Finding Goodness in Disappointment


Last week I talked about the drift the Lord has been helping me with. It’s been meaningful to get my thoughts onto paper and to share them with others. I’ve been touched by the comments, facebook messages and interactions with readers who said you were comforted by the fact that someone shared and understood your struggles. Person after person said, “It was as if you were describing my struggles!” There is sometimes a sweet relief that comes with knowing we’re not alone. One woman said that reading the posts helped her to realize she was battling anger toward God for her discouragement and drift…until she realized the battles she was facing were shared.

Another common theme I’m hearing and experiencing revolves around disappointment. As Christians, we work hard not to have expectations but to entrust our lives to God’s sovereign control and care.

When you were single you really didn’t expect to find the “perfect” spouse, yet soon after (or even before) the honeymoon you start getting irritated and discouraged over how quickly romantic love has been tainted by “where did those gooey feelings go?”

The new job you rejoiced over as God’s provision just a year ago has become a source of frustration and you find yourself looking online for a new position.  What happened?

The baby you longed for has finally arrived, yet you realize you’re exhausted. Why didn’t anyone tell you babies cried all the time and you would never get more than an hour of sleep at a time?

Disappointment. It’s a powerful influence in our lives that we don’t want to admit. Why? Because it sounds whiney. Ungrateful. Childish. So we remain silent and don’t reach out for help.

The truth is that sometimes my disappointment is an evidence of my ungrateful, me-centered heart. But additionally, I’m finding that a real cause of disappointment is unmet expectations.  And sometimes I don’t even realize i had expectations until they’re unmet. Can you relate?

Yesterday I mentioned having lunch with a friend recently. We realized we’ve been experiencing some of the same difficulties, temptations, drift and blah-ness. As we talked, our conversation turned to the common feeling that this season in our lives just doesn’t look like we thought it would. In some ways life is amazing and meaningful. Yet in other ways we are finding ourselves confused and disoriented. We surmised together that this means we were expecting something different than what’s  happening.

But it’s not just our season of life as older women that’s different than we thought.

A young mom I talked with recently really felt called to homeschool her kids, but is battling disappointment over their standardized test scores and is feeling like a failure as a teacher.

A single friend who just turned 30 is feeling perplexed and disappointed that she isn’t the wife and mother of “a bunch of kids” by this age.

A 40-something man is disappointed that he hasn’t made more progress in his career compared to other guys his age.

Parents of three young adults are struggling with disappointment over the lack of spiritual hunger in two of their sons.

Disappointment is common and is often times preventable. But the simple truth is this: people who are struggling with this kind of sadness and perplexity need the comfort of the gospel. Even when selfish or unrealistic expectations are the source of our disappointment, we all need to be reminded of the love and goodness of God.

That’s what my friend and I ended with at lunch last week. We know that our sinful hearts are at work in our disappointments. And our faithful God will surely help us to see where sin in alive, then give us grace to repent and turn from it. But I found peace in the reminders we shared with one another that God is still near and God is still good.

Sometimes God’s goodness is veiled when disappointment strikes.  If you’re like me, while I know better than to overtly blame God for stuff that happens around me that I don’t like, there is a subtle shift in my thinking from “God is good” to “God is sovereign.” Does that sound strange to you? I know that God’s goodness and sovereignty are linked and not in opposition to each other! Yet during times of disappointment I can drift from the glorious truth that God’s goodness and sovereignty are forever melted together in His nature. My sinful heart and the enemy’s whispering lies say: “Yes, God is sovereign so obviously these circumstances are a part of His plan to grow me. But is He really good? Does He really care about what I’m going through?” Doubting God’s love and goodness is the common temptation of the discouraged or suffering Christian.

These words by author and pastor, John Piper, have been food for my soul:

“God will not turn away from doing you good. He will keep on doing good. He doesn’t do good to His children sometimes and bad to them other times. He keeps on doing good and He never will stop doing good for ten thousand ages of ages. When things are going bad that does not mean God has stopped doing good. It means He is shifting things around to get them in place for more good, if you will go on loving Him.”

Are you disappointed in how your life is unfolding? Do you have relationships that were once a source of joy but are now hard and confusing? Did you have a picture of your life that isn’t what you hoped for years ago?

Join me in remembering that no matter what is going on; however your life is different than you expected;  whatever relationships are tearing at your heart; or whatever ways you are tempted with disappointment…God loves you and He is good.

John Piper would tell you and I that God is “shifting things around to get them in place for more good, if you will go on loving Him.”

We will go on loving Him because those who belong to Him will never NOT belong to Him. When we became His we became forever His. Even when we drift and let go of Him, He never lets go of us. Even when we fail and sin He stands eager to forgive and restore.

Lately I’ve been rehearsing a little song in my mind: “Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so.”

The God of the universe loves me and promises to withhold no good thing from me. Always.

If you’re a believer, this is your promise, too.  If you’re not a Christian and have come across this blog or had a friend send it to you, my good God is pursuing you. I pray you will find great comfort in knowing you are loved by Him even though you don’t yet love Him back.

That’s good news.