Let’s talk for a minute about disappointment. We all experience it. It may look different in frequency and intensity for each of us, but it’s certainly a universal experience nonetheless. It’s a very personal thing too, so trying to compare circumstances as some kind of gauge for how disappointed one should feel about a given situation isn’t fair. At the end of the day, there was an expectation that didn’t get met and oftentimes it creates a series of inconveniences, frustrations, and extra work – hence the disappointment.
The journey my family has been on for the last 3½ months has been nothing short of chalk full when it comes to disappointing moments. And each time I’m met with a choice – to wallow or not to wallow. I would love to be able to say that as each moment came, I received it with grace and patience. But it was quite the contrary. Sometimes it was as simple as a hefty grunt of irritation. Other times it took a good venting session with a friend or family member to be able to move on. And then there has been a time or two where I went full throttle into pout-mode and had to dig my way out to see reason.
So how does this God-given emotion fit into the Christian walk and testimony? One of the best pouters in the Bible has got to be David. He did not hold back in his feelings of disappointment, fear, anger, and hurt. Yet he did it in a way that challenges us today to feel what we’re feeling, but keep our eyes fixed on the Lord whilst doing so (don’t you love a good “whilst”?). That second component is so important because it is what dictates the outcome of our disappointment. Let’s look at a few examples of how David handled himself in disappointing situations.
In Psalm 6, David cries out . . .
“Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath. Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? . . . . All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping. The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. . . .
In Psalm 13 he says . . .
“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death, and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall. But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.”
Psalm 55 starts out . . .
“Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught because of what my enemy is saying, because of the threats of the wicked; for they bring down suffering on me and assail me in their anger. My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me. Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me. I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm. . . . . As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. . . .”
Later on in Psalm 142, David says . . .
“I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy. I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble. When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me. Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. I cry to you, Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me. Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.”
Can you relate to any of these? This is just a few of many Psalms where David is pouring out his heart before the Lord in deep frustration, confusion, and despair. But if you read through them, you start to notice a distinct pattern. He unloads his burdens and then almost immediately follows them up with truths about God’s character and promises. It’s at that point in each Psalm that you see a shift take place.
You can almost feel David’s heart get a little lighter as the Lord begins ministering to him.
The same is true for us today. The fact that we will encounter times of disappointment is not lost on God. But how we respond to our disappointment determines the level to which He is able to intervene in the moment.
If we just stomp our feet, fold our arms, and rant about how we’ve been slighted and life just isn’t fair, it leaves very little room for the Holy Spirit to comfort and mend. But if we are willing to lay down our burdens (despair and all) and then press into the things we know to be true about Him, that’s when healing can take place. That’s when we are able to see past our current troubles and believe that He is for us.
The other plus to “Biblical pouting” is that it makes the God-sized outcome that much sweeter. We’ve been working on this with our 7 year old. He’s quite competitive and it shows in just about everything he does. Right now he is WAY into cup stacking (if you don’t know what that is, Google it and join us in our suffering).
He will work on a stacking cycle for hours and when he doesn’t get it right or a cup falls over, you can hear and feel the rage building up. He starts getting visibly and audibly frustrated. We remind him to keep control of his mouth and body and that if he can’t, his cups will be taken away. Then out of the blue, he’ll nail it, and then wonder why we aren’t jumping up and down celebrating with him. So we explain to him that when he behaves the way he does with each failure, not only does it make it hard to want to comfort him, but it makes it hard for us to want to share in his victory.
The same is true with the Lord. When we just get mad and sulk every time things don’t go our way, we will miss the joy of the victory on the other side because we are so buried under our feelings.
As my family continues to move through what hopefully will be the final phases of this eternal move to Tennessee, I have been forcing myself to learn from the lessons we are teaching our son. There have been times where it’s been a series of bad news, one after the other. And each time, God has been so gracious to allow me to find comfort in friends and family as I work through my frustration. Then once I’m at a place where I can follow David’s example of choosing to praise despite my circumstance, I quickly feel the weight lifted.
And now, as we make arrangements to actually make our move in a few short days, our rejoicing in the Lord is taken to a whole different level, because we know that He has been in every little detail along the way – preparing our hearts and minds, and those of our boys, for this massive change and building our faith so that it’s rooted deeply. How terrible it would be if we were going into this next season with nothing but the remnants of brooding and moping. Disappointing situations can either weaken our faith or build it up. The choice is ours.
Thank you Lord that you hear us when we cry, that you don’t expect us to not feel disappointed, and that when we do, you are there with open arms, ready to comfort. Help us to quickly claim the truths of who you are, so that when the tide turns, we are free to relish the sweetness.