Written by Ron Edmondson.
“I have the opportunity to sit with many people who are experiencing disappointment in life. Many times, even when we are doing the best we know how, we find ourselves disappointed with where we find ourselves in life at the time.
Life happens. It could be tragedy or a minor set back, but it hurts. Pain is always relative to context. And if we don’t know how to respond, we can have a very hard time recovering.
Having faced disappointment many times in my own life, I’ve learned a few things about navigating through these times. I hope some of my wisdom gleaned through experience can help you.
Here are seven pieces of wisdom for the disappointments of life:
Keep your heart close to God. That’s important always, but especially during times of disappointment. The Psalmist said, “God is close to the brokenhearted.” God is most likely at work in ways you cannot presently see or understand. Often disappointment ushers in some of the greatest seasons of God for your life. Don’t miss it by not listening to Him.
Wait for your emotions to heal before you make major decisions. Recall how the prophet Elijah was ready to die during a difficult period (1 Kings 19). Yet God still had great plans for his life and ministry. We tend to make irrational decisions immediately following times of disappointment. Let some time pass and make sure you are thinking rationally again before you implement major changes in your life.
Don’t quit doing what you know to do. While you shouldn’t make major changes, an equally dangerous tendency to give up or stall until the next opportunity arrives or life gets “easier.” You may need a resting period, but keep your mind and hands busy doing what there is to do today. It will help protect your heart and mind from the attack of fears and doubts. And do things that keep you alive and healthy. Eat, sleep, exercise.
Don’t allow a disappointment to determine your sense of self-worth. Read many of David’s Psalms (22, 69 and 121 are a few of my favorites) .You can read his despair—then as He reminds himself of God’s love and faithfulness, he is restored. Be restored to who you are as a child of God. Beloved. Let God and the people who know you best help determine your worth. It’s monumental worth. Yes, even today! You don’t have to be defined by your disappointment.
(And be on the lookout for signs of severe depression. Things like withdrawal, constant feelings of despair, severe worry, not eating, dark fears or thoughts, etc. Don’t resist professional help.)
Remember, you are not alone. Even though it may feel that way. Back to the story of Elijah, he couldn’t see it at the time, but God had reserved an army of supporters for him. Disappointments are a part of everyone’s experience. There is likely someone who has experienced the same type of disappointment. Don’t be afraid to find them and let them walk through this period with you. (This is not a time to remove yourself from the church community—this is a time to find real, life-giving community.)
Learn everything you can from this period. No one welcomes disappointment, yet most who have experienced it learn some of life’s best lessons during those times. Even failure can be a great teacher. Don’t miss the value of experience.
Move forward when opportunity presents itself. Too many people become paralyzed after a period of disappointment, refusing to ever move forward again. Living an abundant life requires risk-taking. Dreaming again. Loving again. Ultimately, to be obedient to God’s call on your life, you will have to walk by faith again. If you ever hope to escape the moment of disappointment—when the time is right and you’ve grieved your loss or disappointment sufficiently—get on with life.
Learning how to handle disappointments will make your life better. Eventually, God will—if you allow Him to—grant you the privilege of helping others who experience disappointment.
What wisdom have you gleaned from times of disappointment?
Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he’s been helping church grow vocationally for over 10 years.