Disappointment is a part of life. We live in a fallen world with fallen people and disappointment is inevitable. Disappointment is the first step toward despair. Despair is the vanquishing of hope. Disappointment is the result of unfulfilled hopes. Disappointment is a product of horizontal living; living with a godless “under the sun” perspective as Solomon put it (e.g. Ecclesiastes 1:3).
Those closest to us can be the greatest or most deeply grieving sources of disappointment. Nabal was literally a fool of a husband. His wife Abigail was a good and wise wife. Nabal’s foolishness almost caused them to lose everything, including their lives. A foolish spouse can cause great disappointment (1 Sam. 25:23-31). The wife who causes shame to her husband is said to be “like rottenness in his bones” (Proverbs 12:4). Eli’s sons were immoral and shamed him with public displays of their lustful indulgences. This was a great grief and disappointment to Eli (1 Sam. 2:12-17). Our children, who we love so much, can be one of the greatest sources of disappointment in our lives.
Disappointment comes from our own personal failures or being rejected by others. Sometimes this leads to thoughts of suicide. Ahithophel gave good counsel to the usurper King Absalom, but his counsel was rejected. He was so disappointed and crestfallen that he got on his donkey, went home, put his house in order, and then hanged himself (2 Sam. 17:23). There is a better way to handle disappointment.
We may think that reason and understanding hold the key to alleviating disappointment but that’s not what Solomon was inspired by God to say. Solomon said, “My heart has understood great wisdom and knowledge” (Ecclesiastes 1:16). But he went on to say, “For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow (Ecclesiastes 1:18). Knowing why things are the way they are does not necessarily mean they will be changed. In fact, it may add to our disappointment. You may understand the reason why a person is the way they are, but that may not mean they will change.
Rejection and persecution can cause us to be disappointed. Jeremiah was rejected by the people along with the message God had given him to share. He went so far as to say he would give up and not speak the word of the Lord anymore. But God’s word was in his heart like a fire and he couldn’t stop sharing it (Jer. 20:7-9). Here we begin to see the first trace of how to overcome disappointment.
Sometimes the mission or calling of God Himself on our lives is a source of disappointment. Like Jonah, we don’t like what God is telling us to do. Jonah hated the Assyrians. The Assyrians were a ruthless terroristic and merciless people. But God called Jonah to go and preach to these lost people. Jonah knew if he did that, they might repent and God would be merciful to this hated people. He was disappointed. He wanted God’s wrath on them. He wanted them to experience what he felt was the just judgment of God. He wanted them annihilated; to taste a bit of the suffering they had caused others to suffer (Jonah 4:1-9). It’s hard to love our enemies as Jesus calls us to do (Mat. 5:44-47). We’d rather see them get what we believe are their just deserts. We don’t like it when God tells us to love or forgive our offenders. And that is frequently a cause of disappointment to us.
When God’s promises don’t seem to be coming to pass it becomes a source of disappointment. Cleopas and his friend expressed this when they spoke of Jesus’ death (Luke 24:17-24). They, along with many others, had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah, a political Messiah who would deliver Israel from the oppression of Rome. That was not God’s plan for Christ’s first coming. It took Jesus’ enlightening exposition of the scriptures about His resurrection to rekindle the fire in their hearts (Luke 24:27-32). Are you disappointed in an "unfulfilled" promise of God?
There is an antidote to disappointment. That antidote is the hope we find in the Lord. God tells us that His word was given to dispel disappointment and replace it with hope (Rom. 15:4). And the hope God gives does not disappoint. God promises, “Now hope [His hope] does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5). The hope God gives is not a pipe dream, vain or an empty hope. God’s hope is a living hope proven and verified, as sure as the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:3-4). Therefore, even though our lives may at times seem fruitless and empty, barren and filled with roadblocks, we can say, “Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength; He will make my feet like the deer’s feet, and He will make me walk on my high hills” (cf. Habakkuk 3:17-19).
Disappointment comes when we make our interests a priority over the LORD’s interests. When God’s people returned from the Babylonian exile to Jerusalem at one point they became very disappointed. They sowed seed, but harvested little. They consumed the fruit of the land but never seemed to be full. They clothed themselves but were never warm enough. They earned wages, but it never seemed enough to meet their needs. This led to disappointment. Why? God said, “Consider your ways!” The people had put their own personal interests ahead of God’s. And the result was that God withheld His blessing. God called for a drought on the land (Habakkuk 1:1-11). This disappointment wasn’t dispelled until the people got right with the LORD. They got right with the LORD by putting Him and His mission interests first again in their lives. They obeyed the LORD and revered His presence once again in their lives (Habakkuk 1:12). When the people did that, the LORD responded, “I am with you” (Habakkuk 1:13). The LORD stirred up the spirit in their lives and blew away the disappointment as they got back on track with Him. And here is the key; deliverance from disappointment comes through devotion to God. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mat. 6:33).
Disappointment comes when we don’t feel what God is doing is good enough or what we had hoped for. When God’s people returned from exile to rebuild the Temple, those who had seen the original Temple built by Solomon were greatly disappointed. The rebuilt Temple, in their eyes, was nowhere near as glorious as the original Temple. They were disappointed that their sinfulness had led to a diminishing of the glory of this great place. There are times where we sin and suffer loss. We don’t think we will ever be happy again; ever rejoice again; ever experience the fullness of God again the way we once did. To that God says, “My Spirit remains among you; do not fear!” (Habakkuk 2:1-5). God told the returning Israelites that He was going to “shake heaven and earth” and “shake all nations” and in time the glory of the rebuilt Temple would, “be greater than the former” (Habakkuk 2:6-9). God gives us hope when we have to rebuild portions of our lives. God is able to restore us (Joel 2:25). Our lives may not be exactly the same, but if we look to Him, wait on Him and His work, we will find satisfaction and joy in exchange for disappointment.
In the end disappointment is a loss of trust in God. This can manifest itself by ignoring the Lord and His word resulting in sin. It can be in times of uncertainty or confusion when because we don’t understand what the Lord is doing, we indulge the disappointing thoughts slung at us by the enemy. When that happens we need to protect ourselves with the shield of faith (Eph. 6:16). We need to trust in the goodness of God who has a plan He is working out and that in the end His good will prevail (cf. Jer. 29:11-13; Rom. 8:28; Eph. 2:10). God doesn’t forget our labors of love on His behalf (Hebrews 6:9-10). And if we know God remembers our lives lived for Him, we can be sure of “better things” that our loving heavenly Father will bestow on us. This is a rich hope that deals a death blow to disappointment. Indeed, God can be trusted; He doesn’t lie and He isn’t capricious or wishy-washy. The hope we have in God is dependable; it serves to anchor our soul (Hebrews 6:18-19). Don’t be disappointed, be devoted to God.