The Christian life can sometimes feel like a roller coaster ride when strong hope and faith collide with an unexpected reality. When our prayers aren't answered as we desired and our dreams become shattered, disappointment is the natural result. Jack Zavada examines "The Christian Response to Disappointment" and offers practical advice for turning disappointment in a positive direction, moving you closer to God.
The Christian Response to Disappointment
If you're a Christian, you're well-acquainted with disappointment.
All of us, whether new Christians or lifelong believers, battle feelings of disappointment when life goes wrong. Deep down, we think that following Christ should give us special immunity against trouble. We're like Peter, who tried to remind Jesus, "We have left everything to follow you." (Mark 10:28).
Maybe we haven't left everything, but we have made some painful sacrifices. Doesn't that count for something? Shouldn't that give us a free pass when it comes to disappointment?
You already know the answer to that. As we’re each struggling with our own private setbacks, godless people seem to be thriving. We wonder why they’re doing so well and we’re not. We fight our way through loss and disappointment and wonder what’s going on.
Asking the Right Question
After many years of hurts and frustration, I finally realized that the question I should ask God isn't "Why, Lord?" but rather, "What now, Lord?"
Asking “What now, Lord?” instead of “Why, Lord?” is a hard lesson to learn. It's hard to ask the right question when you’re feeling disappointed. It's hard to ask when your heart is breaking. It's hard to ask “What now?” when your dreams have been shattered.
But your life will begin to change when you start asking God, "What would you have me do now, Lord?" Oh sure, you’ll still feel angry or disheartened by disappointments, but you’ll also discover that God is eager to show you what he wants you to do next. Not only that, but he’ll equip you with everything you need to do it.
Where to Take Your Heartaches
In the face of trouble, our natural tendency is not to ask the right question. Our natural tendency is to complain. Unfortunately, griping to other people rarely helps solve our problems. Instead, it tends to drive people away. Nobody wants to hang around a person who has a self-pitying, pessimistic outlook on life.
But we can't just let it go. We need to pour our heart out to someone. Disappointment is too heavy a burden to bear. If we let disappointments pile up, they lead to discouragement. Too much discouragement leads to despair. God doesn’t want that for us. In his grace, God asks us to take our heartaches to him.
If another Christian tells you that it's wrong to gripe to God, just send that person to the Psalms. Many of them, like Psalms 31, 102 and 109, are poetic accounts of hurts and grievances. God listens. He'd rather have us empty our heart to him than keep that bitterness inside. He is not offended by our discontent.
Complaining to God is wise because he's capable of doing something about it, while our friends and relations may not be. God has the power to change us, our situation, or both. He knows all the facts and he knows the future. He knows exactly what needs to be done.
The Answer to 'What Now?'
When we pour out our hurt to God and find the courage to ask him, "What do you want me to do now, Lord?," we can expect him to answer. He will communicate through another person, our circumstances, instructions from him (very rarely), or through his Word, the Bible.
The Bible is such an important guidebook that we should immerse ourselves in it regularly. It's call the Living Word of God because its truths are constant yet they apply to our changing situations. You can read the same passage at different times in your life and get a different answer--a relevant answer--from it every time. That is God speaking through his Word.
Seeking God's answer to "What now?" helps us grow in faith. Through experience, we learn that God is trustworthy. He can take our disappointments and work them for our good. When that happens, we come to the staggering conclusion that the all-powerful God of the universe is on our side.
No matter how painful your disappointment may be, God's answer to your question of "What now, Lord?" always begins with this simple command: "Trust me. Trust me."
Also from Jack Zavada:
• Loneliness: Toothache of the Soul
• Too Proud to Ask for Help
• Life's Toughest Decision
• Time to Take Out the Trash
• Lessons from a Carpenter
• Lifestyles of the Poor and Unknown
• How to Survive a Power Failure
• A Message Meant for Only One Person
• Is Ambition Unbiblical?
• Mathematical Proof of God?
• Can Christian Men Succeed in the Workplace?
Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian Web site for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.