Friday, March 13, 2020
How To Deal With Life's Disappointments - A Biblical Approach
As coronavirus has taken the world by storm, we are all having to revamp our plans. Dan was scheduled to preach in Ptuj this Sunday, however the Pentecostal movement here in Slovenia has decided to cancel services until further notice. The topic he was asked to preach on was, interestingly enough “disappointment”. We thought that many people would be feeling disappointed in the current climate, and decided to share the sermon here.
With everything going on in the world, “fear” is the emotion that is getting all the attention, but there is another one many of us are facing – disappointment. Disappointment in canceled plans or trips; disappointment in how people are reacting to this situation; disappointment in having to rearrange our schedules; disappointment in being stuck at home.
The truth is, that although disappointment is something we all experience, it is not something that we talk about a lot in church – or really anywhere. Disappointment is something that we all face. It can come from any number of things. Disappointments can come from our own failures, the failures of others, or sometimes just the way that life plays out. We can experience disappointments in our relationships, in our jobs, in our circumstances, in what we see in the world around us, but even in our relationship with God. When looking for Biblical examples of people who experienced disappointment, honestly you could choose anyone.
There is Moses, who because of the choice of the Israelites to not possess the land God had given them, and then because of his own anger was not allowed to go into the Promised Land. He brought the Israelites out of Egypt specifically for this one purpose – but then was not able to see it actualized in his own lifetime.
There is David, who because of lust, and his disregard for human life lost his infant son with Bathsheba.
There is Saul, who although was God’s anointed one lost God’s favor because of his disobedience.
There is Hagar, who was used by Abraham and Sarah to force God’s promise, but was then discarded after Isaac was born.
The Bible is full of stories of disappointment. This is not something that is new. The question for us as Christians is “What should our response be to disappointments? How are we to deal with them in a way that is ultimately glorifying to God.”
Today I would like to take a look at two Biblical figures, and their response to disappointment. One will be a lesson in “how to”, and the other will show us “how not to”.
1. Firstly, I would like to take a look at Jonah. The book of Jonah in the Bible is rather short. It is only 4 chapters long, and yet the majority of us are only familiar with the first three chapters. Jonah hears from God to go to Nineveh. Jonah doesn’t want to go to Nineveh, because he doesn’t think the Ninevites deserve God’s forgiveness, so he runs away on a boat headed in the other direction. God sends a storm to get Jonah’s attention. The other passengers throw Jonah overboard to appease God. God sends a large fish to swallow Jonah. While Jonah is in the fish’s belly, he repents, and asks for God’s forgiveness. After three days, Jonah is spat out onto the shore. He makes his way to Nineveh to tell the people to turn from their wicked ways, or God will destroy their city. The people of Nineveh are moved by his words, and do exactly that. They repent, and turn to God for forgiveness – God spares Nineveh. It’s a great story, isn’t it? Except, unfortunately that isn’t where the story ends, even though it’s the part we are most familiar with.
In chapter 4, we see Jonah’s true colors. He had gone east of the city and made camp, to see what would happen to the city. He was waiting to see God take his wrath out on the evil in the city. Even though Jonah was sitting there with hatred in his heart, God caused a plant to grow near him and give him shade. When the city was not destroyed, Jonah was angry and disappointed that God did not annihilate the city of Nineveh. He even tells God that this is why he didn’t want to come in the first place, because he knew that God was a gracious God. Jonah was disappointed that the people of Nineveh didn’t get what he felt like they deserved – punishment.
At this, God causes a worm to eat the leafy plant, so it dies. This further angers Jonah, however God shows him how ill-placed that anger is. He was more upset about a plant dying than all the people of an entire city. God admonishes him, and the book of Jonah ends with a question mark.
Hmm… Let’s take a look at another person from the Bible, and see how they handled disappointment.
