Is it wrong to feel disappointed with our current circumstances? Not necessarily. The issue isn’t whether or not it’s wrong though, but whether or not it’s helpful.
The Bible teaches that, with God’s help, we can control our emotions or feelings. We can rule, command, or steer our spirits. We can choose not to be anxious or be brought low by feelings of disappointment. It requires changing our thinking though, and perhaps even our theology.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6).
Disappointment is an unfulfilled, self-appointment, expectation, longing, desire, or hope in someone or something other than God and His will, resulting in feelings of loss, sadness, or even depression.
Disappointments begin as desires, and desires are often good. They can also often lead to this emotion or feeling of disappointment. We first desire something, and then we somehow switch from wanting it to expecting it to happen. The Free Dictionary defines disappointment this way: “a feeling of dissatisfaction that results when your expectations are not realized.”
An expectation, unless it is in a promise of God, is a mental appointment we set for ourselves. Most times, we do not realize we moved from desire to expectation, until the expectation goes unfulfilled. Then we realize it very sharply, very acutely. Sometimes it is acute enough that we feel disappointment physically as well as emotionally.
We are naturally disappointed with the circumstances surrounding COVID-19. It’s ruining our plans, keeping us from those we love, resulting in isolation and loneliness, affecting the economy, etc.
These are all expectations we have that are currently going unfulfilled. We expect the things on our calendars to happen. We expect to be able to get together (physically) with friends and loved ones. We rely on human contact. We count on the economy. When these things are taken away, we experience disappointment.
Disappointment, of course, can result from anything that we were hoping would happen, and then didn’t. And when we do face disappointment, often we don’t want to admit it to others. It sounds unspiritual to say that yes, deep down, we are disappointed with life, maybe even disappointed with God.
The Truth about Disappointment and Stress
It is so much easier to tell someone that you are “going through stress” than to tell them you are worried or anxious or afraid or, worse yet, doubting God’s goodness. No one ever says that, but isn’t that exactly what is meant?
Not all stress is sin. The sin lies in how we deal with the stress and the unfulfilled desires and expectations. Poor Job went through unthinkable stress when God allowed Satan to test his faith. Tragedies and trials are stressful, but those going through them are not necessarily sinning.
However, negative circumstances can tempt us to wonder if maybe the source, whom we assume to be God, is not good. Proverbs 19:3 proves it: “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord” (ESV). A man’s folly is often his self-appointment or hope set in something other than God and his will.
Disappointment Can Lead to Doubting God
It’s sad. We love to blame God. If disappointment leads us to shake our fist in the face of God and blame Him for evil and suffering, then yes, it is wrong. We are wrong. Our theology is wrong.
This is what the Lord says: The man who trusts in mankind, who makes human flesh his strength and turns his heart from the Lord is cursed. He will be like a juniper in the Arabah; he cannot see when good comes but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives. The man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed. He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit (Jeremiah 17:5-8, HCSB).
If you trust or hope in anything besides the Lord, you will be “cursed” by disappointment; so focused on your “false hope” that you will not even notice when good things happen. Ever feel like you are dwelling in a parched place in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives?
In Hebrew, the word arabah means wasteland or barren place, and a juniper, or broom, is a desert shrub that commonly grew in such a place (Visual Bible Alive). Jeremiah is comparing a bush found in a desert with a tree planted by water. The man or woman who trusts in the Lord, whose hope and confidence are in the Lord:
- Is blessed
- Is like a tree planted by water (refreshed, nourished, content)
- Experiences no fear of heat (trials) or worry of drought (deficiency, shortage, lack)
- Remains green and does not cease to produce fruit
Perhaps no passage of Scripture provides a better answer for disappointment, discouragement, or even despair. Trust in the Lord. Put your hope in Him!
Use This Time to Change Your Thinking
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, ruling our spirits will require changing your thinking. God has given us a way to combat disappointment and that’s by putting our hope in Him instead of things that can fail.
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God (Psalm 42:5, 11, 43:5).
Now hope [in God] does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:5, NKJV).
I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed (Isaiah 49:23).
Here are three steps for surviving the disappointment of COVID-19:
1. Read and meditate on God’s Word (the Psalms are great for right now!)
2. Put your hope in God
3. Control your thoughts
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy —think about such things (Philippians 4:8).
What Does This Mean?
If the thought isn’t true, put it away. If it isn’t helpful, right, or excellent, throw it out. Replace it with a lovely, positive thought. Focus on good news. Focus on God and His Word. Focus on helping and encouraging others. Focus on hoping in God and spreading Hope! Help hope to spread faster than the virus.
©iStock/Getty Images Plus/fizkes
Kristi Walker has been a missionary in Berlin, Germany for over 15 years working with an international church as the Director of Student Ministries. She is the author of two books - Disappointment: A Subtle Path Away from Christ and Convinced. Applying Biblical Principles to Life’s Choices.