Life Is Disappointing

- - Life With God, Popular

Life is disappointing. There, I said it.

I don’t mean, in the final analysis when everything is added up, that the score card of life is saturated with disappointment to the point where nothing else is detectable.

But I think it’d be a cover-up to say that disappointment isn’t there. It is there. And I know it well.

Life isn’t all disappointment. It is deeply disappointing, and it is also richly rewarding. It is full of success and sorrow, victories and defeats, progress and set-backs…

Perhaps my experience is unique. Maybe everyone else is living disappointment-free.

That last line was sarcasm.

Life is disappointing.

My point in bringing this up isn’t to be all depressing. I’m not channeling my inner Eeyore or Oscar the Grouch. I am, however, interested in having honest conversations about life as we know it.

While walking around the lake the other day, my wife was commiserating about an event she recently planned and hosted. She wasn’t complaining, but she was disappointed. Her expectations were higher than what actually happened. She said, “I was envisioning everyone having more fun than they seemed to be having.”

When she told me that, I laughed. Then I said, “EVERY event I’ve EVER put on, I had hopes that the people attending would have more fun than it looked like they did.”

And that is the truth.

I don’t think I’ve ever met one of my own goals on time. Every construction project I’ve been involved with cost more than originally planned.

Marilyn Monroe knows what I’m talking about – she said, “Dreaming about being an actress is more exciting than being one.”

I love this disappointed quote from Sarah Ruhl, “I always thought there would be more interesting people at my wedding.” That cracks me up. And it reminds me, I’m not alone.

Disappointment is part of life. I’ve been disappointed before and I will be disappointed again.

Maybe it’s not all that terrible being disappointed.

Wile E. Coyote has been chasing the Road Runner for years now – one failed attempt after another. He envisions a tasty bird BBQ, but ends up having an anvil fall on his head instead. His life is full of disappointment, but he’s still in the chase.

When you think about it, if Wile E. Coyote ever did catch the Road Runner, THAT would actually be disappointing. End of the story. What now?

Disappointment is a good sign. It means the story isn’t over. We’re still in the chase.

Conan O’Brien said, “The beauty is that through disappointment you gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.”

I like that. And I like my disappointing life – still going, still chasing, still dreaming.

If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath. —Psalm 34.18

This is part 1 of 3 posts this week. Come back tomorrow for “When God Disappoints,” and on Thursday for “Maybe Disappointment Is OK After All.”

I’d love to have your voice added to this…

QUESTION: What are life’s disappointments teaching you?

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

36 Comments to Life Is Disappointing

  1. Wow I love the truth of this post! My disappointments recently have taught me that people are imperfect and need grace when we feel they don’t deserve it (like inviting 50 friends to a party only to have 7 of them show up in the end). Also, that if you don’t lean on God after a disappointment, that let down can easily turn into ugly bitterness and become an even bigger monster to conquer. For example, my prayers for health haven’t been answered like I wanted or thought was best for me, and if I don’t force my flesh to lean on God it can use that disappointment to lead to untrue statements (like God forgot about me, etc). That’s real talk.

    • Brian Dolleman

      Thank you Danielle. I really appreciate your insight – especially about leaning on God in disappointment, and the reminder to not allow disappointment to become bitterness (serious temptation). So good.

  2. Coming through disappointment shows me a few things. 1. I’m not the center of the universe and I can’t control everything. 2. Check my expectations because sometimes they fueled by the crack pipe of disillusionment. 3. When people disappoint it’s actually more a relief that we are a mess and there isn’t some secret alien race I perfect people out there that I somehow was excluded from. 4. Acknowledging disappointment has an intimacy in it that again goes back being not just related w/others, but also allows us partner with them or them with us in our journey = friendship.

  3. There’s nothing more humbling and powerful than recognizing and knowing deep disappointment and living a life of joy through gratitude. It affects everyone around you when they realize you have disappointments, yet you live a life powered by the Spirit and fruit emerges out of dust. He can do anything, you know!

  4. Chris Cooper

    My initial response to this post was “I don’t know if I want to comment because I don’t want to be honest about my disappointments…” Maybe I should read your previous post on honesty again.

    Disappointment. Man. Sometimes I wonder. Why on earth has God got me where he has?

