement, to where we can easily begin to lose hope. As despair creeps upon us, deep depression can become a stark reality. So how do we stop this devastating chain of events? To answer this, we must take a good look at how we handle the first link in the chain—disappointment.

If you have read my blog for any length of time, you should not be surprised that my answer lies in God’s Word, and in particular understanding the word hope. Consider this from Paul’s letter to the Romans:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our
Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:1-5). 

We all live by hope. Disappointment occurs when hopes are not fulfilled, or when events do not turn out the way we want or expect. The future we dreamed of is shattered. And that’s the issue: our vision for the future versus God’s plan for us.

When we live under control of the flesh, our hopes are bound up in a temporal system of values and expectations. When we live under the control of our Lord, our hopes are surrendered to Him. As you read through the Bible, this is an oft-displayed concept (see Psalm 38:15; 42:11; 130:5; Isaiah 40:31; Romans 15:13; Hebrews 10:23; Titus 1:2; 2:13; 1 Corinthians 15:19).

Biblical hope is so much more than our everyday use of hope: for instance, I hear from many of my students saying “I hope I pass this exam”, or “I hope I pass this class”. Such hope is little more than a wish or an empty desire. On the other hand, biblical hope rests in certainty.

Our hope is in God—His Word. His character, His name, His promise. Such hope rests in the finished work of Jesus Christ. We do not find hope in our feelings, but in our knowledge of the revealed God incarnate, Jesus Christ.

Such a hope overpowers disappointment and believes that God always works for our best in every circumstance. Paul certainly understood this, even in prison (Philippians 1:12; 19-20). Hope convinces us that every event of life will be used by God for our good (Romans 8:28).

Martha didn’t understand this, yet. She didn’t understand that Jesus delayed coming to see His dear friend on purpose, so that God could be glorified through the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

Even as Christians, we will face disappointment. But for those who place their hope in Jesus Christ we learn that such a hope calms and evaporates our disappointment long before it can damage us.

And in that, we can face disappointment.