As we’re nearing Christmas and the close of 2020, I’m sure there are quite a few people who are disappointed with the way this year has gone. So many canceled plans, lost jobs, lost hope. And then there are the little day-to-day disappointments that build and weigh on you until one day you wake up and feel them there, hanging in the air like mist. Generally, we try to avoid talking about all of this unpleasantness. We answer, “I’m fine,” even if we’re not. We try to avoid the unavoidable.
It’s hard to write about disappointment because I’ve been cast as a pessimist for much of my life. However, this is an emotion we all experience at one time or another, and sometimes it’s a real struggle. I’ve been wrestling with it for the past week or so, and I hope sharing my story will give someone else the freedom to talk about what they may be trying to suppress.
I opened my online store last month, and things haven’t gone the way I’d hoped. Granted, I wasn’t expecting overnight success, and I realize that abstract artwork isn’t for everyone. Still, after running ads on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, I thought by now at least one stranger would have purchased something. I am thankful for the support of my friends and family, but the disappointment is still worth acknowledging. I know it’s important to bring this emotion to the surface before it takes root in my heart and leads to bitterness.
There’s a quote by William Shakespeare, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” If disappointment stems from unmet expectations, what was I expecting in the first place? If I’m being honest, I expected God to bless my efforts because I was doing what I believed He wanted me to do. I’m not sure why spiritual obedience correlates to earthly success in my mind. I want to see the immediate fruit of my labor. I believe fruit will come, but it may not come as soon as I like, and it may not look how I imagined.
We hear all the time about how God is love and does what’s best for us, but what about the times when it doesn’t feel that way? Are we supposed to bury these emotions under the guise of “knowing better?” I don’t think so. There’s plenty of evidence in the Bible supporting the notion that we can bring our hurt to God. Take King David for example.
The psalms are full of David expressing his most honest emotions before God, and that includes disappointment. Psalm 13 begins, “How long will you forget me, Lord? Forever?” David did not hold back when expressing His emotion to God, and neither should we. The trouble comes when we pour out our disappointment time and again, never realizing how much we still have to be thankful for. David may have begun his Psalm in disappointment, but he ended it in praise: “Yes, I will sing to the Lord because he has been good to me.” The hope is that our prayers will lead to changed hearts—bringing us back to the realization that God is in control and knows what He’s doing.
We can find even more comfort in Psalm 34:18, “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he saves those whose spirits are crushed.” He understands we’re only human and certain things are bound to upset us. I am thankful He never tires of being our Father and always wants us to bring our concerns to Him.
The longer you walk with God and experience His provision, the less sting disappointments tend to have. These feelings will come and go, but when your heart is rooted and grounded in the true character of God, that knowledge will outweigh any temporary upset. Let’s be faithful in the work we are called to, trusting that God will do what only God can do when the time is right.
I hoped writing this down might magically cure my disappointment—yet another unmet expectation. I hoped reminding my own heart of certain truths would perk up my spirit a bit. The truth is that sometimes recovery just takes a while, and that’s ok too. God never changes; He’s still close. I’ll ask Him to encourage my heart in whatever way He sees fit, instead of asking for a specific outcome. Even if I sold all my artwork right now I’m not sure it would mean much; I would think it was the result of all my efforts and focus far more on my success than on God.
I plan, I schedule, I post, I analyze—but God gives the increase.
The thing is, at least in my life, I’ve noticed that God tends to do the unexpected. I plan, I schedule, I post, I analyze—but God gives the increase. And He tends to do it when I’m not looking. When my disappointment finally gives way to surrender, I allow God to be God and show up when and how He intends.
The next time you’re feeling disappointed, don’t ignore it or bury it in positivity. Acknowledge what you’re feeling and bring it to a God who cares. Allow Him to reinvigorate your heart and clear the mist of disappointment. It’s a vapor and it will pass, but you don’t have to pretend it isn’t there to get through it.