“I had no relief for my spirit” (2nd Corinthians 2:13, R.V.)
Disappointment is defined as “1. the act or fact of disappointing, 2. the state or feeling of being disappointed, 3. a person or thing that disappoints.” Disappoint is defined as “1.to fail to fulfill the expectations or wishes of; 2. to defeat the fulfillment of (hopes, plans, etc.); thwart; frustrate (www.dictionary.com).
What does the Bible say about disappointment? If you look for the word in Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, or in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance Of The Bible, you will not find it. You will find two instances of the word “disappoint,” and one instance of the word “disappointed.” They are:
- “He disappointeth the devices of the crafty, so that their hands cannot perform their enterprise” (Job 5:15, KJV)
- “Arise, O Lord, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword: From men which are thy hand, O Lord, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes” (Psalm 17:13-14, KJV).
- Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established” (Proverbs 15:22)
V. Raymond Edman well describes the disappointment one can feel as he tries to live a godly life. He says, “Who has not experienced the depths of discouragement that come from the stinging defeat of eager expectation, the merciless blasting of high and happy hopes, the frustrations of fond dreams; in a word, from disappointment, dark, deep, dismal? We had not planned the results in that way. We needed friends and helpers, whose word was true, whose cooperation was cheerful and constructive, and whose dependability was undoubted, but they failed us. We needed abundance of physical health to perform our tasks, and our strength was pitifully poor. We needed large resources to achieve a worthy goal, for the glory of God, and our resources were woefully inadequate. We needed encouragement and enthusiasm, and our only reward was caustic criticism or studied indifference. We believed human promises that proved to be puffs of wind; we experienced pain rather than gain. We were disappointed…. Disillusionment, despair, defeat and degrading self-pity do not meet nor mend disappointment.” (The Disciplines of Life, p. 159).
So what does help us to overcome such disappointments? Edman suggests five things and I would like for you to consider those with me, dear reader. I trust that this will help you, as you strive to add this as one of the disciplines with which you approach life, and as you grow in your service in the Kingdom.
Going Onward Does
The Apostle Paul is a great example of going on in spite of disappointments. In 2nd Corinthians 2:12-14 we read that Paul anticipated meeting Titus in Troas. But Titus did not show up. Scripture does not indicate whey he did not show. But it affected Paul! Paul says, “I had no rest for my spirit” (v. 13, NASB). How did he react to this disappointment? Well, Scripture tells us that Paul knew what his work was; he knew what goal he was out to achieve to further the work of the Kingdom of Christ. He says, “… taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia” (v. 13, NASB). He expresses his gratitude for the assurance that God “always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place” (v. 14, NASB).
Another great example is Job. He was in the midst of despair when he said, “My spirit is crushed, and my life is nearly snuffed out. The grave is ready to receive me. I am surrounded by mockers. I watch how bitterly they taunt me” (Job 17:1-2, NLT). The three friends, whom he called “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2, NLT) had not helped him. He also told them, “Your counsel is as helpful to me as a dry streambed in the heat of summer” (Job 6:18, AMP). In spite of this despair, he recognized an important truth that would help to pull him out of his disillusionment, despair, defeat, and degrading self-pity, “the righteous shall move onward and forward; those with pure hearts shall become stronger and stronger. (Job 17:9, TLB)
Another thing that will help one deal with disappointment is having a grateful heart that freely expresses thankfulness. “A thankful spirit remembers the many triumphs as well as the trials of our faith, the many promises in the Word as well as the many perils by the way” (Edman, p. 160).
The Apostle Paul was thankful under a wide variety of circumstances. He was thankful for food & shelter in the midst of a storm (Acts 27:35). He was thankful for faithful brethren in distant places (Romans 1:8; 1st Corinthians 1:4; Phil. 1:3). And above all, he was thankful for the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s indescribable gift (2nd Corinthians 9:15).
Because he was thankful, he could urge us to be thankful in all things (Colossians 3:15; Ephesians 5:20), especially in prayer (Philippians 4:6; Colossians 4:2), as we make known our requests. “A heart that is thankful to God for His many mercies is conditioned by a sweetness of God’s spirit against the bitterness of human disappointment” (Edman, p.161).
