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How to Handle Disappointments

April 05, 2024
00:00 09:38
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We all have disappointments in life - things our hearts were set on that just didn’t pan out. God does promise to give us the desires of our hearts if we’re following Him (Ps 37:4), but He doesn’t promise to give them to us on our time table, or through the avenues we choose.  His way is always best in the end, but that doesn’t make the immediate disappointments hurt any less. 

Then there are those times when bad things happen to us that God had no part of.  These are the things that God specifically lists as a curse in the Old Testament - things like disease, death, destruction, destitution, and the like (Deuteronomy 28:15-38). They are listed as part of the curse of the law - but Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the law, so God doesn’t do these things.  When these things happen now, it is because there is an enemy who “prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet 5:8-9), or because the world itself is fallen and waiting for redemption (Rom 8:20-22), or because of the free will of sinful people (Ps 37) - either our own or that of others who hurt us. 

There are usually only a few ways that most people handle disappointments and sorrow: 1) they lie to themselves and pretend they never wanted (that thing) very much in the first place; 2) they run away, keeping themselves otherwise occupied so that they never feel the loss (and this includes addictions of all forms); 3) they get really mad, either at God or fate or whatever they blame; or 4) they grieve.

The last one is the only path to true healing.

Lying to Yourself (Denial)

This is the “sour grapes” approach... “Well, fine, I never wanted it that much anyway!” It seems to work on the surface for awhile... the problem with this is simply that, well, it’s a lie.  Pretending you feel one way when in fact you feel another way entirely is suppression.  And the thing suppressed doesn’t go away... it gets buried deeper.  It’s like getting a splinter in your foot, and instead of having it removed, you shove it down inside the flesh so you can’t see it anymore, and just learn to walk with a limp. 

This is often where emotional handicaps (such as depression) come from.  We are injured and isolated, and we don’t see that there’s anything we can do except learn to live with it - the “stiff upper lip” approach.  We move beyond blaming our needs to a denial of our needs.  There’s something we’re not admitting to ourselves, and the depression is a symptom of it. It’s trying to remind us that we need to enter the healing process.

The solution, of course, is to submit to having your foot cut open so that the splinter can be extracted and the cut can heal.  Jesus says in Mark 8, If you try to preserve the things you want in life (by pretending everything is okay when it isn’t) then you will lose them.  But if you willingly lay them down for the sake of the Kingdom, then they'll be given to you.  As long as the splinter is still there, coping and “getting by” is the best you can ever do.  But that isn’t God’s best for you.

In “The Law of Happiness,” Dr Henry Cloud writes, “...grief allows you to let go of what you cannot have in order to make room in your heart for what you can have.  Those who don’t feel safe enough to grieve find themselves holding on to lost hopes and relationships.  Then it’s difficult for them to seek out new attachments, since the ghosts of the past still occupy their emotional life”.

Jesus promises that when we let go, the exchange he offers is beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3).

Running Away (and Addictions)

An addiction is anything that we run to in order to escape from unpleasant thoughts or emotions.  (That’s usually how all the physiologic addictions start, too.)  The obvious ones are substances, food, sex, gambling, shopping, and work (or busyness in general).  We can also be addicted to a person (that’s called codependence).  We can compulsively fill our lives with noise so that silence never has the opportunity to ask its uncomfortable questions.  We can park ourselves in front of the TV every night after work to escape from all the problems we don’t know how to solve.  Distraction techniques are very popular.

These approaches all have one thing in common: they help us to avoid our pain, but they don’t heal it.  Because of that, they all enslave us sooner or later.

But when Jesus first announced his ministry, he said it like this: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor” (Isa 61:1-2).  He came to heal, not just to offer a band-aid. 

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Meet Your Host
Meet Your Host
Dr. Lauren Deville is the owner of Nature Cure Family Health in Tucson, Arizona. She received her NMD from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ, and she holds a BS in Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics from the University of Arizona, with minors in Spanish and Creative Writing. She is the author of The Holistic Gut Prescription and How to Be Healthy: Body, Mind, and Spirit.

In her spare time, Dr. Lauren writes young adult science fiction and fantasy novels as well as Biblical retellings under the pen name C.A. Gray, and she maintains a movie review blog with her cinephile husband.

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