Scott Jones – Gilbert Campus Pastor
Can you remember the last time you experienced disappointment? For some of you, it just happened, which is how you found this blog. You went searching for some encouragement or direction after a big let down. For others, it’s been a while, maybe so long that you almost didn’t click to get here. Life is full of disappointments. From the moment we see the light of day to the moment our eyes close with our final breath disappointments fill our lives. It can be something as trivial as not getting, a good seat at the movie theater to something as devastating as losing your spouse or child. Disappointment, for many, is the beginning of a downward spiral into discouragement, depression, desertion of their faith or even death by their own hand. Which one of us hasn’t felt that knot in our stomach when a dream dies, a hope fails, or an unexpected tragedy interrupts our plans for the future?
We are not alone. In the Bible is a story of a man who knew disappointment. His name was Aaron, the brother of Moses. Aaron and Moses led the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt and prepared them to enter the Promised Land. This land had been promised to generations of Israelites for hundreds of years and now the time had come to inherit it. The land was to be divided among the twelve tribes of Israel and Aaron was the head of the tribe of Levi. But when it was time for the reading of the will, God said these words to Aaron recorded in Numbers 18:20:
“You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites. “
Hundreds of years of promises seem to slip away like water in the desert. Imagine sitting in a room with your eleven brothers and sisters at the reading of your father’s will. The executor of the estate is reading your father’s wishes and each of the siblings has received $5,000,000 and Summerhouse in an enchanting part of the world. And your inheritance is the family photo album. No matter how you look at it, you can’t help but feel disappointed. How do you deal with it?
The foundation of dealing with disappointment is to stay focused on God’s goodness.
It’s not intuitive but if we’re not grounded here, we will be suspect of God’s intentions. Our minds will go to a place where we say, “I doubt God is good.” Those who don’t deal well with disappointment often start with this assumption. We say God is either all-powerful or he is all-good. But not both. If we believe that God is all-powerful, we’re not convinced that he is good, because if he can take the pain away, why doesn’t he? We silently draw conclusions.
Aaron knew God’s goodness. He believed that God loved him. It was his foundation. He saw it throughout his life.
- Deliverance from Egypt
- Miracles of food and water in the desert
- Mercy even after leading Israel to worship the golden calf
A number of years ago, I went with some staff to a leadership conference. The speaker at one of the sessions was driving home the point that those that we lead need to know that we love them. He asked the question, “Do your people think that you love them?” I was really challenged by the question and thought about it for the rest of that day. I was rooming with one of the guys on my team and later that night in the hotel room, I came out of the bathroom in my underwear and I asked this guy, “Do you think that I love you?” And he looked at me (in my underwear) and said, “Can we talk about this later?” It was an awkwardly funny moment that he and I laughed about later.
Timing is everything when it comes to beliefs and convictions. Aaron didn’t just start believing in the goodness of God, believing that God loved him in the moment of his disappointment. That belief was already there. For you and I believing that God is good comes before the divorce, the miscarriage, the job loss, and the diagnosis. It is the anchor that holds us in place when everything within us wants to drift toward doubt.
The prophet Habakkuk has a chilling confession that inspires me but has eluded me in many times of personal pain and disappointment.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)
Can you say that? Because if we can’t we will be tempted to move away from God and make it on our own.
Dealing with disappointments requires us to resist the temptation to rely on ourselves.
We can be so clever in devising strategies for making life work apart from the God who has disappointed us. We can even be seduced into developing a defiant attitude of independence that says, “I will survive on my on terms.” I’ll find some way to get what I want.
- My husband isn’t meeting my needs– I’ll get a divorce.
- My boss doesn’t appreciate me– I’ll slack off.
- My longing for intimacy is unmet– I’ll sleep around.
Not only is this outside of God’s design, but also in the long run, it doesn’t even work. The alternative is to follow God in spite of our disappointment. Because when we believe that God is good we can trust him in quiet obedience.
Do you believe that sometimes God allows us to be disappointed so that we will let go of our independence? The Apostle Paul did. He reveals his perspective in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9.
“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.”
What is your disappointment?
- A positive biopsy
- An unfaithful spouse
- A rebellious child
- An unexpected layoff
- Consuming loneliness
- Memories of abuse
God is bigger than our disappointment. But you know what else? God is bigger than the solution to our disappointment. Those who doubt God’s goodness and are determined to survive on their own, pursue above all else, a solution to their disappointment. But those who believe God is good and choose to trust him, pursue above all else, God himself.
Which are you?
Our pursuit of God must be greater than our pursuit of a solution to our pain.
When Donita and I lost our first child to miscarriage we experienced deep disappointment. We didn’t understand. We knew God could have taken the baby to full term but he didn’t. We hurt. We cried. We got angry. We even doubted God’s goodness for a while. But then we realized that pursuing God was the only thing we could do. And in our pursuit, the pain didn’t go away and our baby never came back, but we grew deeper in God. We discovered that:
There is no growth without change. There is no change without loss. There is no loss without pain.
We clung to the words of David in Psalm 73.
Whom have I in heaven but you? My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
And over the years we have returned to this perspective when the loss and pain have come to our doorstep – when God seemed silent or distant or moving against us – and it has sustained us and moved us into the presence of our good God.
Aaron never got any land, but he got God. God said, “I am your share and your inheritance.” He was given a special relationship with God, a closeness that wasn’t offered to those in other tribes. And we are offered that same special relationship through Jesus. Through him, we have total access to God. We are sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father who will never leave or forsake us. This truth trumps any disappointment that comes our way.
So whatever your disappointment, may your pursuit of God be greater.