    From age 19-25 I was in full time ministry. When I was 25 I went to college to get ‘real’ pastoral ministry training. I got my degree in Biblical Studies and Theology and expected to go straight back into full time ministry. Now I work at Costco. What on earth happened?

    Am I disappointed with how it is all working out? Yeah I think so.
    How do I deal with it? Exactly how Danielle said. Trying to lean on God in disappointment.
    Do I do it all the time? No.
    Do I get bitter and frustrated? Yes, especially when I see people abusing the call of God and treating it as ‘just a job’ or as a career ladder.

    I need to learn to trust Him in disappointments.

    Laura and I head up the Young Adults ministry here at Stone and both work full time jobs. We are really excited about what God is doing. Maybe this is exactly where He wants u for now…until He moves us on.

    Now I finish this post feeling completely exposed. Hopefully it releases others to expose themselves and be honest. :)

    • Brian Dolleman

      Thanks for sharing & being honest Chris. I think it’s good – for you & for others who are in your position, also – it’s good for those who are climbing the ladder…

      I think there is something incredibly honorable about what you’re doing. Maybe it doesn’t feel good (especially if compared to what others are doing), but I believe it’s good in the eyes of God.

      I appreciate your honesty.

      • Chris Cooper

        Thanks. Honesty feels good. :)

        I think it helps as a young adult (28) to be in the workplace, especially leading a ministry of people of this age (18-35). I work with a lot of people my age and it definitely gives a different insight into what people my age really go through.

        Tonight I’m going to dinner with three guys from work. We do it once a month. One is a Mexican Catholic, one is an agnostic and the other is a homosexual, ex-Jehovah’s witness.

        I think spending time with my friends from work definitely gives me a non-church perspective on young adult ministry.

        • Brian Dolleman

          absolutely Chris – and you most likely wouldn’t have those relationships or insights if you were in the church office all week.

  5. I’m really interested to read the remainder of this blog.
    I’ve been experiencing dissapointments in my self more then in others. I always want to positively contribute to peoples lives and when I make mistakes whether it’s by saying something boneheaded or not performing to a level of satisfaction in an area I get disappointed in myself. My first instinct has always been to focus on the areas that caused me to miss the mark( people, circumstances, or reasons) I then realize those are all excuses. So rather than dwelling in areas where I’ve been hurt and disappointed with people, place and things I can’t change I’m trying to gear my focus on me, and I find myself disappointed with myself. Life is an on going process and you’re absolutely right it’s full of disappointments.
    I also realize serenity is not peace fr

    • Phone went crazy anyway… I was just gonna say.

      Serenity is not peace from the storm but to have peace within the storm.

  6. I love what Danielle said about leaning on God through the disappointment.
    I think that is key here.

    I’ve watched before as someone close to me turned from God when life didn’t go as planned. He became full of anger and bitterness and for years let his disappointment in life and in God fuel a terrifying lifestyle. It was years later that he was able to accept the fact that God is still at work in our lives, even in the midst of our disappointment.

    Thanks for writing on this topic PB and for reminding us that disappointment doesn’t mean our story is over.

  7. 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.

  8. This was very good, I’ve been disappointed so many times by so many different types of people, (family, friends, co workers, church folk) I’ve actually at one point before I got saved thought about ending my life. But what a crappy story that would be, like Wiley coyote, just well……. It’s over.

    But time and time again every time I find myself in a place where disappointment wants to creep in, at the end of it I see how strong, God and I am. I really forget that and want to try and make excuses for my disappointment but this sure makes me bring it back. that my story isn’t over and God can write the rest of it the way he wants, all I have to do is lean on Him and He’ll make it perfect!

    Thanks Pastor Brian for this post gives me a new outlook on this!

  9. Brian Becker

    Great stuff Brian. My wife and I had infertility for 10+ years – so throughout our 20′s we were surrounded by all of our friends having babies. Even as a youth pastor, inevitably a teenager would become pregnant and wish she wasn’t…all while a healthy, Christian couple who wanted to raise godly kids couldn’t conceive. It was disappointing to say the least. After 2 miscarriages it was beyond comprehension.

    On our 8th wedding anniversary we celebrated by going to Cannon Beach. We also were celebrating that we were pregnant for the third time…and it was on the celebration weekend that my wife mis-carried for a third time.

