What do you do when the destination at which you have arrived in life is not where you planned to be? Some end up where the thought they would but many don’t. Those who don’t experience disappointment, be it mild of debilitating. Whether it’s a careen turn that didn’t work out, a relationship that went south, a health difficulty, a career ending injury, a financial hardship, an unexpected tragedy, or life in general wearing you down year after year, knowing what to do with in these situations isn’t automatic. Some tell themselves to just let it go or get over it. Others rehearse it for years and are stuck in a season of life that has long past. I think that how we process disappointment in life is one of the main factors that determine how much God can do in our lives and how things turn out for us.
Christ followers wrestle with the tension between having and managing expectations and living by faith in anticipation of the fulfillment of God’s promises to them. The New Testament writer who wrote to the Hebrews wrote that “faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.” On the other hand, Wayne and Clay Jacobsen in their book Authentic Relationships famously wrote that “expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” Even though going with the biblical author is the obvious choice, the truth of the Jacobsen’s statement is undeniable. I personally vacillate between the two positions; idealist and cynic, dreamer and doubter, positive thinker and pessimist.
My favorite line in Benjamin And Roseamund Stone Zander’s book, The Art of Possibility is “a cynic, after all, is a passionate person who does not want to be disappointed again.” Something about that statement pierces my heart. What I’ve found is that just about every person is passionate about something. It just gets beaten out of us. The Zander’s go on to write that “the secret is not to speak a person’s cynicism, but to speak to (his or) her passion.” I think that God’s truth, spoken with conviction, does that in our hearts. That voice that you hear that won’t let you stop believing for better, even though you’re barely hanging on, is God’s. Keep listening to it. I think we’re called to manage our expectations of others and ourselves while holding on, for dear life, to the promises of God. If we let go and give up, we’ll never know where the Spirit would have eventually led us.
I recently found a great resource in facing and dealing with disappointment. In 1987, Emily Perl Kingsley wrote an essay called Welcome to Holland. Its purpose was to try to explain what the experience having a child with a disability is like. Renay Jones did a reading of the essay in 2009 and posted a video of the reading, along with graphics and a special performance, on YouTube. Check out this short 3:46 video. I guarantee it’ll inspire you, present some solutions, and make you think.