Take a moment and think about a time where you were truly disappointed. It doesn’t have to be a life-shattering event. Perhaps the term disappointment takes you back to a time where you thought you were going to get a gift that you really wanted for your birthday but instead received something that you didn’t really like at all. Maybe your biggest disappointment came from a promotion that you were expecting at work only to be passed over in favor of someone else. You still had a job, but you were disappointed in the fact that you didn’t receive the promotion.
Maybe disappointments in your life have been much more serious than a bad Christmas gift or a missed promotion. Perhaps you look back at your childhood and see a series of disappointments from a parent who continued to make bad decisions that you paid the price for. Maybe you’ve got a failed marriage in your past because the person you thought you would spend forever with turned out to be a disappointment who didn’t keep his or her vows.
Disappointment can take on several different forms, but there’s one thing consistent about it: it hurts. Fortunately, the Bible offers plenty of advice for dealing with disappointment in all of its forms.
When You’re Disappointed with Yourself
Psalm 51:12 (ESV)
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
David wrote this famous Psalm during one of the darkest periods of his life. In 2 Samuel 11, we find David at the king’s house. While that would normally be a good spot for him to be, the Bible says that he was at his house during the time when the kings were supposed to be out to battle (2 Samuel 11:1). Because David put himself in the wrong position, he set himself up for failure.
2 Samuel 11:2 (ESV)
It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful.
Since there were no water heaters in the Old Testament, bathing on the roof wasn’t uncommon. In fact, it was the only way to get hot water. Bathsheba was not the one who was wrong for taking her bath. David was wrong because he was at home when he should have been at battle. That poor decision set the stage for some of the worst days of David’s life.
David asked his servants who the woman was and was told that she was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. That should’ve been the end of David’s interest in the woman. Uriah, one of David’s soldiers was married to the woman who David was now interested in. However, instead of accepting the fact that she was married, the Bible says that David “took her and lay with her” (2 Samuel 11:4). Shortly after, Bathsheba sent word to him that she was pregnant.
Over the course of the rest of 2 Samuel 11, David falls farther and farther into sin. In his effort to conceal the affair, he brought Uriah back from the battle and got drunk with him in an effort to get Uriah to go home and sleep with his wife. Instead, Uriah wouldn’t leave the king. As a final resort, David orchestrated Uriah’s murder and married Bathsheba.
The story carries over to chapter 12 where the child died. David, broken and sorrowful because of his sin was disappointed with himself and devastated by the loss of his child. However, God heard David’s prayer in Psalm 51 and brought David back into right standing with Him.
When you’re disappointed with yourself, simply acknowledge that fact to God! The Bible promises that He is faithful to forgive when we confess our sins (1 John 1:9).
When You’re Disappointed in Others
Genesis 33:4 (ESV)
But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.
Jacob and Esau were twins who had battled for supremacy, even when they were in the womb. The animosity between the brothers carried over into their lives. In Genesis 27, their father Isaac was about to die and was going blind. In a final attempt to outdo his brother, Jacob (with the help of his mother who preferred Jacob) concocted a scheme to steal Isaac’s blessing.
Jacob was more of a domestic type. While Esau excelled in hunting and farming, Jacob was more of a homebody. Once the scheme was carried out, Jacob immediately escaped out of fear of Esau. He knew that Esau would kill him if he attacked him, so Jacob fled. For roughly 20 years, Jacob ran from Esau, estranged from his family.
Conversely, Esau had to be heartbroken by the betrayal of his brother and his mother. However, when the day finally came and the two crossed paths, what did Esau do? He ran to him, embraced him, fell on his neck and kissed him.
Forgiveness is hard. It’s much easier to hold onto bitterness when we experience betrayal. However, that’s not God’s design for us. When we’re disappointed with the actions of others, God desires reconciliation.
When You’re Disappointed with God
John 11:21 (TPT)
Martha said to Jesus, “My Lord, if only you had come sooner, my brother would not have died.
The death of Lazarus was a surprise to the disciples and a disappointment to Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha. They sent word to Jesus that their brother was sick and that only a miracle would save his life (John 11:2). Undoubtedly, they assumed that Jesus would be on his way when he got the word. The fact that Jesus was a personal friend of Lazarus, Mary and Martha makes it even more shocking that he “remained where he was for two more days” (John 11:6).
John 11:11 (TPT)
Then Jesus added, “Lazarus, our friend, has just fallen asleep. It’s time that I go and awaken him.”
By this time, Lazarus was dead. Jesus had waited too long, and hope was gone. Why hadn’t he just come when they sent word for him? Why did he wait where He was? Isn’t God supposed to be good?!
John 11:14-15 (TPT) Then Jesus made it plain to them, “Lazarus is dead. And for your sake, I’m glad I wasn’t there, because now you have another opportunity to see who I am so that you will learn to trust in me. Come, let’s go and see him.
When Jesus arrived in Bethany, Martha didn’t come out with shouts of acclamation. No, she was disappointed in God. She had prayed, she had believed, and God didn’t come through. “If you had been here, he would still be alive.” Make no mistake about it, Martha was disappointed in God.
However, what Martha deemed as final Jesus saw as temporary. He made them take Him to the tomb where He commanded them to roll away the stone and called Lazarus out of the tomb. Miraculously, a man who had been dead for four days walked out of the tomb because what Martha saw as final, Jesus saw as temporary.
God can handle your disappointment, too. He is not annoyed when we wonder where He was. He isn’t put off when we walk up to Him and say, “If You had come when I called, everything would’ve been OK!” However, sometimes God lets us experience disappointment so we can truly see who He is and learn to trust Him.
Jesus didn’t punish Martha and Mary for their disappointment. Instead, He gave them exactly what they wanted, but He did so in His time. Your disappointment is no different. God has your best interest at heart and understands if you feel disappointed with His timing.
A Closing Prayer:
God, I’m disappointed and discouraged. I don’t understand why things have turned out the way they have, but this is not the way that I thought everything would go. Help me to deal with this disappointment in a way that’s pleasing to You. Instead of harboring hurt towards others, help me to forgive like You forgave me. When I feel disappointed with myself, restore to me the joy of Your salvation like You did for David. Finally, when You don’t respond the way that I expected, help me to remember that Your thoughts are higher than mine. In Christ’s name, Amen.