I sat across from a husband who expressed disillusionment about his spouse and his marriage. I’ll spare you the details, but essentially he said: “I need this. She’s not giving it to me. I’m unhappy. Why won’t she give it to me?” What you are missing, that I can’t give you in my writing, is the dejection in his voice.
You’ve been there, haven’t you? Something doesn’t go as expected. You’re frustrated. Your family, job, friendships, marriage, church—they’re not what you hoped for. How do you as a Christian deal with disappointment?
start with the heart
Disappointment often reveals what your heart is really worshiping (Matt. 6:21; Luke 6:43–47). It exposes you. If your son made a bad decision, are you sad because of his foolish decision, or because it shows he’s not living up to your expectations? If you desire more intimacy with your spouse, but he or she doesn’t reciprocate, are you dissatisfied because of your spouse’s “no,” or because you feel entitled to more intimacy? If your boss doesn’t give you the promotion, are you frustrated because you worked hard for the pay raise, or because you fear failure?
When you deal with disappointment, it’s too easy to focus on the circumstances around you and cast blame on others rather than looking at the battle in your own heart. Think for a moment about the last time you were disappointed (Prov. 13:12). Was the bulk of your thinking and energy focused on the wrong done, the unhelpful circumstances, or your own heart? The natural tendency of sin is to blame others and not to deal honestly with our own hearts (Matt. 7:3–5). Ask God to help you know the selfish tendencies of your own heart.
things won’t go as you expect
Why do things not go as we expect? In one word—sin. Sin corrupts everything in our world and leaves us sad, confused, regretful, and disenchanted. Hollywood, best-selling books, television commercials, and Disney all work against us to feed our desires and give us unrealistic, idealistic expectations. If you naively expect things to go well and downplay the power of the sinful flesh, you’re not being realistic about sin. You are likely to be disappointed. But if you demonstrate “sober judgment” (Rom. 12:3)—a humble perspective on yourself, a realistic view of your sin—you’re less prone to be disappointed.
Our lives run into the real world, with real problems, real frustrations, and real heartache, and we acknowledge what we knew all along—sin ruins everything (3:23). The Spirit is working powerfully within you, but your flesh is doing everything it can to undermine your life (Gal. 5:16–18).