Lent 5: dealing with disappointment

If I were to answer yesterday’s Lent questions, the answers would fill many pages.

I had a roommate once who had a tendency to kill people in her heart. That’s what we would call it.  When someone caught her off guard, disappointed her, she would have to fight the instinct to just cut them off and be done.  Which was hard to fight, because she could do it. Amputate the pain and the relationship in the blink of an eye and move on.  A far more effective coping mechanism than mine at the time.  We used to talk about this sneaky and annoying enduring optimist crouching inside of me, who – no matter how I told her the truth of her foolishness, she would still hold out hope, still fight, still stay.

I believe in redemption in an inhuman, embarrassing and often dangerous way.  I believe in people in a way that most would view as unwise.  But there are disappointments that are hard, even for people like me, to recover from.

I’ve been thinking about the difference between disappointment and grief and  I think it has something to do with surprise.  Disappointment makes you feel foolish, for expecting something different, it hurts so much precisely because it’s not what you expected.

So, we manage our fear of disappointment by trying to suck the surprise out of life.  We dwell on the worst potential outcome.  We strategize for every worst case.  We assume the worst.

We all lose the fight.  Even if we could shut our heart in a box CS Lewis style, disappointment would still crawl in, through hurricanes and failing economies and less than ideal presidents.  It cannot be out run.

Hearts that were built to hope for the eternal have a hard time learning not to hope.

I’m new to this battle.  For the first time in my entire life, I see the very real danger that has never crossed my path: of giving up on people.  And I can hear a chorus of people – good, you should. Hope in God alone.  I know that refrain.  I’m pretty sure I taught some of them to sing it. But I think, maybe, that is not the voice of faith, that is the voice of fear.

What would it look like to believe in redemption and restoration so deeply that you are hurt when it doesn’t happen?  What would it look like to hope for His kingdom to come on earth as it is in Heaven so much so that you are caught of guard when it doesn’t.  What would it look like to weep when it doesn’t play out that way?

I think it might look a lot like our God. Didn’t even our Jesus hope for another way?  And did fear of the ‘no’ make him ask with dry eyes, make him try not to care too much about the ruling of the Father?  No.  He hoped with tears and anxiety and blood and pleas.

Maybe hoping in God frees us, not from disappointment, but from fearing disappointment. We would hope that even if we want something good and it doesn’t come to pass – that we will not be crushed and that we will not fall way, but we will instead – be safe in Him made strong enough not to avoid the pain, but to face the pain.

Because He has saved us from the sting of disappointment.  God hasn’t saved us from death, but He has saved us from it having the meaning it once had, and maybe that’s the same with disappointment.

Maybe deep and abiding hope in God will change the experience of disappointment, not by removing it, but by enabling us to engage in it without fear that we ourselves will be lost in it.  That there is no disappointment coming that will destroy us.

And maybe that would take us closer to where He is leading us anyway.  Maybe there is a truth to be found in the darkness of disappointment that cannot be learned anywhere else.  Maybe Jesus gained something in the garden that night, maybe He learned obedience because of unfulfilled hope.

Maybe all our running and dodging is costing us something that could be ours if we would let our disappointment drive us to God.

Today’s questions:

  • What are the three biggest disappointments of your life?  
  • Have you experienced that sting of being surprised in disappointment?  What steps do you think you have taken in your relationships to protect from that experience? 

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