We all get disappointed.
You didn’t get the job you applied for.
You didn’t get into the school or program of your choice.
You confessed your feelings to a guy or girl but they felt otherwise.
Maybe your kid or your spouse disappointed you by acting a certain way.
Church isn’t going in a direction you thought it would be.
The list goes on.
No one likes disappointment. In order to avoid it all together, we respond in two ways:
- We set the bar so low it’s impossible to not achieve it. We do this for self-preservation so we’ll never experience disappointment. This leads to mediocrity and underachievement. When we’re challenged, we push back not wanting to disturb the status quo.
- We set the bar so high we overachieve and work our butts off. This leads to performance-driven perfectionism and legalism. We compare ourselves to others constantly. Nonetheless, we experience disappointment and burnout because perfection is unattainable.
I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of disappointment in both camps. Whether they were the complexities of family dynamics, personal goals or how church ministry isn’t going the way I’d hoped, the disappointments were real.
We cope with these sortable of disappointments in different ways.
Some get angry.
Some blame themselves.
Though disappointment is part of living, it’s not meant to define your life. With time, I’m learning how reframing how I see disappointment is a better way than venting and blaming. You can’t change the past, but there is hope in the present that prepares us for the future.
Here are three questions to ask that help with reframing our disappointments into learning moments:
1. What were my Expectations?
To get at the root of disappointment, we need to identify our expectations.
There’s a saying that “every disappointment is due to an unmet expectation.”
This principle goes from disappointment in the ice cream you lined up hours for to your relationship panning out differently to anything bigger or in between.
So, what was your unmet expectation?
What was your disappointment in?
What were you expecting from yourself or from your spouse?
What were you expecting from your co-worker or boss?
What were you expecting from the church?
Why do you feel the way you feel?
Identifying your expectation is crucial to your emotional health and healing.
2. Were Your Expectations Realistic?
After you realize your expectation, we need to ask if your expectations were realistic.
It’s easy to blame the situation or the other person when we get upset. Along with disappointment comes sorrow, self-blame or anger towards others. But this does us and the others around us no good – especially when the expectations were unsaid and unrealistic. We can’t control others, but we can take responsibility for ourselves.
It’s not about negating your feelings – the disappointment and feelings are real. However, we salvage our disappointments and turn them into learning moments when we see whether they were realistic or not.
In a previous post on New Years Resolutions, the “R” in S.M.A.R.T. goals stands for “realistic”. I would also suggest that “R” could stand for “reasonable”. For example, it’s realistic and reasonable for me to finish a 10K within an hour. It is quite different and unrealistic if I expected to break the 10K world record.
You might be thinking this is a simple and straight forward example. Yet, we all have unrealistic expectations whether they were intentional or unintentional, consciously or not.
We expect others to know how we’re feeling without us communicating.
We expect strong friendships to happen without any effort.
We expect our kids to turn out well when we don’t spend time with them.
We expect others to care for us when we don’t care for others.
We expect to pass the exam without studying. (We’ve all been there!)
Unrealistic expectations cause false hope. Unrealistic expectations are false expectations. Starting with these unrealistic expectations means you’re starting in the negative.
3. Are Your Expectations Lined Up with God’s Reality?
Now, this gets to the heart of the matter. I’m not defining realistic only as expectations that are attainable. Afterall, people with vision see a currently impossible and unattainable situation possible and attainable in the future. In the context of our conversation, realistic expectations are defined by whether they align with God’s reality of Himself and for us.
Since God is the epitome of goodness, grace and perfection, only goodness and perfection come from Him. Since God is God and we are not, God, not us, knows what’s best. God is the only one who sees clearly.
The temptation for many of us is to run at a pace we were never meant to run instead of running at our own pace. Not all of us will be world record holders – but we live as if we’re expected to be. Many of our unrealistic expectations come from an unrealistic and distorted view of the self.
Maybe it was the way we were brought up and the expectations set by your particular cultural background. Maybe it’s what social media is telling us. Maybe it’s what our culture defines as success. It could even come from our own selfishness, pride and desire for glory.
I can hear you thinking. What if your expectations are grounded in reality? What happens if you had a vision and you went for it yet still fell short? Is it so wrong to expect to be married, have children, live a healthy life, find a career or to experience joy and happiness?
When these expectations don’t come to fruition, it often leads to disappointment in God summarized by:
“God, why didn’t you ________________?”
“God, why is _________________ happening?”
“God, I thought you were suppose to ______________.”
Before we jump too far ahead and blame God for everything, we need to ask whether our expectations of God are aligned with the reality of who He is and what He has promised.
The struggle comes when we try and tell God how He should do His job. This attitude, I’ve learned, comes when I put myself as the definer of what’s good and perfect.
We get disappointed because we were the ones who set expectations on God that He never promised to begin with. Disappointments come when my desire for that goal exceeds my desire for God Himself.
God never promised a life of comfort without pain and suffering.
God never promised you’ll be married by 28, if you’re a woman, and 31, if you’re a man.
God never promised you’ll work in the job of your desires.
God never promised you’ll get into that school.
God never promised a perfect church.
He promised something better and greater.
God will not be coerced, but He will counsel. When we’re most disappointed and frustrated with life, God is the best person to go to.
You see, God had every right to be disappointed with humanity. But instead of remaining in this disappointment and dispensing His wrath, He reversed the script and showed grace and love instead.
Everything we have is undeserved. God sent His Son Jesus to die on the Cross for our sins to reconcile us with Him forever – yet we still say we’re disappointed in Him. God gave us everything but we still want more.
Despite our rebellion and rejection:
- God said in this world you will have trouble, but He has overcome the world. (John 16:33)
- God promised He will be with you. (Matthew 8:28)
- God promised everything will be good in the end for those who love Him. (Romans 8:28)
- God promised He’ll wipe every tear and there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. (Revelation 21:4)
- God promised He’ll fight for you. (Exodus 14:14)
- God promised He’ll give strength to the weary and increase the power of the weak. (Isaiah 40:29)
- God promised He’ll give you wisdom. (James 1:5)
- God promised that since Christ suffered for our sins, we’ve been brought back to God. (1 Peter 3:18)
Jesus said, “28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Our God is a God of promises. He is greater than we can ever dream of or imagine.
He is never late, always on time.
He is the Water the satisfies, the Food that sustains and gives life.
Our God never disappoints.