I’ve recently faced a disappointment which led to what seems to be a dead-end that presents itself as another disappointment. The obvious question running through my mind is “now what?” Without really directing it to God, He responds, “wait.” So, here’s how the conversation goes:
Me: Now what?
Me: I wasn’t talking to you.
God: Just wait.
Me: Well, then what?
Me: Ok, I get it. But what do I do while I wait?
God: Just wait.
Can you see how this would be frustrating? If you pray regularly, it’s likely you’ve had a similar conversation with God. It’s kind of like we’re sitting down to coffee and God is just sitting there smiling at me saying, “I know something you don’t know” with His eyes. Your eyes say back to Him, “Come on. Really?”
So, there are two questions that arise with these circumstances–”How do I deal with disappointment?” and, “What do I do while I’m waiting for the answer?”
It’s All Loss
Whether the disappointment is loss of a relationship, loss of a loved one, loss of a great job opportunity, loss of the chance to have a child, loss of the opportunity to get into the school or program of your dreams, or whatever; it’s all a loss. With loss comes grieving. Yes, while grieving is often associated with death, I think that we also grieve over other losses. It’s all the same process. Shock, denial, anger, sorrow, and acceptance are part of the process for anything from a break-up to getting laid off. So, what’s the best way to work through that process?
First, we realize that there’s a time and place for all those things. It’s not a sin to be angry. God was angry a lot. This you know if you ever read any of the Old Testament. It’s what you do with that anger that is important. Do you lash out at others or do you take those raw, unedited emotions to God and hash it out with Him?
Sometimes we are afraid to go to God with anything but praise, “Oh you wonderful, mighty God, thank you for your grace and everlasting presence.” God sees right through it. I think the best way to connect to God through those times when you are angry about your circumstances is to be honest with Him. He knows you are angry and He doesn’t need you to tell Him so. However, by going through the process of confessing how you are really feeling to the all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present Creator, one experiences a great cleansing.
Taking the Ugly to God
When I really have a matter to take up with God, I write out what I have to say to him in letter form, by my own hand (the old fashioned pen and paper way). By doing this, I am truly owning what’s going on inside my mind and heart. I usually then end up also receiving God’s grace as I write.
The beginning of my letter is ugly and full of things that are awkward and uncomfortable. They are full of raw emotion, and seemingly unspiritual. However, by getting out the ugly, I can make room for the beauty of God’s redemption in my brokenness and, therefore, to receive God’s grace and mercy. I end up ending my letter with acknowledging that God is all-knowing and purposeful in what He allows His children to endure for the sake of a higher purpose.
Some passages that really help me during these times are:
Another great thing about regularly writing these prayers down is that I can go back and look at them. I usually find myself saying, “If only I knew then, what I knew now,” because as we strive for obedience in Christ through the Holy Spirit, we are refined and find that if we always got what we wanted in the moment, we’d miss out on the greater things God has for us in the future.
I can’t tell you how many people I know who desire to have a baby but have a hard time conceiving. Then, once they finally get pregnant, or make that decision to adopt, God blesses them with not just one child, but a second child conceived naturally, without drugs or fertility treatments. I can’ tell you how many times I’ve looked back on my life and thought to myself, “If God had given me that little thing I wanted back then, I wouldn’t have this huge blessing I have before me now.”
Accept, Wait, and Receive
Accepting the circumstances of a disappointment doesn’t mean that we’re ok with it. Accepting a disappointment just means that we’re acknowledging that I am a small little speck compared to God’s greatness and, as His child, I know that His plan is bigger than my plan. That ever popular proverb always comes to me–”Trust not in my own understanding, but acknowledge God and He will direct my path.”
I am one of the least patient people I know. This impatience comes from a lack of trust in God and His plan for me. However, the more I’ve asked God to give me the strength to endure the long-suffering of patience, the more I’ve been blessed because of it and the more trusting I’ve become of God. My husband teases me all the time that I want “everything right now,” and how unrealistic that is. Let’s be honest, waiting for “God’s timing” isn’t fun; nor is it supposed to be.
So, what does one do while waiting for the uncertainty of God’s timing? The most important thing I’ve learned about being patient is that it doesn’t come by just sitting around and waiting. It comes by trusting that God is in control and knows best, so in the meantime I can be productive by continuing to seek Him daily. I can have a hard time stepping back from all of my long-range goals and plans to see the day-to-day obedience which is so important in patience.
If I sit and watch out the window for a good friend to arrive for coffee, I will get frustrated with not seeing her walk up the path. However, if I’m busy around the house preparing for her arrival, she’ll come sooner than I anticipated. So, while we can miss Jesus, like Martha did as she busied herself in the kitchen after his arrival, it’s also important to take Martha’s lead in preparing for his arrival while we are waiting. That just means being faithful, doing what is right in the day-to-day, so that when God does show up and bless us with something we desire, we are ready to receive Him.
The Reward of Faithfulness
I was recently at a weekend camp with the middle school students from my church. On Saturday afternoon, the kids had free-time to enjoy the many activities of the camp. There were two activities that were especially popular, so the lines were very long and the students had to wait up to an hour to enjoy the activity. One of the girls in my group was so excited that she kept hopping from line to line out of impatience.
After about an hour of this, she complained that she just wasted all this time and hadn’t been able to do either activity, plus she also wanted time to go swimming. I encouraged her to get in line for the activity that she wanted to do most and be patient while she waited in the line. We talked, made jokes, and cheered on the other kids as they faced the challenges of the activities. Eventually she made it through the line and afterwards said, “That was really worth the wait!”
By the time she got done with the first activity, the line had died down in the second activity and she was able to join right in. She still had time to spare to enjoy swimming with her friends. I pointed out to her that because she was patient and waited for one good thing, she was able to enjoy all the good things laid out before her.
While this is a simple story of a child’s impatience, I think this applies to most of life. If we jump around trying to get all of our desires met, we are often disappointed. But if we are faithful to what matters most, we are often blessed beyond measure.
Oh, and that big disappointment I so wrestled with? A few months have gone by and what I was expecting as a really big life change that would alter the course of my life became a small adjustment that allowed me to remain just where I was…only happier.