Have you ever been disappointed? Really disappointed? Maybe you watched as your dreams crashed and burnt, or perhaps someone you loved and trusted let you down.
These past two years have been twenty-four months of disappointments. Disappointments as birthday parties were cancelled, hockey tournaments were cancelled, weddings were cancelled, and funerals were cancelled.
I am sure that two weeks ago when the premier and Dr. Strang appeared in their press conference to let Nova Scotians know that the mask mandate would remain in place in the schools for another month, there were a lot of disappointed children and parents. And others were relieved instead of disappointed.
I’m sure that at this point in history the people of Israel were feeling a little disappointed. They had come out of Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, followed the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, were fed with manna and quail, they watched as Moses made water come out of the rock and now they weren’t going to be allowed to enter the Promised Land.
Now you know and I know that it was their own fault. It was their murmuring and complaining that kept them from seeing what could have been theirs. But if there is no sympathy for the group as a whole think about how Joshua and Caleb must have been feeling at this point.
Remember the story from Numbers 14:7–8 They said to all the people of Israel, “The land we traveled through and explored is a wonderful land! And if the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us safely into that land and give it to us. It is a rich land flowing with milk and honey.
These two guys were so excited about what the future had in store for them and the nation of Israel. They had seen the Promised Land. They had walked across its lush plains and they had tasted it’s fruit.
They were excited and they shared that excitement with the people of Israel, casting a vision contrasting their present reality with their preferred future.
And listen to the response of the people. Numbers 14:10 But the whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb.
When Angela and I were first married, late in the last century, we owned a couple of kittens. And one day the male, Mick, discovered a balloon on the floor of our living room and he started playing with it. He would bat it and then chase it across the carpet, he was having a ball. Now I knew what was going to happen, but having a slight nasty streak decided to let things progress on their own.
Well eventually Mick cornered the illusive beast and pounced with every one of those needle-sharp kitten claws extended. And with a bang his prey disappeared. The bang set him back a bit but the look of disappointment on his face when his plaything disappeared was so sad.
Joshua and Caleb had had their balloon burst. They were disappointed as they watched their dreams feel apart.
If you’ve been there, then you know what I’m talking about. At some time or another in your life, you have had dreams come crashing down. Perhaps it was a job or promotion that didn’t materialize like you thought it would or a dream that you’ve never seen fulfilled. Maybe it was just a delay or maybe it was a complete stop.
I am convinced the more vivid the vision the greater the disappointment should the vision fail to materialize. Author Eric Hoffer said, “Disappointment is a sort of bankruptcy — the bankruptcy of a soul that expends too much in hope and expectation.”
The bankruptcy of a soul that expends too much in hope and expectation. If you’ve felt it, you know how apt that description is. I’m sure that there were others in Israel who were disappointed as well but because they hadn’t been so passionate about the dream the disappointment wasn’t as crushing.
We’ve all had disappointments, in our education, our careers, our marriages and our spiritual lives. But how we deal with our disappointments will determine whether they destroy us or make us stronger.
1) Disappointments Sometimes are Only Delays. Who says that every setback has to be final?
Even though Joshua and Caleb couldn’t enter the promised land when they wanted to do mean they never got there. And when they did it was just as beautiful as they had remembered.
We pick up the story with God telling Joshua in Joshua 1:2–5 “Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you— from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’ No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.
For many of you, Cornerstone has always been here and has always had a building. But that wasn’t always the reality.
For the first ten years we were nomads. We met at the Lebrun Centre in Bedford, we met at Basinview School, we met at Berkeley in Bedford, we met in a building on memory lane in Sackville. And for those ten years part of what I did on a regular basis was looking for land.
This wasn’t the first piece of property that we put an offer on to build this church. And this wasn’t the church we first intended to build, and when things didn’t work out on property 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 I was disappointed. But in retrospect this was better than all the other ones and if we had of gotten 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 we wouldn’t have had this property.
Even though you may not be able to enjoy the taste of victory today doesn’t mean you won’t taste it tomorrow. You may have to reshuffle your plans, you may have to rearrange your priorities, but disappointments don’t have to be final. The anticipation can be as much fun as the arrival. That delay may give you the extra time you need for more planning.
2) Disappointments Should be Educational Many times we can actually learn from our setbacks. I never make a mistake that I don’t try and learn something from it. And I am convinced that we never learn nearly as much from our successes as we do from our failures. Now I know that it’s a lot more fun to learn from our success, but we don’t learn as much.
