3 Ways to Overcome Disappointment
Sometimes, in deep places there is a spot where profound disappointment can live. In this place, if given the right circumstances it can grow and do damaging things to not only our lives, but our souls as well. If we learn the skills to address disappointment and gain godly perspective surrounding our feelings, then we allow room for God’s healing work to begin in our hearts.
I believe that Psalm 77 can give us these skills. Because this Psalm is also a story of disappointment. It is an intimate conversation between Asaph and God. Asaph was a contemporary of David and while we do not know much about him, we do know that he was assigned by King David as a worship leader in the tabernacle and he was a skilled singer and poets and he’s also mentioned as prophet (1 Chron. 6:31–32; 2 Chron.s 29:30).
Through his writing, we have a record of an intimate conversation between Him and God. While we don’t know the particular circumstances he was facing, we get the expression of what he was thinking.
As you read this Psalm, notices the words, notice the emotion, notice the questions…
1 I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years when
the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
13 Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
As I spent time meditating on this Psalm, I noticed how it was broken into three parts and I saw a pattern emerge. First, the Psalmist describes his disappointment. We get the sense that he is stuck and cannot think about anything else. He’s wallowing, refusing to be comforted—he was too troubled to speak, in distress and his spirit grew faint.
Next, these emotions form into questions. The kind that probe the very core of belief systems.
Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
Has his promise failed for all time?
Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Have You ever been in this spot? Have you ever asked these questions?
I believe as he asks them, he also has to honestly answer them within himself.
Will the Lord reject forever?—No
Will he never show his favor again?—Of course not, If he gave His favor once, He will give it again.
Has his promise failed for all time?—No, His promises do not fail!
Has God forgotten to be merciful?—Of course not, God is gracious and merciful!
Because the Psalmist is honest and honestly answers the questions in his heart, He gives himself permission to also be honest before God, not hiding feelings of disappointment, because in this is also the permission for God’s healing to begin its work. It’s giving God the go ahead to move in him instead of holding Him back at arms length to stay in the place of disappointment.
The psalm ends with the Psalmist remembering the mighty works of God. “Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God?” It is the complete opposite of how he began. God was able to give Him perspective, so while that doesn't alway change the circumstance when going through it, it can make room for comfort during it. And when struggling with disappointment, comfort is needed.
The Danger of Disappointment
Here is the danger of unaddressed disappointment, it is the first step in a progression. It might start off small but if given time and attention, disappointment can turn to discouragement, which turns to resentment and will end up in bitterness. Maybe some of you reading this are somewhere along this progression...
Over the years, bitterness can be like a callous on the heart that makes it hard and impenetrable. Are you struggling with unaddressed disappointment?
This is where Psalms 77 can help. We can use the same process that the Psalmist went through to gain larger perspective in the midst of suffering. Through this exercise hopefully we turn our inwards thoughts outward from ourselves toward God and by doing this give Him room to move and bring healing.
When Struggling With Disappointment— #1 Admit Your Disappointment To God
It’s okay to admit what you are feeling. God knows us and knows what we are thinking. God knows us intimately, he knows our coming and going and he knows our thoughts before even we know them (Psalm 139:1-4). If He already knows them, then doesn't that give us permission to admit them to ourselves?
This is what Asaph did. He started asking questions. Ridiculous question—but the questions we ask as humans. Because of his circumstances he started questioning God’s favor and faithfulness. It’s what he was thinking and why he refused to be comforted, but once those thoughts were out in the open and he heard them, then he had no excuse but to answer them truthfully which moved him to a place where he started remembering all the things God did and his attitude changed.
Here’s the thing, Admitting our disappointment to God, is for our benefit, not Gods. Admitting our feelings of disappointment out loud devoids them of the power to keep them internal and festering. Honesty is the door to perspective because sometimes saying it shows you the truth of the feeling and brings you to a place where you actually have to confront it.
Feelings of disappointment are roadblocks to moving forward. If we dwell here letting disappointment fester then we will be like the Psalmist who was faint in spirit, unable to be comforted and too troubled to speak. There is danger in keeping these thoughts on the inside, it is only when we bring them into the open and shine light on them will we allow healing to begin.
Grab a piece of paper and quickly list the things you are disappointed about. Don’t spend much time thinking about them—you know what they are, just jot them down. Get them out.
What are you disappointed about?
Where has disappointment lead to discouragement, resentment or bitterness?
Why should you let this go? Give yourself a reason to move forward.
When Struggling With Disappointment— #2 Remember God’s Faithfulness
This is exactly what Asaph did—he starts listing the things he’s witnessed in his life concerning God’s faithfulness. Why this is beneficial is that this is the point where focus shifts from self to God. As I read this portion of the Psalm, it was like a crescendo of the mighty things God has done which started off small and grew large as the Psalmist recounts them.
I imagined as he wrote, these things started flooding his mind, which is why he said in verse 12, “I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.” Six verses earlier he was meditating on his problems, and his spirit grew faint. But now, He’s meditating on God’s faithfulness and concludes—There is no god as great as our God!
Once you stack the areas where God has been faithful to you against feelings of disappointment, then those things seem rather small in comparison. Remembering God’s faithfulness is a crucial step in dissolving feelings of disappointment.
It’s your turn, on your piece of paper list at least 5 ways God has been faithful to you. Once you start recognizing these, they should be easy to list. Remember—this is beneficial to you.
When Struggling With Disappointment— #3 Invite God to Give Perspective in the Situation.
In difficult circumstances you must invite God to give you perspective. It is like the old adage, ‘it’s impossible to see the forest through the trees’; circumstances can rob you of moving forward because they block the finish. But God has a bird-eye view. And He can and will help you through it.
Ask God for godly perspective. This will give you the endurance to move forward in the situation until it’s resolved. Sometimes we are in a period of waiting, and it’s long and hard and the end is not in sight. But having a His perspective will keep our focus on God, it will protect us from letting our disappointment fester into discouragement, resent or worse yet, bitterness.
As you pray about this, ask God if there is anything you need to do in the midst of it? Ask Him to give you endurance while you wait. Ask him to help you understand how to move forward and then listen for what He says.
God Has a Better Way For Us!
We can gain wisdom from Asaph. He didn’t let disappointment take root. Although it has the potential to develop into discouragement, resentment or bitterness. He addressed it by remembering God’s faithfulness which encouraged him and gave him hope.
God has a better way; a better way for you! Remember, recounting His faithfulness will help you recognize that He will be faithful again and He will see you through the dark days. This is where hope lives!
Juli taught a sermon similar to this blog post on December 8, 2014 at Orchard Hill Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa. We invite you to enjoy this message using the audio player below.