Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Disappointments & Consolations

disappointment and joy

By Dennis Pollock

There is nothing in life so disappointing as disappointments. OK, that probably sounds kinda dumb and corny, but there is nothing corny about disappointments. They are crushing, incredibly painful, and sometimes nearly impossible to get over. Disappointments come in various sizes and flavors. We hoped and prayed for a particular outcome in our circumstances, and it turned out precisely the opposite. We wanted a brand-new Mercedes Benz; we ended up with a ten-year-old Ford with a dent in the door and faded paint.

While all disappointments are painful, without a doubt the most painful of all are those “life disappointments.” There are those times when in our latter years we come to the difficult realization that the dreams of our youth, the ambitions, the hopes, and sometimes the desperate prayers that we prayed in our teens and twenties don’t appear as though they will be answered. We wanted to be a famous singer; instead we had occasional opportunities to sing in our local church and that was it. We hoped for the ideal, perfect storybook marriage with Mr. or Mrs. Right and instead we got, well, something a bit less than that. We hoped for an international ministry touching millions, and instead we ended up pastoring a church of 75 somewhat grumpy church members.

We may have refused to accept our disappointment for years, hoping and assuming that if we endured, all our dreams would be realized, but as the years and decades passed, we began to have a haunting thought: “What I dreamed and hoped for and expected doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.” As certain as it is that our gracious, loving, Almighty God answers the prayers of His children, it is likewise indisputable that God will never become our personal bellboy, running to answer every whim or ambition that may enter our minds. The reality that every single believer in Christ must finally embrace is that God has a very definite will for our lives, and His will is not going to be swayed by our ambitions and desires. It has never been our job to make demands of God, to “order” our life circumstances the way a customer orders a steak and salad at a restaurant, and expect God to go running off to make sure we have everything we can ever lust for, dream of, or desire.

A Cross for Christ-Followers

When Jesus spoke of a life of discipleship, He always emphasized the concept of preferring God’s will over our own, even to the point of likening this to dying on a cross. He tells us:

If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me (Luke 9:23).

He does not say, “If you want to come after me, you can be sure that I will fulfill all your wildest dreams, and everything you ever want or hope for will be given to you.” No, He tells us there is a cross for us to take up every day, and that self-denial will be part and parcel of our life as a Christ-follower. What this can mean, in practical terms is that at some point in our lives some if not most Christians must face a terrible reality: “I’m not going to be what I thought I would be,” or “I’m not going to have what I thought I would have,” or “I’m not going to achieve what I thought I would achieve,” or “I’m not going to be as famous, or as rich, or as popular, or as happy, or as whatever as I thought I would be.” We may even have that awful thought: “I’m going to be ordinary.”

Yet the disappointments I have been speaking of up to this point have one redeeming feature: most of these simply put us in the category of “normal.” Maybe we are not famous or wealthy or fantastically successful in our careers, but neither are most of the people we know. However there are other disappointments which are far more cutting, in that they make people feel that they are less than “normal.” A woman who has been married for 15 years and has not conceived a child looks around and sees nearly every couple she knows with two or more children and wonders why she must be different. Men and women who reaches their forties, having never married and who haven’t had a date in twenty years live in quiet desperation, wondering why life has been so cruel to them. Ugly people get married, overweight people get married, obnoxious people get married, weird people get married, and yet they are not married and it’s beginning to look like they never will be.

Some people are forced to face the terrible realization that they have mental illness, and it is casting a dark shadow over the entirety of their lives. They cannot relate to others freely and easily, they fear nearly everything, they worry constantly, and have great difficulty focusing and thinking clearly. They are different, somehow. They don’t know why this is, or how it works, or what they could ever do to change things. But they seem to be running the race of life with a hundred-pound weight around their necks. Why must this be? Why them? Why can’t they just be like everybody else?

Believers Pray

Of course, for the Christian the obvious response to such situations is prayer. Pray for children, pray for a husband or a wife, pray for a sound mind, pray for deliverance from depression and fear – pray, pray, pray. The Bible certainly encourages us to do just that. But for one reason or another some people, even strong Christians, sometimes must go through life with some of their deepest desires unfulfilled. Charles Spurgeon, the British pastor known as the “prince of preachers,” was troubled with depression nearly all of his adult life. Despite his strong faith, his amazing knowledge of God’s word, and his love for Jesus, he could never seem to be rid of bouts of gloominess and sadness. The same is true of the great missionary to the native Americans, David Brainerd. I can remember a frequent prayer request by a lady who was, I believe, in her late sixties or early seventies. She had never been married, and was asking for prayer for a husband. I never did hear that she married.

