Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

How Do You Handle Disappointment?

            How a person responds to disappointments and failed expectations of self and other people greatly determines his or her outlook on life.  Maybe we would rather allow our thoughts to focus on whatever brings us happiness or pleasure, but stopping to think about what creates unhappiness and displeasure may be exactly what we need for the problem to be solved.

            Think about something in the last 24 hours that didn't quite go the way you would have liked. Do you think it's possible that your reaction, largely, or at least in a small way, had much to do with your initial feelings about the matter?

            Disappointment is common to every human being alive.  Because we live in a fallen, broken, and imperfect world, hurt feelings are inevitable.  We become disappointed by peoples' mistakes, misunderstandings, mistreatments, betrayals, injustices, abuses or even crimes.  Disappointment is the entry point into a sometimes vicious cycle of complaining, blaming, justifying, and offending.  Disappointment is the bait for the trap of defeat.

            Disappointment piled on top of more disappointments can create stress, burnout, disorders, and even disease.  Accumulated disappointments can be likened to a log jam.  The logs of disappointment mount, constricting the flow of water and draining the life out of the stream. The "king pin" of a log (disappointment) jam is critical judgement.  When we wrongly judge others because of our skewed perspective, we needlessly carry bitterness and resentment in our heart.  Jesus addresses this condition as recorded in the first book of the New Testament.  "Do not judge so that you will not be judged.  For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.  Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye" (Matthew 7:1-5; NASB).  Jesus uses the term hypocrite to describe someone who is quicker to point out the faulty actions of others than to correct his or her own attitudes and behaviors.

            Because human nature defaults toward the familiar and resists change, finding fault with another (or critically judging) is often a diversion technique to avoid making the painful adjustments necessary to improve our character or behavior.  The discomfort of restructuring our mind, will, and emotions must be overcome. Our core belief systems must be examined and destructive thinking and feeling patterns must be replaced with constructive ones.

            In an audio book  called Leadership:  From the Inside Out, Kevin Cashman writes, "Change is usually seen as something happening 'out there.'" The world changes, products  change, competition changes, technology changes, people change ....  All significant change begins with self change.   "Moving our concept of change for an outside-in paradigm to an inside-out paradigm has profound implications. When viewed from this perspective, we see change as an internal dynamic.  An internal process of learning and development.  Change is perceived as something to be mastered from within vs. something only going on 'outside.'  Ultimately, people resist, adapt, or learn from it.  In this regard, all change fundamentally takes place with the person."  If a person wishes to change the world, one must start by changing him or her "self." 

            Organizational change follows the same principle of inner preceding outer change.  Many leaders fail to make the connection between their own growth and transformation, and that of their organization.  Transformation is not an event, but an ongoing process of knowing who we are, maintaining clear vision of who we want to create, and then going for it.  Internal change precipitates marketplace change.  Businesses, churches, and institutions of all types (particularly their leadership) will save themselves much time and money by recognizing this inside-out change dynamic.

            So what are the steps one can implement to attain this kind of change?  That's a great left-brained question, but unfortunately, step-by-step methodology doesn't work very well in this case.  The three steps to unjamming the logs are as follows: 1) surrender, 2) surrender, and 3) surrender.  Surrendering to God the right to change your perspective on the people and events that created the disappointment jells the building blocks for lasting change.

            Not all change is good change.  Change for change sake is not good change. Change that takes a person further away from the ways of God is not good change.  Good change is change of mind and heart that gives substance for hope. Romans 5:1-5 says, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,  through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.  And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance;  and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;  and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."

            The closest I can come to a 3 step process is the following.   These are the titles to chapter 4,5, and 6 of a book I authored called Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart. The first, forgiveness: receiving God's gift.  The second, forgiveness: surrendering to God.  The third, forgiveness: trusting God for change.  I believe there is a way to allow the opportunity in every difficulty, to overcome the difficulty of the opportunity. Receiving the gift of God's son Jesus to forgive our sins and short comings is the beginning of a process of surrender that can lead to a trust in Almighty God to embrace change as a positive agent for victory. Even extreme disappointment and tragedy can be faced with a heart turned toward God as provider, protector, image bearer, companion, friend, comforter, caretaker, and teacher. Thus "His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). With all of our real needs met, what more could we ask for?

            Some reading this may still be disappointed in the fact that disappointment is a normal expected part of the process. After all, doesn't following Christ mean adversity goes away?  You may say, "I became a Christian to get rid of hard times."  If that is your understanding of what it means to come to Christ, surrendering that expectation to God is a very good first step entry point  in beginning the change process! 


            Note:   The book Escaping the Pain of Offense: Empowered to Forgive from the Heart discusses themes of dealing with disappointments, offense and finding freedom in forgiveness.  This book is designed to help people (especially in the Christian faith)  to discover and dislodge things in life that lead to defeat. Don't miss out on your chance to use this book as a helpful tool in discovering Refuge in Christ. It can be purchased by clicking here: . If you get anywhere near Pennsylvania for vacation or on business, be sure to look us up for lodging at 

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry