What do you do when someone disappoints you? Do you get mad, shout, withdraw, punish them with silence, gossip, hope for their downfall? Do you vow to never trust or value someone in the same way again? All of us will face a moment (or many!) where other people disappoint us–when they don’t apply what they believe, or even what they have encouraged others to believe and do in the past. Here are a few recommendations for the disappointed soul.
- Meditate on the unchanging love, patience, and grace of God toward you. Read 1 and 2 Kings, or Hosea, or 1 Corinthians 13 and consider God’s character toward his people. Meditate until you feel your sadness or anger at the person become less apparent then your awe and gratefulness toward God.
- Pray for that person to experience the patience and steadfast love and mercy of God.
- Evaluate your disappointment. Sometimes disappointment is manufactured by judgement or amplified by self-righteousness or unreasonable expectations. Sometimes a person has only failed in being the idol that we were worshiping rather than the person they should be.
- Distinguish between weakness–a lack of gifting or experience or discernment–and sin. A person may be less gifted or able than you thought they were. They may disappoint you, but this doesn’t mean they’ve sinned against you. Both sin and weakness cause disappointment and pain, but calling a weak person out as a sinner can be a particularly crushing blow and reveals more about our heart than theirs.
- Pray and decide whether you have been called to help and serve someone in their weaknesses or confront someone who has sinned. Help to the weak should be filled with humility and patience and self-sacrifice. Confrontation should be in a spirit of meekness and humility and inquiry, focused on God’s Word and not our individual preferences.
- Love them always, internally and externally, with the resources and opportunities God gives you. When they confess their sin, forgive them by the grace of God as evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in your heart. Don’t expect perfect confessions, celebrate any admission of guilt.
- Don’t meditate on their weakness or sins. Disappointment becomes debilitating when our thoughts linger on the failures or mistakes of others. Discipline your mind to be full of the grace of God and the growth of your own soul and not your disappointments in others.
- Encourage the smallest evidences of growth in them, no matter how far they have to go.
- Rejoice when God uses them in his kingdom. A sign of deepening bitterness is when we expect God to punish or restrict others because they have disappointed us. Inevitably they will still be imperfect, weak, and sinful when God calls them to some occasion of service again. Don’t demand for them what you would not want God to do to you.
- Beware comparison of circumstances. We often think those who have disappointed us should suffer more than we do.
- Don’t be afraid of new friendships, or of rebuilding old friendships, of emulating the good that you see in others, or of love that “hopes all things.” We cannot truly love others without risking disappointment. It’s one of the signs of true love.
Disappointment is inevitable in a fallen world. Heroes, spouses, friends, co-workers, politicians, bosses, church leaders, parents, children– all will at some point be less than we want them to be, probably less than they want to be. They may or may not be aware of it when it happens. Don’t let disappointment wrap a chain around your soul imprisoning you into a helpless sadness, stubborn cynicism, or permanent anger.
Brother or Sister in Christ, when you experience disappointment, may God’s steadfast love fill your soul with joy, peace, forgiveness, and love. May you be used to represent him toward those around you who need to experience his patient grace through you.