Maybe Disappointment Is OK After All

- - Life With God, Popular

I wish things in my life had been different.

By different, I guess I mean easier and less disappointing.

I wish my one set of grandparents hadn’t rejected my family when I was in elementary school. I wish my other grandmother, the good one, wouldn’t have died so early from lung cancer. And I wish I wasn’t the one to find my good grandfather, hours after his heart attack, dead on the floor in his house.

I wish my younger brother wouldn’t have left home when he did. I wish we had a better relationship.

I wish my sister’s husband wouldn’t have cheated on her. I wish he would have been a good husband and father. And I wish they could have made it work.

I wish Shari and I could have had more children.

I wish the friends who I thought “really got me” would still be part of my life instead of leaving me.

I wish the ministry leaders I’ve admired for so long would have been proud of me, or at least noticed me.

I wish my mom didn’t have cancer.

There’s more too, but I won’t bore you with the details.

We all have “I wish things in my life had been different” lists. They contain painful memories, disappointments, personal hurt, broken relationships, reversals of fortune, unmet expectations, and loss.

Although I have plenty of things that I wish had been different in my life, I cannot go back and change them…

And they have made me who I am today—scars and all.

When I think about the most beautiful people I know, they are survivors. They have long “I wish things had been different in my life” lists. They have lots of scars, but they are still alive—living, breathing, reaching, dreaming, loving, and moving forward.

They walk with more of a limp than a swagger.

These friends have lost loved ones. They have been betrayed. Their prayers have gone unanswered. They know hurt and pain and disappointment very well.

These are the most beautiful people I know. The most beautiful are not the ones who’ve had everything go their way.

In my experience, the ones who always get everything they want are unbearable. They are like spoiled wealthy heirs and heiresses who have never been told “No” as they grow up to become bigger monsters. Not beautiful. Ugly.

My wife wrote the following comment related to this “Disappointment” series:

“Having walked my own seasons of disappointment I think it made me care about others more genuinely because I knew pain on a significant level. It also made me wrestle with what do I believe about God? Answers to this aren’t fully there – and they won’t ever be. But 10 years later (embarrassingly) I feel like I’m more content with how I view God in the mix of unrealized dreams and dashed hopes. Had I gotten my way on everything I wanted I might still be just telling people, ‘Just have faith, God will give you the good thing you’re praying for.’ I feel bad for the years I would have even said that to people and believed it. Truly we have such a loving God who is alongside us in life’s adventure. He doesn’t cause the pain. He doesn’t withhold the blessing. He comes and sits along side us, right in our broken places and loves us there. He’s OK with our questions, our anger, our jealousy. And it’s there he tenderly heals us.”

She is more beautiful because of the scars she bears, beautiful in her disappointment and pain.

My goal is not to minimize your loss, your hurt, your disappointment. I just want you to know that you are beautiful. You’re still alive – still breathing and moving and dreaming. Your story isn’t over. The pain you have and the limp you walk with gives you a unique place in the lives of others who are going through something difficult right now. You give them hope.

You are beautiful with your scars and your limp.

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.” —2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Maybe disappointment is OK after all.

I read something in an article the other day that suggested we might be addicted to happiness. The author, Rebecca Tekautz, said:

“I feel a little helpless, sitting back and watching as this adherence to happiness infects the Church like poison. Slowly, and sometimes silently, it seeps into our thoughts, our prayers, our relationships. We are drug addicts, endlessly searching for our latest fix. The moment the effects of our latest hit of happiness have worn off, we are in pursuit of the next. We cannot stop and sit in our pain, disappointment or emptiness.”

Wow. That last line really slapped me in the face.

We cannot stop and sit in our pain, disappointment or emptiness.

Another writer, the philosopher Peter Rollins, suggests we have made idols out of certainty and satisfaction. Although we have a longing to be both certain and satisfied, we were not made to be either.

Beautiful people are not 100% certain about everything and they are not 100% satisfied with everything.

No, instead, they walk with a limp and they have scars. They have long “I wish things had been different in my life” lists. They know pain and sorrow and disappointment very well. They still have questions that cannot be answered. And they are beautiful.

So, will there be more disappointment? Most certainly.

