May 16, 2019
There are times when life brings disappointment. You develop your dreams and rise but at some point realize that some of them are just that -- dreams. Disappointment is a sobering reminder echoing Hebrews 13:14 with the message that this world is not our home. Yet, disappointment can become discouragement, which hurts and burdens. Sometimes we think, "I have disappointed God. ... I have disappointed a friend. ... I have disappointed a family member.... I have disappointed a co-worker.... I'm not where I thought I would be at this stage of life.... I'm not doing enough ministry...." Or even, "I am disappointed in myself." And these can be turned around to "A friend disappointed me" or "A co-worker disappointed me" or "(This circumstance) has disappointed me."
I want to make a couple of observations. I don't want to disregard responsibility if you have sinned, thus disappointing others, or others have genuinely sinned against you. Confess where needed, forgive and make amends and move forward. Don't wallow in it. Certainly don't fall into the schemes of false accusations or waste time there. What I am addressing are the enemy's false accusations, the self-effacing statements and the inevitable trials of life. Overall, the thinking in the opening sounds a lot like the accuser of the brethren. Remember that Satan is called the accuser of the brethren in Revelation 12:10. And the name Satan means accuser. The accuser relishes at the opportunity to kick you when you are down, when you are disappointed. However, in Christ, God is not disappointed in us anymore than He is disappointed in Christ. Bottom line: He isn't disappointed in those who are in Christ since He is not disappointed in Christ. Recall the idea of "I'm not doing enough." This kind of goes with the observation just mentioned. While it's good to be motivated, even passionate, about the things of God, don't let "not doing enough ministry" be your motivation. May the Holy Spirit be your motivation. Otherwise, it is futile. Now, notice in the above paragraph how many times "I" or "me" is mentioned. They are small, but significant words. The way they are used shows a focus on self. And that is the heart of the problem. Finally, like all of us, you have let someone down or been disappointed. However, notice the phrase all of us. It's not an excuse but a realization. Let's address some of these observations in turn.
God is not disappointed in those who are in Christ:
When Jesus was baptized, what did God say? Matthew 3:17 (NASB) tells us: "and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.'" You hear that? Well-pleased. In Romans 13:14 (NASB), Paul urges us to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" and in Galatians 3:27 (NASB), he says, "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ." If you have faith in Christ, you are clothed in Christ. God is not disappointed in you because He sees Christ in you. "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come" (2 Corinthians 5:17, NASB). In Christ, you are clothed in Christ. Live as such.
I'm not doing enough for ministry?
Matthew 6:1-4 (NASB) says the following:
"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
'So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.'"
There's a term I coined years ago: religiosity. This is when persons are busybodies in the church (or a ministry) and the motive is not the Holy Spirit. Rather, it may be service out of guilt, fitting in, trying to impress, feeling obligated. We shouldn't serve for recognition. That's a form of self-centeredness. If no one knows of the act of service but God alone, that is all that matters. There's a saying: "The only applause that counts is from HIs nail-pierced hands."
Our motivation is to be love. However, there is an order to love. Luke 10:27-28 (NASB) captures it:
"And he answered, 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.' And He said to him, 'You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.'"
Love God and love others as you love yourself. God must be first and it is love for Him and His Spirit in us that motivates us to love others well. And He must be the motivator. If He isn't calling you to do something, then don't do it. And remember as you love others, you are to love them as you love yourself. This implies a love of self. That is not a selfish love, but a love that appreciates who God made you to be (and who He is making you to be) instead of believing in the accusations mentioned earlier.
And it's also helpful to remain humble (not self-effacing, which is another form of self-centeredness) and realize that God doesn't need us to do stuff. Rather, He invites us to do those things that matter.
Self-focus vs. Jesus-focus:
I've already alluded to how a self-focus is detrimental. I mentioned the little words "I" and "me" used in a manner that is self-seeking. We will let others down. You will let yourself down. The flesh is corrupt and it will fail. It's easy to get our eyes stuck on ourselves to puff ourselves up or put ourselves down - two sides of the same coin. Yet, they lead to the same place.
Matthew 14:29-31 (NASB) is in the context of the well-known event of Jesus walking on water and calling Peter to Him:
"And He said, 'Come!' And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, 'Lord, save me!' Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, 'You of little faith, why did you doubt?'"