Again, we have great examples in the Bible. David knew disappointment and discouragement. After arriving home from a three days journey, he finds that the Amalekites had made a raid into the Negev and on Ziklag, they had crushed Ziklag and burned it to the ground. They had carried off the women and children and everyone else but without killing anyone. David’s men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. Rather than allow this series of events to discourage him, Scripture tells us “But David found strength in the Lord his God,” and in this strength, David sought the Lord’s direction. Scripture tells us, “Then David asked the Lord, ‘Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?’ And the Lord told him, ‘Yes, go after them. You will surely recover everything that was taken from you!’ (1st Samuel 30:1-8).
Habakkuk is another good example. He “saw no outward prospect of prosperity, only utter desolation and disappointment, yet a thankful heart lifted him to high places of victory” (Edman, p. 161). As you read the words of Habakkuk, you find a man who, in the beginning questions God’s justice (Habakkuk 1:2-3), but in the end, he realizes that God is sovereign and that His justice is far beyond his comprehension. Habakkuk was sent by God with a message of judgment on Judah. Habakkuk expresses his changed attitude in the words of his prophecy, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights” (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NLT).
Paul had learned that all things work together for good to them that love God (Rom. 8:28). He could say, “All deserted me … But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me (2Tim. 4:16-17). Paul could endure and take pleasure in his infirmities and weaknesses because he knew that God’s grace was sufficient for him (2Cor. 12:7-10). Paul had learned to be content in whatever state he found himself (Phil. 4:11-13).
“Do we know the assurance of trust that takes the sting out of disappointment and turns it rather to ‘His appointment’? Joseph could say, ‘It was not you that sent me hither but God’ (Gen. 45:8). The Most High had so sweetened Joseph’s spirit that he named his sons Manasseh (‘Forgetting’) and Ephraim (‘Fruitfulness’), for God made him to forget his disappointment and to be fruitful in the land of affliction (Gen. 41:51-52)” (Edman, pp. 162-163). Paul had been disappointed in John Mark, but later learned that ‘he is profitable to me for the ministry’ (2Tim. 4:11). The Lord Jesus was disappointed in Peter, but He prayed for him that he would turn again to be strength to the early Christians (Lk. 22:31-32)
“What would happen if in faith and love we prayed for those who had disappointed us? Would they not turn to the Saviour, would not our hearts be sweetened, and would not life become ‘a constant pageant of triumph in Christ?’ …Be assured of God’s promise, as was Paul, who could say, ‘the things which happened to me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel” (Phil. 1:12). Try faith in God and in our fellows when we face disappointment” (Edman, p.163).
Going On Does
“Rather than sulk by life’s roadside, Paul went to the next place of service. There were many that needed his ministry of love, to whom his life, by the indwelling Saviour, could be the unspeakably sweet fragrance of Christ. Herein lies the real discipline of disappointment and despair, to rise up to help others, and to find in that the very attitude and act, that life is “a constant pageant of triumph in Christ” (Edman, p. 163)
“Ezekiel could rise out of the sorrow caused by his wife’s sudden death to bring the message of God to his people on the morrow (Ezekiel 24:18). Out of bitter disillusionment Hosea could say, “Then we shall know, if we follow on to know the Lord” (Hosea 6:3). Of the Lord Jesus, Isaiah prophesied, “He shall not fail nor be discouraged” (Isaiah 42:4). Tidings came to Him about the tragic death of His cousin, John the Baptist. Of course, His tender heart was torn; but there was no opportunity for leisure or solitude; because the multitudes needed Him. Out of the wound in His heart He fed and healed the needy, and thereby that wound was healed (Mark 6:29-44). Going on with God always helps and heals” (Edman, pp. 163-164).
The “Afterward” Helps
“For every disappointment there is a delight, for every trial, a triumph; for every anguish, an ‘afterward.’ The Scriptures say explicitly: ‘Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby’ (Hebrews 12:11). God’s hard word is never His last word. The difficulty is not defeat. The failure of another is not necessarily a finality. The disappointment need not be disillusionment” (Edman, p. 164)
Yes, Paul was disappointed that Titus did not show at Troas. But, as it turned out, Paul had even greater need for his help and encouragement in Macedonia and was able to report, “God, who comforts the depressed, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (2nd Corinthians7:5-6).
“There is the discipline of disappointment that would destroy us, unless we cause it to lift us into a new sphere of usefulness and devotion. Turn from the pain, and find the gain of thankfulness and assurance that will make of your life ‘a constant pageant of triumph in Christ.’ Out of heartache there will be healing for you and for others” (Edman, p.165).
Disappointment. It’s something that we all, no doubt, will experience in this earthly life. But if we view it as a discipline to be worked through, as “training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character,” we may benefit from it.
Thanks for reading!
(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 159 -165)