I like what Pastor Jonathan Martin said: “It’s not going to get easier. It’s not going to get less complicated. But there is – and there will be – grace.”

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. —Psalm 34.18

This is part 3 of 3 posts this week. Check out yesterday’s “When God Disappoints” and Tuesday’s “Life Is Disappointing.

Please share. You have something to add…

QUESTION: How have you seen beauty in the scars and limp of the disappointed?

I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

19 Comments to Maybe Disappointment Is OK After All

  1. Amber Richards

    Crying tears of joy this morning as I read this. Your life and disappointments, as well as your transparency, brings me hope and reminds me that I’m still beautiful with my scars.

  2. Last night I received probably the most disappointing news I have received since Jenn and I lost a baby to a miscarriage a couple years ago. The house we were a couple weeks away from closing on, fell through. As I was trying to be calm and show strength, putting my 5 year old to bed he kicked a bell which woke up my 10 month old. Now I had a screaming 10 month old and a balling 5 year old on top of being shell shocked with disappointment. There was a lot of repenting I had to do with my kids afterwards.

    I finally calmed my 5 year old down, apologized and got him to sleep. My 10 month old still screaming. I picked him up and went to the living room and rocked him, tears streaming, until he and I both fell asleep totally exhausted.

    My wife came home from a play she was at with her mom to find us on the couch still. There were tears in her eyes too because I had told her the news previously. We were broken, crushed, but life doesn’t stop moving so neither could we.

    Today I still feel a bit numb, like I’m just going through the motions. I know we’ll be fine. I know we’ll make it through. I know in the big picture God is still in control. But it still hurts, it’s still disappointing…

  3. Whenever I see someone whether at work or church choosing to press forward in spite of their disappointments it is a reminder that I am not alone in my complicated walk with God.

    Watching a person who I know is in chronic pain greet new people at church speaks volumes.

    Seeing a homeless family pour out of their temporary room, everyone showered and hair freshly brushed going out a facing the everyday challenges of work and school in the framework of homelessness, I am impressed.

    Watching an elderly volunteer carry a box of paper while struggling to balance themselves on arthritic limbs, I want to keep going, I want to fight to keep being the best me possible.

    Seeing a drug addict have to restart their “program” because of relapse, I am encouraged because failure in weakness can be overwhelming to process, and the courage to try again can seem impossible.

    Seeing the beauty in the limp is a gift and I am thankful to share life with the disappointed. Through this I am not alone. Through Him we are stronger.

    Hope is not brought out of a place perfection, like hunger does not come from a place of satisfaction.

    Thank you for being real, for not sugar coating and for allowing people to show their dirty under carriage of disappointment while still carrying their lantern of faith.

    • Brian Dolleman

      Dang. I like that: “Allowing people to show their dirty undercarriage of of disappointment while still carrying their lantern of faith.”

      Someone else I’ve been listening to & reading lately talks about the similarity between pastors and comedians – specifically that they see life from the underside.

      • Yep it’s like being a infant room nursery worker.

        On one end you’ve got a sweet little face with glittering possibilities,

        on the other end, well that end requires wipes, plastic gloves and fresh hit of febreeze.

        I think I’d rather be a comedian most days…

  4. I jave discovered recently that pain and disappointment goes deeper than even we sometimes realize. Sometimes the scars we have are more of a cover up than a sign of a healed wound. God has shown me areas that I thought I had resolved, only to find out that I hadn’t let Him fully heal them. I had let myself think that I had worked them out. I am still learning to let go of things completely and let God do his work in my life. It is a lesson that I expect to be learning as long as I live on this earth. We won’t ever not need God. I am thankful for a Father that is as full of grace, patience, and unconditional love as He is.

  5. Juan Cuevas

    It is so awesome to read these and hear the reality of disappointment, and that its ok to be disappointed. I think I have always lived in fear that the amount of disappointment I have is directly proportionate to how little I trust Gods plan but this is just a continual reminder that in the midst of disappointment God is near!

    Thanks for being so honest Pastor Brian! Such a refreshing three part series to read, and then to talk to God about! Thanks for your continual commitment to be real and raw and encourage those of us who may be in the midst of disappointment!

