Have you ever faced disappointment?
You’ve worked hard for something, yet in one moment, it shriveled and fizzled into nothing. You feel faded and jaded, unable, unworthy, and unwilling to lift your head and show your brilliance. What brilliance? You feel like the whole world is staring at you, leering the unspoken words with their eyes, “What good are ya?”
- Three surgeries later, the doctor tells you nothing can be done for your chronic pain.
- In spite of signs of growth and success, you get fired from a job.
- A promotion you’ve worked for gets handed to a less qualified person.
- Your child turned their back on all your teaching and entered an ungodly lifestyle.
- One major illness wipes out your savings for retirement.
Disappointment. It hurts. You find yourself asking.
- What did I do wrong?
- What could I have done better?
- Why does life have to be so hard?
- What was I thinking? Was I too big for my breeches in wanting to reach so high? Maybe I should be content with less. The higher you reach, the harder you fall, right?
I’ve faced disappointment.
In fact, disappointment handed me the pink slip just this past month. I’d worked hard. I was open to learning and growing in the project I pursued. I thought this time it would be within my reach. But wiith one word, my hopes were dashed. NO!
I wish I could say that I got right up, dusted myself off and got back up on that horse. The truth is, for several weeks, I twiddled with the reigns, adjusted the stirrups, and buried my head, weeping a few extra tears. Disappointment hurts.
Lest you frown on my display of emotion, I’m in good company. I always thought Moses’ successor, Joshua, had a blameless character, but I think I found his Achilles heel. He tore his clothes and fell face down in the dirt. At least my clothing is still intact.
Here’s Joshua’s story.
After the Israelites destroyed Jericho, they were pumped. God had brought a great victory. They were ready to claim this Promised Land. Next on the hit list was the small town of Ai. Easy-peasy. We can do this thing. We don’t even need to send the entire army.
But the smaller brigade tucked tail with the men of Ai in hot pursuit. It was a devastating defeat. Joshua cried out to the Lord.
“Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?” – Joshua 7:7-9
Yes, I can relate. What’s wrong with me? Maybe I should not have reached so high. What glory will God get when I waste my time with things that don’t work out? All those people that have prayed for my success—what will this do to their faith?
God gave Joshua four steps to move past his disappointment.
1. Get Up: “What are you doing down on your face, Joshua?” God asked. Because Joshua would rather not make eye contact with anyone? He felt ashamed, that’s why. A failure with a capitol F.
Joshua forgot one important fact. Crossing the Jordan River was God’s idea, not his.
Developing my gifts into a ministry was God’s idea, not mine.
2. Grasp The Truth” “Israel has sinned,” God told Joshua. Then God sent Joshua on a truth quest, unearthing the fact that a man named Achan had disobeyed the Lord’s command to destroy everything.
Sometimes we cause our own disappointment. But sometimes we don’t. Sometimes, we are the innocent bystanders, the recipients of unintended consequences. God’s message to Joshua was straight-forward: this isn’t about you. Other stuff is going on that’s far bigger than you, Joshua, and I’m on it.
Much happens behind the scenes that we simply don’t know about. When we face disappointment, we need to stop the naval gazing and blame game; there are forces at work that are out of our control, God is dealing with it, and like He told Job at one point, as God, He doesn’t need to tell us what He is doing to solve the issue.
Our job is to stay faithful and not let the disappointment tarnish our trust.
3. Go on to the next thing. I find the final section of the story so beautiful:
Then the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.” – Joshua 8:1,2
Did you catch God’s directions? Unlike His commands for the destruction of Jericho and Ai, this time God told Joshua that the Israelites could carry off the plunder and livestock, and keep it for themselves. Joshua! Now that you’ve learned obedience and trust, I’m going to bless you. Not only will I give you victory; I’m giving you a bonus check.
I see another difference. This time, God told Joshua to involve the entire army. Together, the Israelites conquered Ai. Like Joshua, I can’t do what the Lord calls me to do with only part of my resources. I need to give it my all. I also need to involve other people. Three times at my writer’s conference, I had people tell me to gather a prayer team around me for my next step. From reading the account of Ai, I see the wisdom of Joshua’s choices. God’s work is best accomplished when God’s people work together and support each other. As someone else said, we’re a team, a family, not competitors.
4. Give God the glory and renew your commitment to Him. Read for yourself Joshua 8:30-35. Instead of whooping and hollering about his success, Joshua used the victory as a chance to immerse himself and his people in the law of God and to recommit themselves as a people of God. What a powerful moment that must have been.
Take an honest look at your disappointment. Stop wallowing in self-doubt and show your face. Ask God to help you discern between your emotions and the facts. Gather a support team. And when you do experience that sweet success, set aside time to immerse yourself in the word of God, praising Him for what He has accomplished, and committing yourself to God’s next project.