NAVIGATING OUR WAY OUT OF THE SHADOWS

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“Repeated disappointment almost always triggers a series of other reactions:  discouragement, anger, frustration, bitterness, resentment, even depression. Unless we learn to deal with disappointment, it will rob us of joy and poison our souls.” – Billy Graham –

Are your disappointments weighing you down… sorrows, mistakes, regrets, failures? Have people let you down? Do your expectations, hopes, dreams seem to have shattered?

Our lives have unfolded many joys and many sorrows… highs and lows… mountains and valleys. Too often we remember only the low points… the disappointments. Happening suddenly when we least expect them. Or perhaps evolving slowly over time. Culminating in deep sadness and regret… regret at what life could have been… at what life was supposed to be.

When we live in disappointment, we view life as if from the shadows. Our perspective is one of gloom. Just as clouds pass by obscuring the sun, so our blessings are obscured by the shadows of our disappointments. Our outlook on life becomes cloudy and dismal. We become dissatisfied with the gift that is life. Our joy seems nowhere to be found.

Billy Graham’s perceptive words describe a life that has allowed disappointment to build up, dominate and take over. Disappointment is defined as a feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations. People can disappoint. Circumstances and events can disappoint. And, we can disappoint ourselves.

How often we think: when I reach this goal… when this event happens… when this person changes… when this problem is resolved… when everything turns out the way I expected. Unmet expectations are at the core of all disappointments. We expect people to behave a certain way or we expect events to unfold according to our plan. Yet life is not predictable.

People we care about the most often disappoint us the most. Because they mean so much to us, we put high expectations on their behavior. Our expectations may not be communicated. They may be trying to please us yet are unsure just how to do so. What disappoints us is not who they are, but who we want them to be. They do not meet the high bar we have set for them in our minds.

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” – Psalm 42:5

Everyone has disappointments in their life that, when endured, will pass. Remember, it is not God who has disappointed us. It is a fallen world with fallen people. Blaming God for our disappointments will only distance us from Him… building up a wall of resistance.

Disappointments left unchecked are not healthy for our spiritual walk. A life of accumulated disappointments is a heavy burden that can lead to discouragement, depression and despair. We dare not wallow in our disappointments. Our life will seem joyless… full of regret. How do we emerge from the shadows of disappointment… the gloom of unmet expectations?

⇒   Give all to God in prayer

First and foremost, remember… we have a God of infinite mercy. Give all your disappointments over to Him in prayer… your heartaches, disillusionments, unmet expectations, letdowns, regrets. Give Him all the accompanying negative emotions that have clouded your sky. Ask Him to replace them with His perfect peace. Allow Him to lead you from joyless gloom into the brightness of His infinite hope.

⇒   Take time to heal and count your blessings

When disappointments occur, we may need to take time to grieve. Spend time with the Lord and allow Him to comfort you. He will help you see everything from His perspective rather than our limited viewpoint. Adopt an attitude of gratitude. Search for what is good… in life, in people, in ourselves. Praise and thank God for all His blessings that far outweigh any disappointments.

⇒   Deal with disappointments as they occur

Disappointments that linger can sap our spiritual strength and steal our joy. Allowing disappointments to accumulate will burden our spirit and open the door for bitterness to take root. Let any disappointment go as soon as you become aware of it by releasing it in prayer. Ask God to help you move on. Place your absolute trust in Him alone to defeat the disappointments in your life.

⇒   Set realistic expectations… of others, of yourself, of life

Realize that life is not perfect… nor are we. Life and people will never live up to our high expectations. Reassess your expectations and set ones that are attainable. Move into the freedom of looking at life realistically rather than how you think it should be. Recognize others’ limitations as well as your own. Learn to love others for who they are rather than who you want them to be. Give them, and yourself, the grace that we have so abundantly received from our Lord.

⇒   Let disappointments strengthen your faith

Disappointments are unavoidable in life. We can let them get the best of us and dwell on our losses. Or we can rise above them, move out of the shadows and leave the past in the past. God is working out His perfect plan in your life that will be for your very best. Ask Him to renew and strengthen your faith. Set all your expectations and your hope in Him. For He is the only One who will never disappoint.