  6. Matthew Barnett once said “The world is full of people who said ‘I quit’ reconsidered and changed the world.”

    If we can accept disappointment, we can also consider life after disappointment – and hope exists to shine beyond what is, to what might be.

    It’s quite possible that we can change the world – not in spite of disappointment – but because of it.

  7. Chris Bohannon

    All week I’ve been thinking about how when I talk to people at church and I express any feeling other than happiness… The response is always the same from the majority of people. “Smile and nod, say – Jesus will fix everything, and the church favorite – I’ll pray for you.” A smile and nod is good when a person feels good, not when their in pain. I remember a look that a woman I see as my mother used to give me and I knew that she understood and was willing to feel my pain along side me. When you say that Jesus will fix everything, it suddenly sounds like you don’t care enough to try yourself. When I love someone no matter how much or in what way I always want to save them from their pain. Saying I’ll pray for you is like an admittance that you either don’t want to try and help or that you expect Jesus to do everything. Sometimes Jesus expects people to intervene into anothers life. This is why I chose to hold onto my pain and never forget it. Because of the burden of pain around my neck, I’m always aware of the pain around me. Sometimes when people get caught up in the “Christian” life, they forget what real concern and empathy are like. It may be a fear of feeling pain because they hold on to happiness and don’t want it to go away. I remember that for the past three months at church I was the same way. Jesus didn’t say – you’re on your own. I think the way he would have put how he feels is – I’ll carry it with you. And in some cases, “I’ll carry you when you can’t walk anymore.” The more I hear a person’s pain, the more I grow to love them because I remember how human they are. This is all coming from an Atheist….

  8. I often wondered why God would allow us to continue to desire things He won’t seem to let us have. I feel like I could recover from disappointment faster and with more ease if the desire went away. It never does though and so it just ends up feeling torturous. I do believe I’ve become more compassionate as I’ve had to deal with some significant disappointments (infertility included). I haven’t yet healed to the place of sharing our story though. I feel like it has to have some victory at the end for someone to be encouraged by it. I’m not there yet. Thanks again for this series. It’s nice for someone to acknowledge these feelings exist without trying to pacify us with religious cliches or making us feel judged and nonspiritual.

  9. Brian, I had a situation more than 5 years ago now that took me on a journey. It was painful and humiliating and I lost a very special friend. But it also made me very aware of others in pain. I admire those who walk the road with a limp and can still travel with joy and help others through the experience and wisdom that pain and loss bring. I no longer question why this happened but I’m thankful for it. There is no lesson quite like pain.

  10. Thanks for keeping it real Brian. I am discovering that you can’t move passed disappointment until you admit it’s there and give yourself time to grieve. But most of the time we feel like we must suck it up and move on. Last week Dr. Gary McIntosh (author of The Dark Side of Leadership- a must read for pastors and leaders) said, “if you don’t deal with your pain, your pain will deal with you.” II appreciate your article because it helps us deal with the pain of disappointment that we all face on the journey. Keep writing!

  11. As a young leader in church, I find it difficult when people will not reveal their disappointments and scars and either mask with a brave face or, like many teenagers I know, leave cryptic posts on Facebook that leave the reader confused. I am desperate to help these friends in my faith-community, wanting to support and love, wanting to pray them through or provide tangible aid, but they remain disconnected. I do wonder if it’s because my current season is disappointment-free, or because I’m viewed as too young, or maybe the faith-community I joined is still learning how to be a community.

  12. Jodi Detrick

    Hey Pastor Brian,
    Just had to pop in and say how much I LOVE this piece…it is a painful, but healing, truth. I sometimes think we misunderstand Jesus’ promise of abundant life, thinking it means “more of all the things I want most.” But what if it means a bigger, deeper, more complex life, textured with layers of beauty, struggle, and pain that enlarge our souls and give a real heft of meaning to our otherwise “light-weight” spirits. Abundance might even mean more disappointment at times; but even then, we are not without hope (which grows in the strangest places and ways, I find).

    Brian, I am a big fan of your writing and have intended to tell you so for some time now. Keep it up–your voice is needed!! (I’m also a big fan of your wife, by the way! That woman is amazing!!) Cheering you on!

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