We’ve all felt disappointment. That sinking feeling when things didn’t work out as we had hoped or because our expectations exceeded the actual outcome. It’s a very real feeling that can cause us to experience a large spectrum of emotions: sadness, despair, grief, frustration, anger, thanksgiving.
Yes, you read that right. We can feel thankful in our disappointment. But how? Why?
Isaiah 55:8 reads, “’My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,’ says the LORD. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.’” Our thoughts are nothing like God’s. Isn’t that powerful? In our simple, human mind we can devise all sorts of ideas and plans; we can piece together the perfect storyline for our future and then we expect that God will follow through with our plans because they sound pretty awesome to us. But how silly is that? If we know that God sees everything and has a beautiful plan for our life, why do we keep expecting to write our own story?
Now don’t get me wrong, having expectations can be good. I’m not saying we need to drop all of our expectations in life, but I think we need to examine WHAT our expectations are. Are we expecting to always get our way or are we expecting that God will do amazing things in our life in HIS way? Are we expecting that we’ll be perfect in everything we do or are we expecting to do our very best and then receive grace and help for the rest? The bigger our expectations the more we can find ourselves fighting to stay on a path that may not be where we should be walking. But how do we examine that and determine where we need to be?
Pray and ask God about how He wants to use you within the situation. Release your need for control of the situation – because, let’s face it, when we expect a situation to have a particular outcome we are essentially trying to have control – and pray that He would give you peace. Search for the goodness and celebrate those things. Then be still and wait to hear what God has to say to you. I know that this is a struggle for a lot of us, myself included; in the busyness of life, it’s hard to sit quietly and wait, but we are told that “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14). It’s in the stillness that God can work.
It is also in stillness and reflection that thanksgiving flows. When you sit quietly for long enough to REALLY see the situation you’re in, you’ll likely begin to notice the amazing way that God has His hand in it all. Instead of seeing what you don’t have, you begin to see all that you DO have. When you lose your job you really are being given a fresh start and new opportunities to disciple. When your physical capabilities become limited you are being given a chance to focus on more inwardly things. When a relationship isn’t working you are being given a chance to learn about yourself and reflect on your contribution to relationships. We can reflect, learn, and grow within every disappointment we experience and be thankful for what we have learned. Every trial and disappointment is a blessing – it’s all in how we look at it.
I love the view that Norman Vincent Peale has about disappointment. He writes,
“When disappointed, try loving God all the more. Carefully analyze yourself to make certain you are thinking and living in harmony with His spiritual purpose. It could be that you are off the spiritual beam. Instead of dwelling upon the word disappointment, think of it as ‘Hisappointment.’
What you regard as a disappointment may actually be a wonderful new appointment or plan for your life, namely, His plan. Always take a positive view toward disappointment. It could be that through disappointment you are being shown another way or being led toward something different. If you have tried sincerely and prayerfully, and things have not gone well, then look upon disappointment as an opportunity to ask whether you should move under God’s guidance in another direction.”
Thanksgiving within disappointment: it’s not easy but it’s acknowledging that God knows best. So have confidence, my friends. Do not be discouraged but rather encouraged that the path you are walking will take you to places far better than what you can imagine! Be thankful that we have a God that loves us so much that He won’t always give us what we ask for because He has much greater things in store for our future. Find freedom in the surrender of your expectations and joy in the stillness of His presence.