rebelling against low expectations

How Should We Respond to Disappointment?

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As I am writing this, COVID-19 has made its mark on society.

Closures, cancellations, and postponements are perhaps some of the most significant ways it has changed our society. Workplaces have closed, churches have paused their gatherings, and large events have been cancelled, all in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. Many are at home, quarantining, with both their day-to-day and once-in-a-lifetime plans put on hold.

This is, in a word, disappointing.

But we can’t stay there. How should we respond to our disappointment?

Defining Disappointment

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines disappointment as “defeated in expectation or hope.”

Disappointment happens when we have made plans, held expectations, dreamed, and hoped. Then, those expectations and hopes fail to come through. They fail to fulfill. Our plans and dreams are often good things. Those plans for that party, those expectations for that person, that excitement for the life-milestone are not necessarily bad!

Nonetheless, disappointment springs from those very plans undone, expectations unfulfilled, dreams unachieved, and hopes unrealized. This is disappointment, and its sting is part of our human experience. It’s impossible to escape some form of disappointment in life—especially in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.

The question isn’t Will I be disappointed? But rather What will I say when disappointment comes knocking?

Disappointment versus Hope

If disappointment is the “defeat of hope,” then hope is how we can victoriously respond to our disappointment. May hope be the defeat of our disappointment.

But what should we place our hope in? If we place our hope in the wrong things, we’re setting ourselves up for another cycle of disappointment. We need a hope that won’t fail us.

Paul writes in Romans 8:18 “that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” We groan alongside creation waiting for glory (Romans 8:22-23). And we have hope for this glory! Paul says that it is in the hope of “the redemption of our bodies” that we are saved (8:23). Earlier in his letter, Paul says that,

“…we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:2-5)

God has poured his love into our hearts by his Spirit. God’s love is displayed in his sacrificing his only Son for our sin that we might be his, ransomed from our transgressions. In Christ, we have obtained access into grace and we can rejoice in hope.

In hope of what? “…in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2).

Earthly disappointments will come—the cancelled celebration, the weekly joys and highs and lows that are part of normal life—but may we remember through them that we have a hope that transcends “this light momentary affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17). Our earthly cares may bring disappointment, but we have a Heavenly hope beyond them all.

Our Finitude

Disappointment reminds us that we are finite creatures—created and limited in knowledge. But God is our infinite creator. He knows every one of our days “when as yet there were none of them” (Ps. 139:16). He is the great author who, writing his story, knows exactly what will happen from the prologue to the epilogue, from Chapter 1 to “The End.”

We, on the other hand, are not the author, but characters—his creatures. As much as we may plan, hope, and dream, God is the sovereign storywriter. We must remember: he delights in his glory, not in killing our joy. If we truly understand his nature and goodness, we’ll understand that he desires good things for us. So, we can trust that when he says “No” to our plans and takes us on a different course, it is for our good.

Right that now we’re reminded more than ever that we’re not in control—but God is. All our cancellations, disappointments, and even our fears can help us return to the Author of our stories, entrusting ourselves to his good and faithful authorship as disappointment unveils its face.

God’s Working in All Things

The classic text here is Romans 8:28: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

These words importantly continue to verses 29-30. What is the good which God works all things together for? It is that “those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son … And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom. 8:29-30).

God is sovereign over every stage of redemption and will bring it to completion (Phil. 1:6), and God always works for our good: conforming us to the image of his Son and bringing us to glory. Although COVID-19 has paused our jobs, postponed our celebrations, and placed people six feet away, we have hope in remembering that we are children of a sovereign God who is working ultimate good for us. COVID stands no chance in foiling the plans of our God.

Although we have faced, will face, and are facing disappointment in this world, we have every reason to take heart. As children of God purchased by the blood of Christ, we have confidence in a wonderful future. No matter our plans here on earth—fulfilled or not—our hope in heaven remains fixed.

Thus, we challenge disappointment’s word with hope. We challenge its threat to our joy by rejoicing in our sovereign God. I encourage you to give thanks to the God who gives good gifts to His creatures (Jam. 1:17), and when disappointment comes, to submit it to hoping and rejoicing in our glorious God.We challenge disappointment’s word with hope. We challenge its threat to our joy by rejoicing in our sovereign God. Click To Tweet

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Rom. 15:13).


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About the author

Michael Longerbeam

is a freshman in college and young writer from northern Virginia. He began high school despising literature but graduated from it desiring to pursue an education in the humanities, particularly literature. He enjoys reading literature, history, and theology then discussing and writing about what he reads. You can check out some of his other writing at Soli Deo Gloria.

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rebelling against low expectations

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