Arnold in a Tree
A Christian Life

How to deal with disappointment

How do you deal with disappointment? Are you the type of person to have a good cry? Bottle it all up? Bury your head in the sand? Eat all of your feelings? Today I want to explore how we, as Christians, should deal with disappointment, as it inevitably comes.

There is a lot of disappointment around at the moment: events cancelled, not being able to see your family, not being able to do the normal summery activities you were looking forwards to, if you’re disappointed in how other people are dealing with this crisis, not being able to finish off your school year. And of course, there are all our normal disappointments: prayers going unanswered, goals we aren’t achieving, people letting us down. So many of these things are outside of our control, but we can control how we choose to deal with disappointment in these situations.

A little caveat: in this blog post, I am talking about how we deal with disappointment regarding ‘daily-life’ disappointments, such as the examples I’ve given above. I am not particularly talking into the much more major disappointments of loss and infertility and abuse. These are of course disappointments, but they are so much more complex and need much more specific support (and often professional expertise).

So, back to the blog: how should we deal with disappointment?

Pause

When we face disappointment, I think it is always important to pause and take stock. What was it that left you feeling disappointed? How has that made you feel? Take time to feel that emotion rather than just forcing it away and carrying on. You can do this without it turning into a pity party – just give yourself some time to feel how you feel: cry if you want to, take your anger out on a good workout. Let yourself experience those emotions so that as you work on dealing with this disappointment, you don’t keep coming back to these big emotions that will bubble up.

Preach to yourself

Let’s be honest, the Bible is always a good place to turn to, and when we face disappointment there are some key messages that we probably need to remind ourselves of. Let us soak up these words from the Lord, be reminded of them and let them encourage us:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28

Remembering that God is working for our good, but that we may not always understand his ways, has honestly changed the way I look at so many different situations.

Look back

As well as looking at what the Bible says, I also find it really useful to look back at our own lives to remind ourselves of God’s goodness and how he has worked in our lives in the past.

This is a great example of why keeping a prayer journal can be really helpful as we can clearly see what we have been praying about over the past month, year, decade, and how God has been answering those prayers (even if it isn’t in a way we would have expected).

You can also do this by writing out, or just thinking through, your own testimony – why did you give your life to God in the first place?

If you can, think specifically about the disappointments you have faced in the past, big or small. How did God use those experiences for your good?

Pray for direction

Facing disappointment can often feel like hitting a brick wall in the middle of your path. You’re just stopped mid-flow and it’s difficult to know which way to turn next, so you end up just staying still and going no-where. In these situations, we need to take some time to listen for God’s direction: where does he want us to go next?

We can do this through both prayer, focusing upon listening for God’s voice, through studying the Bible and allowing God to speak through his word, and through seeking the counsel of wise, godly, and mature Christians that we trust.

Remember your primary calling

Often disappointment hits hardest when it stops us from doing something that we feel God has called us to. This very much follows on from the previous point, as whilst we are praying and waiting upon God’s direction, we still have a calling to live out.

When we think of our calling, we are often thinking of our secondary calling. Whether that is a call to go to a certain place, or serve in a certain way, or start a ministry, or whatever it is. But our primary calling is the same for everyone, and it is found in the Bible:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:30-31

We can find more detail for how we are called to do these things elsewhere in the Bible, but ultimately this is the most important commandment for us to live by, and we can find ways to live out this calling no matter where we find ourselves in life, and no matter what disappointments we are facing.

Choose joy, choose to worship

Disappointment can so easily lead to us wallowing in our sadness, or our anger, or our bitterness. But these are not healthy emotions for us to be allowing ourselves to sit in for any length of time because they are not helpful, and they will not help us to bring glory to God.

Instead, we want to focus upon God’s goodness, his mercy, his sovereignty, his glory. Listen to your Jesus Jams (here’s a playlist if you need some help getting started), dance, play an instrument. Choose worship to remind yourself how much bigger God is that this one disappointment.

Surround yourself with community

One of the best things we can do to deal with disappointment, is to turn to our Christian community. Our community, whether other church members, Christian friends and family, is there to encourage us, to pray for us, to support us. Lean into them – reach out and ask people to pray for you, speak to your mentors or wise Christians that you trust to give you godly advice, share how you’re feeling with close friends or your house group, and allow them to be there for you whilst you are dealing with this and working through it.

I hope you have found this blog helpful, do let me know what advice you would give to someone dealing with disappointment in the comments.

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