Dealing with disappointments is part and parcel of life for everyone. I have never met anyone who has not had at least one disappointing experience. It happens to everyone.
Have you ever been disappointed? Well—who hasn’t? Disappointment seems to be a part of the human condition. It starts in the cradle when we don’t get our needs met immediately upon crying. Childhood is filled with disappointments—from not getting Christmas presents we asked Santa to bring, to friends who turn away from us to being friends with another group.
We learn to face disappointments at school where we didn’t get the teacher we hoped or the report card reflects the places we have slacked off and not fulfilled our potential. Probably the greatest disappointments of childhood come when we realise that the adults we rely on are not perfect but only human, and we have to learn to accept them with faults as well as wonderful strengths. Life comes bundled with disappointments—sad but true.
As we grow older sometimes we learn not to set our expectations so high and avoid the pain of a letdown. Still, when we don’t get the job we had our hearts set on or when someone else gets the promotion we know we deserve—those things hurt deeply and no scaling back of expectations will take away the pain completely. Probably some of the deepest disappointments in life come to parents who see the lives of their children going badly and they have no effective way to help them or prevent their pain.
Maybe that’s happened to you. In later years we look back on our lives and see the dreams and aspirations that we had as younger people and many of them have not worked out in reality—and we may look at our whole lives with a sense of frustration and missed opportunities.
It is amazing how many seemingly successful people lived with a deep sense of disappointment in spite of wonderful achievements:
- Alexander the Great conquered Persia but he broke down and wept because his troops were too exhausted to push on to India and he felt a sense of failure.
- Hugo Grotius, the father of modern international law, said towards the end of his life, “I have accomplished nothing worthwhile in my life.”
- John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the US wrote in his diary, “My life has been spent in vain and idle aspirations and in ceaseless rejected prayers that something would be the result of my existence beneficial to my species.”
- Robert Louis Stevenson wrote words that continue to delight and enrich our lives and yet, what did he write for his epitaph? “Here lies one who meant well, who tried a little, and failed much.”
- Cecil Rhodes opened up Africa and established an empire but his dying words were, “So little done, so much to do.”
Promises for Disappointing Times
But did you know that God has some special promises for those difficult and disappointing times? Some phrases from the Bible can help like “The peace of God that transcends all understanding” or “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness”. These are wonderful verses that we need to prayerfully consider and repeat when we need to.
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I like the story of Fanny Crosby, an American woman who suffered permanent blindness at 6 weeks of age when an apprentice doctor applied the wrong remedy. But this didn’t prevent her from living a remarkable life. Fanny Crosby lived to 95 years of age and wrote over 8,000 hymns which included the best loved hymn “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine”. She preached and spoke to audiences around the world, helping the homeless and down-and-outs, alcoholics, prostitutes, and anyone in distress. She was a friend to 22 Presidents of the United States and had an influence on many people. She married but lost her child through what we now call ‘Sudden Death Syndrome’. But she thanked God for her blindness. Why? Because she knew Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour. When she was a child of eight she wrote this:
Oh, what a happy child I am, although I cannot see!
I am resolved that in this world contented I will be!
How many blessings I enjoy that other people don’t!
To weep and sigh because I’m blind, I cannot—nor I won’t.
What a great example for us today when we so often complain about our problems, but I think Fanny Crosby is a great inspiration of faith and response to life. Even if you are facing loss of health, loneliness, maybe moving into a retirement home, set backs can be a bridge to cross to a happier life, with faith in a loving God.
(Read Disappointments – Part 2)