Tuesday, June 12, 2012

the disappointed heart

Sobbing, I slumped to the floor of the bathroom. Another trial, another roadblock, another disappointment. I wanted to badly to quit, run away, and try to leave our problems behind.

The attacks of the enemy are relentless lately, hitting us again and again with frustration. God has been at work and Satan has taken notice. We learn to sow joy in the midst of trials; he plants seeds of bitterness and resentment. We practice obedience without foresight; he reminds us of past failures and shows us the easier path of self-interest. We purpose to show our children the love of Jesus; Satan uses the irritations of parenting to drive a wedge between us and our little ones.

Life is not easy right now. My husband's work is a constant source of struggle and frustration. His business has suffered in this economy and we struggle to make ends meet. That tension and burden trickles down into every other part of our lives - how we relate to each other, how we handle the challenges of parenting, how we walk with God. We had many expectations when Ben finally finished school, and it hurts to be disappointed by how things are going so far.

Disappointment is a tough one, isn't it? It's a hard, hard emotion to deal with. There's something intensely vulnerable about feeling let down by something, which is why many people choose to not get their hopes up at all. Investing in something and not seeing it come to fruition makes us feel like we've somehow failed, and it causes us to question God's goodness. I know I have. I can't count how many times I've cried out to Him in a furious despair. "Why won't you change this?!" We watch loved ones struggle and suffer through circumstances far worse than ours and pray earnestly for His hand to turn in their favor. He has the power to change anything, to move any mountain, to intervene in any circumstance. So when he chooses not to - when the answer is no or not yet - we can't help but feel disappointed. In the answer, and maybe even in Him.

From what I've found, the Bible doesn't speak directly to the emotion of disappointment. But it speaks volumes on the two issues at the heart of disappointment - humility and hope. A lot of people don't want to feel disappointment, so they try to go numb instead. But that numbness is masking a prideful heart. God instructs us to put on humility like a garment - Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, and humility (Col. 3:12). God wants me strip off my pride and be vulnerable and honest, with him and with other people. When I humble myself, I can admit my own faults, and gain a clearer perspective on my situation. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom (Ps. 11:2). And maybe he wants to use my raw, unfiltered hurt and sorrow to encourage someone else to come running to his throne with honesty.

If the playground gets rained out, I can turn my kids' sadness around in five seconds with a cookie. There is usually no such easy fix for grown-up disappointment. The circumstance that disappointed you probably isn't going to change tomorrow. It might not change in a week, or a month, or a year. It might not change on this side of Heaven. I think of a dear friend whose youngest child has had a profoundly debilitating health condition since birth. She walks so faithfully through it all, but I know she has felt the sorrow of disappointed dreams for her little boy. God has not taken away the reason for her disappointment. But he has given her the antidote: Hope. Hope is the only cure for the disappointed heart. And the only true hope is in Christ. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure (Hebrews 6:19). If we know Jesus, we know that the trials of this life are temporary. We know that honest joy in the midst of darkness is possible. We know that he loves us intimately. We know that he uses every heartache and broken dream to bring together his perfect plan and purpose for our lives.

Hope is the reason that I don't run away from home. No matter how deep the hurt of a disappointed dream, God will replace my sadness with the hope of the cross. In Christ alone, my hope is found.