As many mistakes as each one of us make, as many disappointments as we experience in our lives it would be one of the greatest wastes of resources in the world if we failed to learn from those mistakes and disappointments that come our way.
Babe Ruth is famous for his past home run record, but for decades he also held the record for strikeouts. He hit 714 home runs and struck out 1,330 times in his career when asked about it he said, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”
Sometimes the delays that we experience provide time for reflection and self-examination in that it provides us with a learning opportunity.
In 1990 we uprooted our family and moved from the booming metropolis of Truro to Brisbane Australia with a population of 1.75 million people who all drove on the wrong side of the road. Now not being one to shun a challenge we immediately made plans to drive into the centre of the city, actually, the plans had already been made for us, but we were game to try. So armed with our trust referdex, which was simply a fancy name for a book of street maps we ventured into the valley, as downtown Brisbane was called.
And it was there that I discovered the benefits of stop signs and red lights. Although they did slow me down, they allowed me to sneak a look in the book and find out where we were. Because with traffic going in all directions, I needed the opportunity to stop and get my bearings. Sometimes the disappointments in our lives are stop signs that allow us to get our bearings. And sometimes they prevent us from continuing in the wrong direction.
God reminds us in Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God!”
Sometimes it takes a disappointment to slow us down so we can actually hear what God has to say to us.
It is only when you can’t learn or are unwilling to learn from life’s disappointments that they become failures. And when we stop, we need to look at what we have experienced and ask the big question; Why?
What caused this to happen? Can I correct it? If it can be corrected, then do it. Maybe the reason you didn’t get that job you wanted was that you showed up in ratty clothes needing a haircut and mouthwash.
You can learn from that experience and change things for a more favourable outcome.
Or perhaps you wanted to play basketball in the NBA but you’re only 5’2’’ then you might want to look for a different calling because some things you can’t change.
3) Disappointments Can be Times of Adjustment Too many times life becomes boring and routine. We are in a rut, and we all know what a rut is right? Right, a rut is simply a grave with both ends kicked out.
Day after day we do the same thing. Day in and day out we are content to simply continue doing the familiar. And it’s only when disappointments come that we look at these experiences and re-evaluate the way we’ve been doing things. Some of our greatest moments happen because we are forced out of our pattern of repetition by disappointment.
20 years ago, we had a series of events that resulted in a downturn in our attendance and revenue at Cornerstone.
It was the first time we did Step-Up Cornerstone, and when we complied the estimate of giving cards, we discovered we couldn’t afford a full-time pastor.
It was a disappointment for me. In order for us to continue, we decided that the best option was for me to look for an outside source of income. That was a disappointment for me; I didn’t really relish the thoughts of having two jobs.
As a result of that setback, I ended up writing for six different magazines, something I would never have done without that disappointment, and I was also offered a position as adjunct faculty at Kingswood University in New Brunswick, which led to me teaching in Ghana.
And I discovered that not only do I enjoy teaching, but I’m not bad at it either.
You’ve heard this before; Red Green said, “You are not good at something just because you enjoy it. Karaoke has proved that. To my way of thinking, you are not good at something because you enjoy it; rather you enjoy something because you are good at it.”
The disappointment that led to those offers wasn’t fun. I did not enjoy it one little bit, but the adjustments that we made, as a result, have been a real bonus for Denn.
At the time of a disappointment, it’s always wise to examine the events surrounding the disappointment and see if you need to make adjustments.
Many churches and pastors have chosen to accept disappointment as the norm rather than changing traditional behaviour. Anytime we begin to fail in evangelism, in seeing people won to Jesus Christ, in attracting people to our church, we need to stop and ask: Why? Tradition is good as long as tradition is effective. And it doesn’t have to be old to be a tradition. Cornerstone has only been around for twenty-eight years, but we already have our traditions.
It is unfortunate that many people have gone to hell through the years because ineffective church programs have become sacred cows. And there are times we need to discover that sacred cows make the best hamburgers.
It has been interesting to talk to other pastors over the past two years to discover how many sacred cows have died a COVID-related death.
Every program, every custom, every tradition, and every facility must be examined from time to time to make sure they are still doing the primary function and objective, and that has been, and should remain to be glorifying God and bringing a lost and dying world to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
And sometimes, it takes a disappointment in a program before we make a change. And sometimes it takes a disappointment in your job for you to evaluate your position and your performance. And sometimes, it takes a disappointment with your children to adjust your child-rearing techniques.