Peter was fine when he kept his eyes on Jesus. When he focused on the waves and his own concerns (i.e., himself), he panicked and began to sink. That is what happens when we focus on ourselves instead of Christ. Keep your eyes on Jesus.
Recall Luke 10:27-28 on how it addresses love: love God; love others as you love yourself. God is first, not self.
The realization and reality of disappointment
While what I've written here is true, disappointment is a reality and it visits all of us from time to time or even for seasons where one has to push through the fog in faith trusting that there is a clearing on the other side. Proverbs 14:13 (NASB) says the following:
"Even in laughter the heart may ache may be in pain,
And the end of joy may be grief."
Despite the difficulties life sometimes presents us, we must keep an eternal perspective. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (NASB) says,
"For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal."
It doesn't feel good. When C.S. Lewis was grieving the loss of his wife, he said, "Why love if losing hurts so much? I have no answers any more. Only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I've been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal" (Shadowlands).
There is hope in C.S. Lewis' statement, "The pain now is part of the happiness then." Losing my father was one of the most profound losses in my life. What makes it painful is not seeing him, wanting to tell him things but being unable to. There is a helplessness at times. Yet, Lewis' statement reveals the depth of the hurt is the depth of the love. And I would add: it can be the depth of the gratitude.
I was sharing with a friend one time how I was feeling discouraged. While listening and encouraging and offering prayer, he mentioned starting each day with things for which I am thankful. Consider the accusations and self-deprecating thoughts in the opening: "I have disappointed God." While I have already addressed that, we can reframe this to "I am thankful that God has a relationship with me and I want to please Him. ... And that in Christ, He is pleased with me." "I have disappointed a friend." Be thankful you have a friend and care about that friend's feelings. "I have disappointed a family member." Be thankful you have a family. "I have disappointed a co-worker." Be thankful you have a job. "I'm not where I thought I would be at this stage of life." Be thankful for how far you've come and that you do have life. "I'm not doing enough ministry." If you are doing anything, even if it is very small, be thankful for the opportunity. Also be thankful that you are wanting to do more (though check your motivation).
Still, though, there is the disappointment-to-despair phrase: "I am disappointed in myself." I heard recently on K-Love where the DJs were talking about how they are their own worst critics and they mentioned how they talk to themselves negatively and critically. They then asked, "Do you talk to your friends that way?" And they progressed to the question, "Why talk to yourself that way?" It's a good reminder. Don't talk to yourself that way. Get your eyes off of yourself and onto Jesus. And if it's the accuser harassing you, here's his future:
"Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, 'Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night'" (Revelation 12:10, NASB).
Though we fail at times, that is not what defines us. In Psalm 139:14, we are reminded that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made."
And while we face trials and disappointment, 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NASB) reminds us that while "we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed", our "momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison" (2 Corinthians 4:17, NASB).
During times of disappointment, our hearts can hurt, but they can also be fertile. David, after his brokenness over his sin with Bathsheba, wrote the following:
"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise" (Psalm 51:17, NASB).
And it echoes back to Psalm 34:18 (NASB):
"The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
And saves those who are crushed in spirit."
Sometimes, the best place to be is to be looking to God with a broken heart. Sometimes, we feel so far down, we can only look up to Him. Years ago, an old friend of mine went through great struggles, but always stayed upbeat, saying he was "coming to the end of myself" and how that was a good thing since it caused him to rely on Christ and walk in dependency on Him. Though difficult emotionally, it is a good place to be spiritually.
I'll end with this: G.R. Higginbotham, a missionary friend of mine, observed in Uganda that as one drives a vehicle down a road, the people split to the two sides of the road. As I think of it, at the most basic level, it is a matter of safety. However, what G.R. said at the end of his blog "The Ugandan split" applies to disappointment: "Things will go a lot better for us in the long run if we just get off of the street. Yes, the shoulder may be covered in mud and cow dung, but that may be where we have to go to let God work miracles" (https://beforethesilvercord.wordpress.com/2019/05/14/the-ugandan-split/). We need a "long run" perspective. And when in the mire, we need to look to God.
Jesus said, "...In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NASB).
Life will have its disappointments. Trust in Him; believe in Him. Take courage.
"...for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am."
Philippians 4:11b (NASB)
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