Is this simply a lack of faith? A lack of wisdom? Or was it a mysterious aspect of God’s plan for their lives to withhold these deep desires for His children. I couldn’t possibly answer that. But regardless of the reason, the fact remains that some people, indeed some Christians, in fact some very devout Christians, are forced to maneuver through life on this earth with some of their deepest desires unfulfilled. While in their twenties they assumed the answers would come in time; by their forties they were beginning to wonder if they would ever come, and in their sixties they were forced to accept what had been so unacceptable: they were highly unlikely to ever see this desire of their heart.

For the non-Christian the answer to this dilemma is simple: they were just unlucky. Too bad! But for Christians it is not nearly that simple. We know that nothing is impossible for our God; we know that He could change our situations in a heartbeat if He chose. But somehow, He doesn’t seem to choose. What shall we say to all of this?

Sometimes, to add fuel to the fire, others can be less than tactful as they try to “help” and “encourage.” They tell the miserable individuals: “You just need more faith. Your faith is too weak.” Or perhaps, “You’re not trying hard enough,” or “You need a new strategy.” The truth is, there is no acceptable answer in these situations. We are not God. We see life and the events of life through a very darkly tinted window.

When God’s Will Doesn’t Match Our Own

There are a couple of things we can say with confidence, based on the Scriptures. First, God’s plans for us and our plans for us do not always mesh perfectly; in fact sometimes they are entirely out of sync. And when this is the case, you can guess whose plans will prevail. As servants of Christ we must cheerfully embrace God’s will for us, no matter which direction that will takes us. As long as we are not sure about what that will is, we can pray strongly for our own desires, providing that they are not sinful desires. But once God’s will is made crystal clear, it is time to stop praying about God’s will and start living it out – even in cases where it is nearly the opposite of what we had imagined for ourselves in our youth. This can be painful for a while, but there is no getting around it. This is what it means to be “bondservants of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

But there is another, more comforting truth we need to consider. Our great God is a God of consolation. The Bible declares:

  1. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. (2 Corinthians 1:5)
  2. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation. (2 Corinthians 1:7)
  3. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace… (2 Thessalonians 2:16)

God notices and feels for the sufferings and disappointments of His children. Sometimes, for reasons only known to Him, He will withhold powerful and legitimate desires from His beloved children. Despite all their prayers and tears and questions, Heaven seems shut up tight in this area. But where He may choose to withhold a blessing with one hand, He will usually pour out a wonderful blessing with the other. God is our great Consoler. Most of His consolations will come to us in Heaven, but some consolations come to us here in this life. To the woman who will never have children, He may give a loving, attentive husband. The man who will never find a wife may be abundantly blessed with friends or find God’s hand phenomenally blessing his career, or experience fruitfulness such as few married men ever see. The woman whose husband left her for a younger model may find a closeness with the Holy Spirit that few experience. God’s consolations are infinite in variety and incredibly generous in measure.

In most cases, as young adults who feel frustrated and left out, the best plan is to pray and believe. It is not time to accept the fact that you are going to be childless or spouse-less or have mental illness all your days at that point. Pray, believe, and work toward the accomplishment of your goals and desires. But there may come a time, later in life, when you clearly see that it just isn’t going to happen for you. And if this is your situation, the thing to do is first, embrace God’s will and recognize that your earthly life is so very short. You have the whole of eternity to enjoy the fulfillment of your heart’s desires as you live with Christ in that place where there are no disappointments. If you seem to be a bit short-changed in this life, know that as you follow Christ you are guaranteed a wonderful future of total fulfillment in the life to come. Do without some things for seventy or eighty years, and then experience every good thing you can dream of and those you cannot even imagine for the next billion, billion, trillion, trillion years and more, courtesy of Jesus’ cross and resurrection.

Divine Consolations

Secondly, if you conclude that you will never quite have what most others have, or never quite achieve what most people do, look around for God’s consolations. You may have them already or they may be “on the way.” He is our great Consoler-in-chief, and He is very, very good at finding ways to make up for those areas where you seem to be lacking. Isaiah writes:

Nor let the eunuch say,
“Here I am, a dry tree.”

For thus says the LORD:
“To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths,
And choose what pleases Me,
And hold fast My covenant,

Even to them I will give in My house
And within My walls a place and a name
Better than that of sons and daughters… (Isaiah 56:3-5).

Praise God for the greatest Consolation of all – our Lord Jesus, who provides for us an eternity of fulfillment, comforts, and rewards!




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