We’ve all been there.
We have all felt the painful despair and ache of disappointment. Sometimes it is quick and instantaneous, catching us off guard with its blinding sting. We don’t make the team, we go out on a limb to share our true selves and face rejection, that person we trusted lets us down. Disappointment can flatten us in an instant.
But, sometimes disappointment is more subtle. It sneaks up on us until it has completely enveloped us in its grasp. We keep trudging on and on, putting one foot in front of the other, until we realize that we’re unsatisfied and exhausted from the effort of trudging. We suddenly feel how deeply, deeply disappointed we are with our current circumstances. We begin to see that we aren’t where we thought we’d be after all the effort that has been put in.
Both types of disappointment are painful. They both affect us to the core.
About nine months ago I looked around at my seemingly full life and realized that I was utterly disappointed. It was sparked by a moment of rejection. I had applied for a job and was hopeful, only to not be chosen. I was disappointed with myself for risking. I was disappointed with myself for getting too invested, for feeling too much. But really, the further down I dug, I realized I was disappointed in the routine, mundane, trudging along existence I had found myself in. That’s the dangerous kind of disappointment, because it risks not ever being discovered and keeps you from living. Really, truly living. I was disappointed in the circumstance, but when I began naming the emotion I was feeling, I saw disappointment everywhere. I was in desperate need for change and simultaneously crippled in fear to take the steps.
Jesus began teaching me that where we turn in disappointment determines the next season of our lives. I’m still learning what it looks like to face disappointment head on and choose to seek after hope. It’s a journey and one well worth the hard work it requires.
Here are three things I’m learning about disappointment:
- It’s important to acknowledge disappointment.
We can’t address something that we don’t acknowledge. In a raw moment with the Lord, I admitted my disappointment. I stared at my journal after writing the words, and the feeling sunk in. The words stared back at me and resonated in a deep place in my soul: I’m disappointed.
I was disappointed in all the ways that God was not answering the exact way I’d like to be answered. I was disappointed because becoming who I am meant to be was not as easy as I’d like. I was proactively disappointed, anticipating God to not meet my expectation. I realized I was carrying disappointment like a heavy, loaded down backpack, and I was beyond tired.
After I spoke it out, I could finally do something about it. Before it was just an unspoken, unacknowledged hindrance in my daily life. Now it was a raw, LARGE elephant in the room, demanding my attention. When we acknowledge our disappointment, we have the choice to address the elephant or to try to hide it. I have had enough disappointment in my life to know that it’s detrimental and potentially impossible to ignore pain.
- Left alone, disappointment changes who we are.
I knew that I didn’t want to stay trapped in my disappointment. I began to see that living in disappointment robs us of joy, hope, and peace. It is impossible to look to the future and the promises of God if we are determined to live in a place of regret and victimization.
Disappointment feels a lot like suffering. The Bible is pretty clear about the role of suffering. Paul tells us to REJOICE in our suffering! REJOICE?! I am often very frustrated by what seems to be blind optimism and denial on Paul’s part in the passage in Romans 5. But the more I see suffering, disappointment, pain and strife in action, the more I find that rejoicing is the only antidote. It is for our benefit to rejoice and be grateful when we face struggle. It’s a formula:
“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint…” Romans 5:3-5.
When we choose to address our pain, to enter into our doubts and disappointment, we gain endurance. We learn what we’re made of. You see, disappointment teaches us that we’re stronger than we think, tougher than we seem, and graceful enough to take it in stride. Discovering our capability to endure changes us and solidifies the person that we are. We gain integrity, compassion, and gumption. We don’t arrive to this place lightly; character is hard-earned. People of character have hope and vision. They understand the depths of despair, but along the way gain a long-term perspective. The crazy thing about hope is that it always comes with a wait and a longing. If we dare to hope, we’re going to experience an ache. But this ache does not put us to shame. It does not disappoint. It comes with a promise of fulfillment. Hope is infectious. Hope begets hope, that begets hope, that begets hope. You can’t run out of hope when you turn your eyes to the Lord.
- When you’re walking through disappointment, you have to remind yourself of truth.
Taking on disappointment is hard and holy work. It’s choosing long-term freedom over momentary wallowing. It’s choosing the unseen promises of God over the weight and throbbing of current circumstance. Hope is trying work, and sometimes we’ll grow weary. Don’t give up. I love that God knew we’d need encouragement to keep going long before we could even think to ask for it.
Three times in 16 verses the psalmist of Psalm 42 and 43 repeats the same refrain:
“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.”
(Psalm 42:5, Psalm 42:11, Psalm 43:5)
The entire passages feel like conversations I’ve had with God. The Psalmist pours out his heart to God. He’s disappointed. He’s confused. He’s in pain. He’s frustrated. And just when you think he’s going to ramble over the edge of despair, he tells his soul to hope.
“As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
“Everyone is telling me to give up. You’re not going to come through. I am so tired of trying only to fail. It’s physically painful. Everything seems to be crashing down…What am I doing? Why am I so hopeless? Remember what God has done. He WILL show up. He is my saving grace. He is love and He is near. Don’t lose hope.”
No matter if you have faced a recent rejection or are growing weary of carrying the weight of disappointment, I know you have what it takes to turn disappointment into hope. I say this because I’ve been where you are and I’ll be there again. I have told my soul to hope again and again in almost every season of my life. As I trudged on to do the holy work, to acknowledge disappointment, to suffer and seek hope, I saw God in the midst of my struggle. He walked alongside me. He revealed deep parts of my identity. He revealed my truest self and pushed me to depths I could never have dreamed of. I find myself approaching the other side, finding fulfillment, joy, purpose and on the precipice of jumping into calling and dreams, going places that would have been possible had I sat down on the other side of disappointment. It was worth the pain to find myself here.
So if I leave you with nothing else, tell your soul to hope today.
Mickenzie is a 26-year-old Michigan native who lives in East Nashville with her husband Paul and pup Shilo. She loves storytelling, adventuring, deep belly laughs, and getting caught up in the kind of conversations that make you forget to check your phone. Mickenzie is passionate about seeing women step into their truest selves and seeks to live a story of purpose and passion.