Ian from sunny Sydney here. Spring is here, Down Under and the flowers are beginning to blossom as the temperature increases.
We’re a little sad in our house at present. Fiona and I were off on a holiday last week, but I injured my back, and it didn’t make sense for us to travel. Besides the pain of the travel, I would have been limited in what I could do as my back slowly heals. This isn’t a new thing for me – as I’ve gotten older, these episodes occur every couple of years. Unfortunately, this time was particularly inopportune.
BTW, my back is slowly improving, and I have some plans in place to hopefully minimise future episodes.
We’re often disappointed, aren’t we? Things aren’t turning out the way they should be or how we hoped they would? We probably all can think of something in recent times where we’ve been disappointed. It might have been something small, or something bigger like a holiday being cancelled. Or there are the perennial ones that seem always to be in the back (or perhaps forefront of our minds) like our spouse still seemingly no closer to joining us in loving God, or one of our kids making decisions we don’t approve of, or our jobs not working out the way we want them to.
What about our dearest friendships? The intimacy we once shared has disappeared. Why, we don’t know. There’s an open wound in our heart that brings us to tears most weeks.
Why God why? It wasn’t meant to be like this!
We want our situation resolved now. We get disappointed when it doesn’t. Our hope fades. How many times have you wondered whether your spouse will ever come to the Lord? Me, too many to count!
It’s Okay to be Sad!
Too often in Christian circles we minimise disappointment and sadness. We all do it. We’re always wanting to help others in their sadness, confusion, or grief. We want to help them be happy and restore their hope. But many of us feel uncomfortable when someone we love is sad or disappointed. It’s a yucky feeling and experience, isn’t it?
But it’s okay to be sad. Remember, Jesus was sad a few times, one when he received news about John the Baptist being beheaded and when Lazarus was dead. We’re told he even wept when he arrived at Lazarus tomb. He, the creator of the universe, experienced every emotion we do. Really truly!
As Kate Bowler says, “You are okay to feel what you feel. We need freedom to acknowledge the brutality of life without minimising or pretending or justifying.”1
As I’ve mentioned a few times, I’ve been reading the Psalms continually for a few years now. I can’t get enough of them. They’ve been pivotal in my gaining a better understanding of God’s goodness, wonder and mystery. Lament psalms feature the most of any ‘category’ of the 150 psalms. Why? Because it reflects the human condition. Life doesn’t turn out the way we want, bad things happen, and there’s much we don’t understand. So, the writers of the lament psalms give us a means for expressing our feelings to God, knowing that He listens and is always offering us His love, protection and kindness.
One of the aspects of the lament psalms I love is they’re at times brutally honest. Here’s a sample:
“How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me? (Psalm 13:1-2)
These are the words Jesus cried on the Cross:
“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.
O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer;
And by night, but I have no rest. (Psalm 22:1-2)
Bowler writes, “But all the good things that can come from prayer – trust, acceptance, connection, occasional miracles – are there waiting for us. But first comes radical honesty. The more genuine our prayers, the more freedom there is to acknowledge the reality of all a life with God can be.”2
A Blessing for When you’re Disappointed.
I thought I’d finish with an abbreviated version of a Blessing Kate Bowler wrote about disappointment:
“Blessed are you, dear one, when you are disappointed, when you have prayed and hoped and wished, and still your cry for help does unanswered. Blessed are you in the grip of the radical honesty that says, God, what are You doing? Why don’t Your answer? … Blessed are you, when you have lifted it all up to God and now must sit among the broken things and pray a one-word prayer of need. Help. Save. Come.
Blessed are you still there before God amid the unanswered prayers. For you are not alone. No. There is One who has come to feel what you feel, to suffer what you have borne. And this Jesus comes right to the heart of your pain. That’s the place he knows best. And desires to transform with the blazing light of healing love. That’s the only thing that makes the difference.
Blessed are you, sweet child. Daring to ask, God, help me trust You, even if You never tell me why. Then settling yourself into the reality that God’s hands are the safest place to be. And you pray again. Into Your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. Hide me in the shadow of You wings.”3
If you’re struggling with a particular disappointment right now, please share it with us in the comments if you feel comfortable doing so and we can pray over you. Grab a hold of the Word and draw close to Him. Let His Word minister to you. Remember He has never left you and is always working in the background. Just as He is with all our spouses.
Grace and peace, dear friends.
Notes: 1 & 2, Kate Bowler and Jessica Ritchie, Good Enough: 40ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection (Penguin Random House, New York, 2022) 135
Notes 3. Ibid, 136