We have to recognize those disappointments and, instead of whining, adjust.
4) Disappointments Can be Pace Setters. Often after a professional athlete has injured themselves, they return to their sport too soon only to discover that the injury still hurts. Although the pain is a disappointment, it is essential to set the proper pace for the athlete’s development and complete healing.
At first, they are disappointed because their fastball isn’t as fast as it used to be. Their slap shot isn’t as hard as it used to be, and their jump shot isn’t as high as it used to be.
But it will, through time and care, eventually heal to pre-injury capabilities.
But sometimes, there is physical healing but not a mental healing. When I was a teenager, I owned a horse, a fact which Deborah reminded me of constantly, usually with words like “How come I can’t have a horse you used to?” To which I reminded her that my horse was a free horse. At least that was the initial cost, as my father was fond of reminding me.
The reason Extra Time was a free horse was because he was a standard bred racehorse who had been hurt. In 1972 his best time was 2 08 for a mile, but during a race, he stumbled and fell and pulled his chest muscles. The vets claimed that he was completely healed, but he never got his speed back.
Sometimes we get hurt emotionally or spiritually, and we never get over the disappointment, and we don’t ever grow any further unless we take the time to recover.
In the growth cycle of a church, they usually grow, plateau, grow, plateau, and so on. Plateaus will always be disappointing, and sometimes if not corrected, they will become a downward trend.
But sometimes, the reason that churches plateau is it is pace-setting. If a church grows too fast for too long, it gets out of balance and becomes top-heavy with new Christians. But after a church takes the time to disciple and assimilates those people, they are ready to grow again.
What might be seen as a disappointment is actually helpful in their long-term growth.
5) Disappointments Sometimes are Necessary I love good weather. I love the sun, and I love the warmth. I’m not totally a Grinch when it comes to weather; I love a white Christmas; in my world, it would start to snow at midnight on Christmas Eve and then warm up to 27 degrees Celsius on December 27th.
The year we moved to Australia we had 93 days without seeing a cloud. I thought I was in Paradise. The result of that beautiful weather? The grass got brown, the flowers died, the water supply got low.
The farmers of Queensland weren’t nearly as impressed with the weather as I was. Nature cannot survive as we know it without rain.
In the 1970’s there was a song out the lyrics were “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden, along with the sunshine there has to be a little rain sometimes.” And such is life. For total complete full development, we need to have different types of experiences come our way. There is no way we can exhibit the fruit of maturity in our life without the rain of disappointment. A land without rain is called a desert.
Some of life’s greatest virtues: faith, hope, patience, and perseverance only come our way through disappointment. Only then will you discover that every problem has a solution. Only when you have met with disappointment and overcome it will you develop the ingredients in your character to seek a solution instead of being perplexed by the problem.
6) Disappointments are Normal Don’t take disappointments personally. Our normal reaction is “Why?” or “How could this happen to me?”
Way back when Canadian Idol was still a thing my cousins’ daughter auditioned and didn’t make the cut and I’m sure that when Jackie didn’t move on to the next level of competition, she wondered how it could have happened to her.
Well, it also happened to over 800 other people, she wasn’t the only person to go away disappointed that day.
When things go wrong it doesn’t mean that God’s out to get you. That’s life. Disappointments happen.
But disappointments do not have a negative or a positive impact in themselves. Instead, it is our reaction to those disappointments that make them either negative or positive.
2 people can have exactly the same disappointment and end up with two completely different outcomes. It is how we handle our disappointments that will determine our success. Some people are motivated by disappointments; others are destroyed by their disappointments.
How you act and react to life and its many disappointments usually indicate who you are and what you can become. Henry Ward Beecher stated, “One’s best success comes after their greatest disappointments.” You don’t have to guess how he dealt with disappointments.
I wonder if Mario Andretti the race car driver ever had to face disappointments.
I wonder if he ever lost a race.
Listen to what he said “Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal. Prepare yourself in every way you can by increasing your knowledge and adding to your experience, so that you can make the most of opportunity when it occurs.”
How do you view disappointments? As steppingstones or as stumbling blocks? Do they strengthen your faith or weaken your faith? Do they draw you nearer to God or push you farther away from God? The choice is yours and yours alone.
I don’t know what disappointments you are facing today but I’d like to pray for you. Because here is God’s promise for you today Psalm 30:5 Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Did you catch it? Weeping may remain for a night. It may, but for sure, rejoicing will come in the morning.