The Many Possibilities in Disappointment
In my distress I prayed to the Lord, and the Lord answered me and set me free.
The Lord is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?
Yes, the Lord is for me; he will help me. I will look in triumph at those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people.
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes. Psalm 118-5-9, NLT
I’ve been taking courses and reading books on the practice of mindfulness. In mindfulness practice, we are trained to face our emotions and pains at the time they are happening instead of avoiding them. This made me realize how much time and energy I have spent in my life in the process of pain avoidance. Especially the pain of disappointment. Over the years, if I thought someone would say no, I sometimes wouldn’t bother to ask. I didn’t want to hear the word “no.” (I DO hate that word sometimes!). Hearing an answer we don’t want to hear happens in jobs and relationships and in all kinds of situations. Or, worse, we may try something and feel as though we have failed. And we don’t like those feelings! So we sometimes do our best to get around it. We avoid risk to avoid pain. But with the practice of mindfulness, we are told to go ahead and feel the pain or the emotion, and to deal with it instead of stuffing it down. The long term goal is that the pain or emotion won’t hurt as much, because when we understand our feelings, they lose some of their power over us.
The fact is, we WILL be disappointed, and people will let us down. I can’t tell you how often I let my defenses down and was crushed. I’m sure this has happened to most of us. And it does hurt a lot! But as we have learned in church over the past few weeks in our bible studies, we are not always the innocent party. Sometimes we disappoint God and others. We usually don’t do it on purpose, it’s just human nature. But God forgives us over and over again. Disappointment happens, and we should not fear it. Instead we should learn from it, let it go, and try again.
When I avoided the possibility of disappointment, or rejection, or hearing the word “no,” I was actually depriving myself of the possibility of hearing the word yes. How many things have I missed out on because I didn’t want to be disappointed yet again? I know that disappointments will happen, and it is not fun. But feelings like disappointment have a good side. When we risk feeling disappointment, it means that we have courage. Courage is a good thing.
I remember one occasion when I was experiencing intense pain from a brutal break-up. A friend was comforting me, and she said “don’t you feel alive right now?” At the time I didn’t know if I liked that version of feeling alive, but now I know what she means. If we don’t feel pain, we may not feel much joy either. Who wants to live a flat-lined existence? Real life is full of ups and downs, and the more of those we experience, the more we are living.
Whether people have disappointed us or we have disappointed them, God has a plan for us. He will see us through it all and we will come out better in the end. Isaiah 41:9-10 (NLT) says:
For I have chosen you
and will not throw you away.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.
Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.
And we can trust that!!! If we continue to know that God has our backs and that we are strong enough to withstand fear and disappointment, we will succeed a lot more and we will really live. And I really do think that there are more “yesses” than “nos” in life. Sometimes we just quit asking. So keep asking!