What to Do When You’re Disappointed & Discouraged
We never saw it coming. I expected this kind of behavior from a non-believer, but from a Christian?
The gap between my expectations and my reality left my tender soul shredded into tiny little pieces, like the bits of paper you throw as confetti. Except this was no celebration. I wondered how a heart ripped to shreds could ever be whole again.
Enter disillusionment; the place where expectations and reality collide.
I remember thinking, How did this happen? Why did this happen?
I’ve heard the same sentiment echoed a thousand times by Christians in different circumstances: The wife whose husband walked out the door; the couple that followed God’s leading, only to be hurt by those they tried to help; the family who battled health and financial crisis; the woman who stepped out in faith and feels like she failed. And then there’s the mom of the toddler, the mom of the teenager, the mom of the prodigal, and the sweet gal who just wants to be a mom, but can’t.
They all wrestle with the thought, I didn’t think it would be like this.
But it is.
The result is confusion. Hurt. Anger. Disappointment. Discouragement.
These emotions leave one dangerously close to disillusionment.
So, what now?
Generally, disillusionment doesn’t happen overnight (although it can). Typically, disillusionment starts as disappointment, which leads to discouragement, which morphs into discontentment, which lands as disillusionment. Think of it like this:
Disappointment + Time = Discouragement
Discouragement + Time = Discontentment
Discontentment + Time = Disillusionment
How do you know if you’ve moved from disappointment to disillusionment?
You’ve lost hope.
You’ve checked out.
You’re desperate to control.
You’re mad at God.
You’re suspicious of others.
You’ve given up on your faith, yourself, or God.
May I whisper just a few words of hope to you? You. Are. Not. The. First.
In the Bible, the prophet Elijah dealt with disillusionment. So did Sarah. At some point, all people deal with disappointment, and many travel on through the dark tunnel of disillusionment. How we deal with disappointment–even if our disappointment has already morphed into disillusionment–determines how we come out on the other side.
How can we handle disappointment so it doesn’t morph into disillusionment, and derail us?
It’s OK to feel sad when things don’t turn out like we hoped. Part of navigating disappointment before it becomes disillusionment is to acknowledge our loss.
During difficult seasons David poured out his heart to God. “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”(Psalm 62:8 NIV) David lived convinced God was a safe place to unwrap his secret scars. Why? David was certain God cared for him.
God cares for you, too.
1 Peter 5:7 tell us to “cast all your anxiety upon Him, for He cares for you.”
It can feel hard to trust God with our hurt, but when we pour out our problems to God, God pours in His perspective to us. We exchange our hurt for His healing.
Talk to God about the circumstance or person that disappointed you. Write down a prayer expressing your emotions. You can tell God anything–He already knows. Confess (confess simply means to agree with God about an issue) God’s goodness, God’s faithfulness. God’s compassion, and God’s love-for you. Confess any wrong attitude you’ve harbored or wrong action you’ve chosen. Get it all out–the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Then, leave it all in Jesus’ nail scarred hands.
If we bottle our burdens we may start to believe God doesn’t care, but if we cast our burdens we’ll be comforted by His care.
Disillusionment occurs when we feel something is not as good as we believed it to be. These beliefs are based on expectations.
Unexamined expectations are likely to be unrealistic expectations, and unrealistic expectations are likely to become unrealized expectations.
Over time, unrealized expectations can leave us disappointed, discouraged, discontent, and disillusioned.
When an expectation isn’t realistic, it’s easy to become disillusioned, so we must ask, “Is my expectation realistic?” Only when we examine our expectations can we adjust our expectations.
Cling to Christ
When disappointment leaves us reeling, we have two choices: Run to God, or run from God. One choice brings closeness and comfort; the other choice brings distance and disillusionment.
Is it always easy to rely on God while enduring difficulty? No, it isn’t.
But reliance on God during our storm brings redemption from God to our story.
Joseph, the ancient Hebrew turned Egyptian slave, experienced this first hand, after his brothers’ betrayed him. Because Joseph clung to God through the heartache and hurt, he could look his brothers square in the eye and declare, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (Genesis 50:20 NIV)
When we cling to Christ, we experience communion with Christ–often in a way we can’t experience when life clips along as planned. The depth of His understanding toward our pain moves from our heads to our hearts. We begin to grasp–really grasp–how Jesus sympathizes with us. The words of Isaiah, “He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Is 53:3) become healing balm to our broken hearts.
How do you handle disappointment from unmet expectations? What lessons have you learned by choosing to rely on God, even when it’s hard?
Leave a comment. Your insight just might be what someone else needs right now.
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you or forsake you.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV)We have two choices: Run to God, or run from God. One choice brings closeness and comfort; the other choice brings distance and disillusionment. Click To Tweet
More than a Bible teacher, Donna is a self-described Bible explainer. A colorful storyteller who combines Biblical truth with real-life anecdotes, her messages not only help listeners understand God’s Word, but most important, grasp how to live it out in real life.