Man, I hate being disappointed. It sucks. I think that’s a generally agreeable sentiment.
I consider myself an optimistic person, a ‘glass-half-full’ person. If I had my way, I would have a cloud of glitter that goes ahead of me and rainbows that stain the sidewalk wherever I walk, declaring positive platitudes that annoy the people around me. Disappointment ruins my positive, glitter-rainbow dreams faster than you can say, ‘ugh.’
Disappointment is like a flat tire, a rainy day without an umbrella, a bird pooping on your shoulder. That’s it. To me, disappointment is like life’s metaphorical bird pooping on your shoulder. No one likes to have a poop-stained shoulder.
In my thinking on this topic, disappointment hits me deeper than that. When asking people how they deal with disappointment, most said they just ‘move on’. Those people are better at this life thing than I am because disappointment causes me to question my capability and my worth. Disappointment isolates me and sets me on edge with others. It can lead to a sense of powerlessness or discouragement. It is easily avoided yet it happens to everyone. Every single one of us has experienced the shock and the pain of an unfulfilled expectation- whether it was self-inflicted or not. My preferred method of dealing with disappointment is avoidance, but I’m definitely not above some good, old-fashioned self-pity. Because I am not the best example of how to deal with disappointment, I’d like to look to see how those in the bible dealt with bad news.
There are two scenarios that I’d like to explore. Two kings, two grave situations, two responses that we can use to learn from.
King David | When You Make a Mess in Your Life
“7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”
13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt forthe Lord, the son born to you will die.” 2 Samuel 12:7-14
King David was the Lord’s anointed. He was God’s golden boy and he’s described in the bible as a ‘man after God’s own heart’. King David made a huge set of mistakes, one that would have repercussions throughout his entire lineage as long as his family was alive. David, the young man who had trusted the God of Israel in the field and became the greatest king in Israeli history, gave in to lust, greed, and murder and he ALMOST got away with it. If you were to read the 1 and 2 Samuel, you would read the amazing story of David, and how God promised to establish David and his heritage forever. This sin was not without consequences, and I’m positive that many can relate to this situation.
No one forced you to make the choice you made. No one told you to say what you said, or act on a lack of information. No one knew how it would all turn out when you took that wrong turn, and you are still paying for that decision or lack thereof to this day. You may have given up hope that your circumstance will change for the better, but David shows us how to respond when we make our own mess. In Psalm 51, he cries out to God in humility and repentance.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
When his wrong was exposed, he did not deny it. He did not excuse it. He acknowledged his sin was first against God and confessed it. Then, he turned to the God that he had grieved and asked him to restore him.
What I’ve gathered from this situation is that if you had made your own mess (whether you sinned or not), and you are disappointed in your decisions and their consequences, these are the steps you take:
- Humble yourself – Pride will keep you from experiencing the restorative power of God. You can’t handle your disappointment without this step first. Let this situation bring you to a place of clarity with God and his plan.
- Confront your choice(s) – Do not avoid or make excuses for why you did what you did. Take responsibility. Don’t pretend that it didn’t happen or that it didn’t affect you. It happened; see it for what it is and learn from it. Nothing more, nothing less.
- Pour out your honest feelings to God – God is merciful. He delights in showing mercy to those who genuinely come before him as His children. He knows what you’re thinking, honesty from you is a step toward intimacy with God.
- Allow God to restore you – You may be living with the consequences, but God’s restorative power can bring everything back to you in a moment. Hold on to hope.
When we make a mess in our lives, the restorative power of God can turn the biggest disappointment into the most powerful display of God’s kindness.
King Hezekiah | The Brunt of Bad News
“In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”
2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord,3 “Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.” 2 Kings 20:1-4
King Hezekiah served the Lord faithfully as king of Judah since the age of 25. In 2 Kings 18, it says that there was no king that was like him in all of Judah, before or after him. He trusted God and he depended on Him for the deliverance of Israel many times. This guy was pretty much perfect. In 2 Kings Chapter 19, God had rescued Israel from their enemies and they seemed to be coming off from a ‘mountaintop experience’ with God.
Hezekiah must have felt pretty optimistic about they way things were going for him and his people.
Have you ever been blind sighted by bad news? Were things going really well for you and then someone close to you passed away or you were burdened with something financially? Those things come out of nowhere, sometimes. No one can explain it, no one can give any real advice on how to handle it…it just seems like there’s nothing anyone can say to make it better. It feels like getting punched mercilessly in the gonads of your soul.
Let’s be honest. Getting terrible news is not easy to swallow. Dreams can disappear. Hopes are deferred. Your expectations for your life and the way it would go seems to be ‘up in the air’ as you scramble to try and find something firm to stand on. Hezekiah understood that. But Hezekiah also knew how to respond to his disappointment in a way that would evoke a response from God. Here’s what we can learn from Hezekiah:
- Emote – Let it out in a safe place. Don’t suppress your hurt, pain or frustration. Find an outlet and pour your emotions into that outlet. Be sure not to let it out ‘on’ another person, but in a healthy way, find a way to feel the gravity of what is happening to you. King Hezekiah wept bitterly. If he was a man and leader of his country, I’m sure you can do it too.
- Converse with God intimately and honestly– The significance of Hezekiah turning his face to the wall to pray was to get away from spectators. Even though he had devastating news, he knew who to bring his concern to. He did not avoid God or wallow in self-pity. He brought his concern before the Lord because he believed this truth: God cares about the way you feel and desires to respond to your heartbreak.
- Trust in the goodness of God – though we can ask the question ‘why’, God may not always give us the response we are looking for. Here’s how Hezekiah’s prayer was answered:
“4 Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: 5 “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. 6 I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’”
7 Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered.” 2 Kings 20:4-7
God sees and hears us when we pray. It doesn’t always turn out like this, but God is able and willing to intervene in a situation. I know that He would move heaven and earth to communicate to us that He is not heartless or idle, but that He is active and involved and desires to care for us when we need it.
Disappointment is a universal feeling. I’ve learned in my own life that disappointment, self-inflicted or not, is not a dead end. Disappointment is a doorway.
A doorway to a better me, to a different situation, to a deeper relationship with my Father in Heaven.
Treat it as such. Walk through the muck of your disappointment into the restoring, attentive arms of God and His plan for your life.