    Fast forward to the present…we have two beautiful daughters. They make my heart sing every day. But what stands out the most is that God was the “close-est,” the “most-real”…Not when our first child was born, but on the night of our mis-carriage and days following. It was through our disappointment that God truly became all we would need. Through our pain and sadness he really did bring a peace that passed all understanding. He gave us a true grace to genuinely love other babies and families – even while we were barren…and it took major disappointment to deeply experience God in a way that I wouldn’t trade for all the ease I ever wished for.

    • Brian Dolleman

      Wow. Brian, I didn’t know that part of your story. We also went through fertility struggles, treatments, and failures. It can be so heart-wrenching. The hardest part for me as a “dude” was not being able to solve it, fix it, make something happen. I hated feeling like I couldn’t take away my wife’s disappointment. Thank you so much for sharing about God’s closeness & realness in your pain.

  10. Damielle Bolinger

    Disappointment has taught me that life isn’t as black and white as thought, or wish it would be.

    I’m learning that I can’t change other people, only how I react/learn in my disappointment and that God is in the midst of the grey too.

  11. Darcy Allen

    I agree completely, disappointment is a part of life. It happens to everyone, some more than their share it seems.

    When my husband and I were first married we had so many dreams and visions for the future. We bought our first house at a very young age and it seemed like things were right on track. We wanted to start a family and tried for six years, enduring treatment and surgeries, etc.. only to be disappointed every time. It was then that we said maybe this was not God’s will and gave it over to Him. I felt so empty, like a failure and grieved for the child I would never have. And then, a month later, a miracle happened and I was told I was pregnant! Yes, people miracles do happen, my son is proof of that. We went from the deep depths of disappointment to highest level of joy. Then the pregnancy didn’t go well but I loved every minute of it, then the birth day came and after 36 hours of labor I had a C-section. So disappointing to not have a ‘normal’ delivery but at the same time overjoyed that soon I would hold my baby! Then as he was born it was very clear he had birth defects. I cannot explain the depths of disappointment, fear and uncertainty that we had combined at the same time with the overwhelming love and joy we felt that or dream of a child had just come true. God blessed us with the most amazing son. What he has endured in his 21 years is so much more than most people will see in their lifetime. He is a testament to perseverance. Our life has not been easy, it has not gone according to our plan but what I have learned is that it has gone according to God’s plan!

    What I have learned through the countless disappointments is how to overcome, persevere and forgive (still working on forgiving a devastating hurt) but most of all I have learned that my faith is a lot stronger than I thought it was. I NEVER could have gotten through the 11 corrective surgeries my son has had, and really any of the other bumps (and there have been countless) in our road, without Christ on my side. Our son is now attending Northwest University studying to be a teacher, something he was born to do and a dream coming true.

    Through the years we thought some of our dreams would never come to be, but as I think about this and look back, all of them really have, just not in the way we thought they would. They have not been easy, but nothing worthwhile is rarely ever easy. There are still dreams we look forward to; retirement, grandchildren, a church we can call home, etc… but I don’t worry like I used to about these things. Disappointment has taught me to trust and put God in the driver’s seat :)

    I have learned to lean on, and trust in Christ, that all things happen for a reason and are part of His plan. It brings me comfort to know that with every disappointment I am thankful, grow stronger in my faith and know that something good will come out of it. They say that faith is the belief in things unseen but I have seen what faith can do and it is amazing!

  12. Amber Richards

    I love the “rawness” and “real talk” you bring to your blogs. Love you and Pastor Shari more each day!

  13. Andre Green

    I guess I can say this post brought me a little bit better of an understanding of my life! (Lie) I have always made it seem like I had a well put together life. Especially after that night of September 17, 2002 when Micahn lead me to the Lord at G.C. I let go of most of my sins, lusts, insecurities, selfishness, and so many other things that I struggled with.
    (Truth) I hadn’t! I found more ways to mask them. You see, I have always felt like my life was one big disappointment! As a matter of fact, the first time I tried suicide I was 10, the last time was the early Sunday morning before I went to G.C. that Tuesday. I have been through one disappointment after another. Sometimes I cry out to God and ask, will I ever get it right?
    Sometimes you don’t think about it until you know that someone else is going through it as well. Or just as you have, bring light to it! I guess I wasn’t listening to God a month ago when I was walking to my car at 4:30a.m. headed to work, when “He said; your struggles are not for you. They are for someone else. That person who is struggling in lust, the person who is struggling in pornography, that person who is struggling with self-esteem, and every other thing that you have delt with or are dealing with. I(God) will take care of you as you be obedient and help them who are struggling when I give you a Devine appointment”
    Thank you my friend for giving me a better and clear understanding of the disappointments of life, and that our story is not over yet! I would hate for Wild-E to catch the Roadrunner. End of story!!!

