Living with Disappointment 

The Federal election was on Monday. One thing this means for sure is that many Canadians, including Canadian Christians, will be disappointed on Tuesday. Many will not get the election results they were hoping and praying for – and if you were actively involved in the election – that you worked hard for. Here are some thoughts on disappointment for Christians.

First, the Bible never promises that you will never be disappointed

One of the “back-handed” ways that we know the Bible is God’s word is by what is not in the Bible. If the Bible had promised that we would never be disappointed, it would be making a foolish promise. Christians want different outcomes to the same event. When the Leafs play the Flames, some Christians will have to be disappointed when the game is over. God cannot promise to have both teams win the same game.

We North Americans have a deep-seated, often unconscious, belief in the power of “techniques” that will produce the outcomes we desire. Much self-help literature is an attempt to share the “techniques” you must follow to achieve what you want. But often this literature only sets you up for disappointment because it makes foolish claims. We cannot all get the outcome we desire by techniques, any more than the Flames can play the Leafs and both teams win.

Second, it is not unchristian to have wants and to want

The Bible does not tell you to stop wanting. It does not tell you to stop wanting earthly goods or any good thing. Much in our culture celebrates a type of “materialistic Buddhism”. At the same time that we want more stuff and better relationships, we also somehow think we should practice “mindfulness” and “non-attachment”.

It is easy for the prosperous, the powerful and the ambitious to believe they are somehow “mindful” and “un-attached”, but really it is a dodge that allows us to be self-centred and greedy without feeling self-centred and greedy. The Bible is deeply human in the sense that it is clear-eyed about real human experience without being cynical or derogatory. As human beings, we will always have wants. Wanting, in and of itself, is not bad. We will never get everything we want, so disappointment will be part of our experience, even if it will not be the final word about us.

Third, we need to beware of idolatry

Some of our disappointment is proper. We want a baby, but discover infertility, and so we enter a season of disappointment and sorrow. The Bible tells us to weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). But some of our disappointment flows from idolatry. Idols always promise much and always disappoint. It is always wise to reflect on our disappointments and ask the Lord if He is revealing idols in our life – and if so, to flee idolatry. Note, I am not saying all disappointment reveals our idols – only that some of our disappointments reveal our idols.

Finally, the Lord walks with us in our disappointment

We are not deists. Jesus is Immanuel, God with us. He is present in our joys and sorrows, pleasures and pain, rejoicing and weeping, exultation and disappointment. The Lord did not “weigh your successes”, He pardoned your offences and clothed you in His righteousness. When you put your faith in Jesus Christ crucified, you were united with Him in His death and in His resurrection and in His ascension. To be gripped by the Gospel is to humbly know that the final word about you is not “disappointment, but “come into My presence, partake of My glory, and be filled with My joy.”

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