After months of planning and hoping, we are shuttering our plans to spend our 10th wedding anniversary in Florida with friends and family. Last year when we were discussing how we should celebrate this milestone, the options included an international vacation for just the two of us (which would have been equally disastrous) or to gather together a part of our wedding entourage at the place where we made our vows to each other. We went with the second option, and now it has been cancelled for us. Needless to say, we are disappointed.
Disappointment is a stranger critter. Almost like a leech, really. It sucks out joy and motivation and leaves nothing in its stead. It makes simple truths feel slippery to my thought process. For example, I know this is probably for the best. In fact, in the back of my mind I had wondered whether we should proceed with the plan anyway. And because I know my God is good, I believe it is to the better that we are not going. But I have a hard time getting those kinds of thoughts to settle in my heart.
But this is not my first clam bake, as they say in Massachusetts, so I know there are some things that I need to do to deal with my disappointment before it evolves into darker things. Disappointment, if not caught at the cut, infects us with discouragement which is the forerunner to depression. So here are a few things that I try to do when feel disappointed.
Job loses it all and blesses the name of the Lord. Gratitude is a powerful antidote to life’s discouraging events. The Holy Spirit is always ready to praise the Father, and so indwelt believers find themselves being grateful at the strangest times. To my surprise gratitude has been my companion even when walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Disappointment melts under gratitude’s influence like sadness under the influence of ice cream (a short term fix, but I suggest the mint chocolate chip).
Gratitude also tends to put things in perspective. The God who daily loadeth us with benefits cannot be indicted on charges of neglect when His bountiful goodness is lauded. Not many of us are really like Job and lose everything at the same time. Generally speaking, there are still some things growing even when a portion of our fields have been struck by hail or blighted by disease. Our true inheritance is untouchable and unaffected by moths, rust, and thieves.
In my case it’s pretty easy to be thankful since we are celebrating 10 years of marriage. And we like each other. And we love each other. No sense moping over a failed celebration when what is being celebrated is alive and well.
In the wake of disappointment there can be a tendency to either make poor decisions or to neglect responsibility. This leads to a build up of unfinished tasks to overcome or a mess to clean up. Either feels overwhelming to the soul deflated by disappointment, and so a deeper discouragement can ensue.
For example, I had a rhythm for work- based on my plans to be gone for a week -which included a series of small things that needed to be finished. Now, with no deadline looming, I am tempted to put those things off. “I’m not going anywhere, so I don’t have to rush so much.” Yeah, right. With that attitude it won’t ever get done. Make a list and check the stuff off. If there’s a gap in your time, fill it with something productive, not just something to eat up time. Read a book, practice your guitar, plan your sermon, pray. Don’t binge watch Netflix.
Prepare for Surprise
Planning a wonderful experience is fine, but often times it falls flat compared to our expectations. It is the unexpected and unasked for blessings that leave us wandering around the palace with David asking, “Who am I, Lord, to receive such a gift!” Letting go of the good we were hoping for prepares our hearts to be surprised by the good that God is bringing our way. It’s foolish to complain that the dessert doesn’t taste like the entree you just finished. They are different sorts of good, both to be enjoyed in their right time and way.
This is really the attitude of humility, that chiefest of virtues that allows us to live our lives in a fairy tale. To the small, all things are a wonder. God stocks his pantry with the best blessings on the bottom, not on the top.
Seasons of Life
For many this has been a season of disappointment. Weddings go unattended. Graduations have been canceled. Family trips are down the drain. The list could go on. In the year of perfect vision (2020), no one saw this coming. We cannot help but feel disappointed, but we can keep disappointment from being the theme of our year.