2. The second person we will take a look at is Hannah. You may not be as familiar with Hannah. She was the mother of the famous prophet, Samuel. Hannah was one of two wives to a man named Elkanah. She was unable to have children, which was the greatest desire of her heart. One day she was at the temple praying. She promised the Lord, that if He would give her a son, that she would dedicate him to the Lord’s service. That she would, in essence “give him back” to God. The priest, Eli saw her mouth moving and no sound coming out, and thought she was drunk. He went to chastise her. She told him of her prayer and disappointment. He blessed her, and sent her on her way. She went home and worshipped God. Because of Hannah’s faith and relentless praying, God opened her womb, and she and Elkanah welcomed a son. They named him Samuel. When he was still a young child, Hannah brought him to live at the temple, just as she had promised. Samuel grew up to be one of the most important prophets of the Bible. Would you like to hear another beautiful detail of this story? Samuel wasn’t Hannah’s only child. God blessed her with 5 more children. Her disappointment turned to joy. God did not leave her arms empty.
3. Now, let us compare the two. Hopefully you were able to discern which of the two responses is the one we should be modeling.
Where Jonah’s immediate reaction was anger, Hannah’s was grief-filled prayer.
Where Jonah accused God, Hannah worshipped God before the miracle even took place (1 Samuel 1:19).
God’s response to Jonah was to rebuke and admonish him. God’s response to Hannah was blessing.
How does that look in our life? Here are some practical points to help us navigate disappointment.
1. Disappointment in itself is not a sin. However, it opens the door to doubt, which ultimately can lead to sin. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” Doubt can be a detriment to our faith, which can cause us to be bitter towards the Lord and those around us. Bitterness is a killer of love and joy.
2. We need to put all of our faith in God – not people. Has someone disappointed you? Has a friend let you down? Did you marry, thinking that your spouse would fill every need in your life? The truth is that we all have an emptiness in us that only God can fill. Being disappointed by people is inevitable; it’s a part of life. God, on the other hand does not disappoint. Isaiah 40: 28-31 says, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” God is not like people; he doesn’t grow tired or weary, and has all the understanding in the world, and beyond. We can’t go wrong by putting our hope and our faith in Him.
3. Our circumstances cannot dictate our faith.Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Circumstances, by their nature change. Sometimes everything is going well, we are healthy, we have a good job, and our future seems bright. This does not mean that God loves us more, or that we have more favor. Sometimes we have setbacks at work, our lives are altered by an unexpected illness, or the world around seems unsure and unsafe. Sometimes a crazy virus changes everyone’s lives. This does not mean that God loves us less, or that we have lost his favor. Our faith cannot be conditional on our circumstances – it needs to be in the Lord. Romans 8:28 tells us that God is able to use any and all circumstances for our good. But the condition is that we are to love and trust Him.
4. Thankfulness is the antidote of disappointment.Even in her deep disappointment, Hannah’s response was to worship God. She worshipped Him not only for what He was doing, but also for who he was. If our hearts are full of thankfulness, there will be no room for disappointment. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances.” This does not mean that we are ignoring the disappointment, but rather we are framing it through God’s lense. A very practical way of doing this, is by thinking of all the things we have to be thankful for. Even as we are unsure now, and are needing to change moving plans, we were talking to our son, and saying, “wow, we are so thankful that we have a place to call home and to go to.” “We are so blessed to have friends who are willing to help us.” “Thank you God that we have all the food that we need.” This can really help put things into perspective.
5. We won’t always get the answer we want, but that doesn’t change God’s goodness. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Yes, Hannah’s prayers were answered like she hoped, but that wasn’t and isn’t always the case. Moses wasn’t allowed in the Promised Land. David’s infant son died, Saul’s anointing was taken away, and Hagar had to build a new life as a single mother. Even Jesus asked God before he was crucified, if there is any other way for the salvation of mankind, could he please take it. God’s answer was “no”. But according to the verse we just read, a “yes” answer isn’t what we should be after – it is the peace of God, which comes from surrender.
So, during this time of upheaval and unrest, we will all encounter disappointment. This is natural, and God can totally handle your emotions. But let’s try to remember to keep it in check, to approach it from a Biblical standpoint, and remember to put our faith in God. He is in control and greater than anything that may come our way.