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Disappointment

You know the old ‘glass half empty/glass half full’ indicator for being a pessimist or an optimist?  What if the glass is broken?  What are you then?

How do you deal with disappointment? 

It probably depends on the cause and the intensity.  I might be disappointed that someone in my house ate the last peppermint oreo. (Actually, that never happens.  I tend to throw them down by the fistful.)  But, it’s some other kind of experience when a dream goes unrealized, or the door closes on an opportunity.  It is painful if, for instance, you don’t get into the college of your choice. If you get passed over for a job promotion that was perfect for you.  If that person you have come to love does not love you back.  Or, no matter what you do, or what doctors do, you cannot conceive. 

That last one, not being able to have a child – that’s what Zechariah and Elizabeth experienced in the gospel of Luke, chapter one – the beginning story of the good news.  John Jay Alvaro did a great job teaching on that passage, Luke 5:5-25 at the Gathering Church yesterday.  He skillfully ‘dislocated’ us from the present and took us back to that setting, giving us a sense of the loss this elderly couple must have felt.

Yet, Zechariah was faithfully fulfilling his duty as a priest in the temple, and both Elizabeth and he were described as ‘righteous people’ – people who lived rightly before God and with others.

But, they had to wonder if God cared.

Many people who walk away from God take the first step because of disappointment.  ‘Step’ is probably the wrong word, too decisive, sudden.  ‘Drift’ probably describes the process better.

You see, we tend to operate as if we have a contract with God.  “I’ll serve  you, and you provide for me.”  The problem is that what God wants to provide for us is always more than what we want, and certainly different from what we would choose.  He’s focused on providing transformation, character, true living – a life that looks more and more like Jesus. 

Rats!

I want a life that looks exactly like my picture of a happy and fulfilled Mark Acuff.  Most of the time I don’t want transformation.  I want accommodation.  “C’mon God.  Make me happy.”

I wonder how Zechariah trusted God while disappointed?  Of course, he didn’t trust God when God showed up through the announcement about their son.  So, when he had the most to say about God, he couldn’t say a word.

So many lessons:  waiting, serving while disappointed, believing, trusting.

But, first, how do you deal with disappointment?    Below are my favorite ways that are not helpful. 

  1.  Ignore it.  Let it burrow into your life.
  1. Compensate by trying harder in another area of your life.
  1. Sweeten it southern-style by acting like it really doesn’t matter.
  1. Assume some failure of your own is the root cause.  Get guilty.
  1. Spiritualize by acting like people of faith don’t have disappointments.
  1. Make others pay – somehow, someway, usually in your family.
  1. Don’t take it honestly to God, discovering his presence right in the middle of it.

Any ways you handle disappointment not so well?