    • Brian Dolleman

      Wow Andre – I didn’t know some of this… I’m so thankful to have you sharing them with me. I love what you said about your struggles not being for you, but for someone else. Thank you for not giving up. And thank you for recognizing God’s plan for you to be a help for others. Love you Andre.

  14. So much good stuff! I’ll keep my two-bits short (or try to). I have had my share of disappointments, anxieties, and bottom-dropping-out days. The short story is that these pains always seem too big for me to handle–usually are–and because I fear bitterness, there’s no option but to go to God. My grandmother wrote Prov. 3:5&6 in my High school grad card: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.’ God has reminded me over and over of this verse. I don’t always pay attention to it, because I want to have my rant; and God waits for me to be done. This may seem really backwards, but I find my deepest experiences with God always seem to be on my face, at the bottom of the barrel and the end of my self, my strength, my ideas and my coping. And this seems to be the divine goal sometimes–not so much the depth of my pain, but letting it go, done with the striving to understand or fix. Just resting on His sovereignty, provision and timing.

  15. Connie Iddings

    I refuse to be the poster child for life’s disappointments, but my life might just qualify. Seriously though, I have learned some very valuable things. In some of the events in my life I felt utterly alone. I honestly had moments where I truly felt no one cared or my heartache was just too much of a downer for people to really want to get too close. God showed me, proved to me time and time again, that I wasn’t alone, he was with me and he also showed me that others have very similar experiences and feelings that they go through during distressing times too. It has made me want to reach out all the more. I want people to know that God cares, and another human cares.
    I want to fight against and immediately break out of any picture perfect ideal that tries to encompass me and make sure that in other people’s perspectives, it is the true me they see and get an opportunity to know. I want now, more than ever to be authentic, real, transparent and completely reachable. The disappointments of my life have allowed that to take place in me in a significant way.

  16. Really great stuff PB.

    I appreciate the tone and sincerity with which you write.

    Life is disappointing and rewarding.

    Miserable and exhilaratingly wonderful.

    Stacey and I have faced our share of disappointment(s) in life.

    If anything, disappointments have forced us to trust that God is indeed for us and with us no matter what circumstances we face.

    Disappointment also requires perspective. Yes, we have been disappointed, but God has been incredibly gracious and good to us.

    Thanks for writing and starting up this great conversation.

  17. Love this post about disappointment. My dad divorced my mom the day after I was born. Grew up with no dad in my life. My mom wasn’t there ether because she got up to go to work before us kids got up and got home late every night, just to be able to pay the bills. So we grew up with no parents. Every day was a fight between us kids; since I was the youngest I got beat up every day.
    My dad would invite my older brother and sister over to stay the night, but I was not invited. After years of bugging him he finally conceded, but he told me that we were “just friends” and that he wasn’t my dad. My mom said otherwise. I grew up not really knowing who was telling the truth. My mom eventually remarried.
    One day… I met Jesus! I had so many questions. One of them was “who is my dad?”. He said “Bill is your dad, I’ve given you a new earthly father that will provide for you. If you chose to follow me then I will be your perfect Father. I will teach you and guide you in the way you should go.”
    It’s been a ride ever since. Love the places he’s taken me. It’s been 26 years since that day and he’s never failed me.

  18. Bill Reynolds

    I was expecting more from this blogpost.

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist the temptation!)

    Truthfully, thanks, Brian, for daring to be transparent. As a high “I” personality I often find my own Pollyanna tendencies covering my feelings vis-a-vis disappointment. The constant urge to “spin” positively can be exhausting. You give permission to say, “That sucked!” without reservation. Looking forward to the rest of your posts.

  19. Haha, love this post! Life is a battlefield, that’s for sure. What annoys me are the people who think its a walk in the park, and then constantly cry about it being hard.

  20. People will always disappoint us. Only Jesus is the One who never disappoints. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

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