Have you made big plans that turned into an even bigger disappointment? How do you remain hopeful when things don’t go as you desired?
If this hasn’t happened to you, yet, I’m sure you’ve seen it happen many times over.
What shattered dreams do you have? Did you plan to be married by now? Were you expecting to have made partner already? Have you let your kids down again because you couldn’t take them on a dream vacation? Is your marriage less than what you hoped?
Author Larry Crabb says this about shattered dreams:
“God is always working to make His children aware of a dream that remains alive beneath the rubble of every shattered dream, a new dream that when realized will release a new song, sung with tears, till God wipes them away and we sing with nothing but joy in our hearts.”Larry Crabb, Shattered Dreams
4 ways to turn disappointment into gratitude:
#1: God has a bigger purpose than your plans
Proverbs 19:21 says, “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” Our plans are always subordinate to God’s purposes. In fact, Proverbs also tells us, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (16:9).
Pastor Craig Groeschel tells the story of planning to get a scholarship to play Division I tennis and how he saw that dream disappear in a mere 45-minute tennis match. He now sees how that failure made it possible for him to meet Jesus, find his wife, and start a church. But at the time he was sorely disappointed. Now he’s eternally grateful.
When we think we know better than God, we’re walking on thin ice. Thankfully, God has bigger and better purposes for our lives. That doesn’t mean we’ll see those plans emerge immediately. More often it takes years before we get a glimpse.
Prayer: God, I thank you that your plans are perfect and far superior to anything I could conceive.
#2: Disappointment isn’t God’s goal
A rich man approached Jesus and called him, “Good Teacher.” Jesus’ response baffles us, “‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus asked. ‘Only God is truly good’” (Mark 10:18 NLT). Of course, Jesus is God so we can know that he is good. But I want you to notice that he says ONLY God is truly good.
If God is good, would he plan to create a life of disappointment and disillusionment for you? No, but he might allow these things to teach us.
If God is truly good, wouldn’t his plans also be ultimately good? Yes, of course.
In his book When God’s Ways Make No Sense, Larry Crabb quips, “If God is good, what’s he good for?” When you’re fighting cancer for the third time, struggling in your marriage, or facing unemployment it can seem like God is anything but good.
When teaching about conflict resolution, one of the things I remind people is to “believe the best” about the other person. While working with team members, we sometimes need to remember we’re all working toward the same goal.
Isn’t that even more true of God? We’re on his team and he’s always good, so we can know he really does have our best interests in mind.
Crabb challenges us to see that God’s ultimate goal is to make us into “little Christs” as C.S. Lewis put it, to make us more like Jesus. Since that’s his goal, it makes sense that he uses disappointment as part of that process.
#3: We don’t need to understand God’s purposes to trust him
We live in a world where social media seems to give us permission to question and challenge the decisions of anyone and everything. Including God. There’s a difference between questioning the decisions of a leader versus God’s decrees. We’re out of our league when we question God.
I’m not saying we can’t ask God questions, but the defiant questioning of his authority doesn’t play out well.
Remember how well that went for Job? After numerous discussions between Job and his family and friends, God comes on stage and starts to question Job:
“Who is this that questions my wisdomJob 38:1-2 NLT
with such ignorant words?
Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you,
and you must answer them.
For four chapters God asks Job question after question after question. Job is left speechless. He then humbles himself, “I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.” Then he concluded by saying, “I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”.
While we might understand a microcosm of God’s universe, even the accumulation of all human wisdom will never be more than a speck compared to the wisdom of God. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to learn and understand God’s ways, it’s just saying we can trust God’s infinite wisdom.
Steven Curtis Chapman put it well in his song “God is God” where the refrain says, “God is God and I am not”:
#4: Ask God to teach us gratitude in the midst of disappointment
It’s far easier to be grateful when things are going well. When disappointment crashes in and we’re facing the messiness of life, we’re still called to give thanks. Author Alicia Bruxvoortj says it well, “God might be making something marvelous out of your mess.”
Paul didn’t say, “Give thanks in all circumstances EXCEPT when you don’t feel like it or when things aren’t going so well.” We’re called to give thanks especially when we don’t feel like it.
We need to ask God to teach us how. It’s for our good.
Take your gratitude journal on a journey. Write down a list of 5 times you’ve been disappointed in your life. Choose one of these and identify 3 benefits that have emerged. If you can’t see any yet, either choose one of the other disappointments or go deeper by asking these questions:
- How could this have been worse?
- What’s the worst thing that could have happened if my plans had succeeded?
- What’s the best thing that has happened since my plans failed?
- What is made possible since my plans failed?
Lord, I’m grateful that you are God and I am not. Thank you for maintaining perfect control over all things, including my life. Forgive my doubt and my resentment. Teach me to see a little bit more of what you see and show me how to be thankful in all circumstances. I trust you with my life and ask you to use me however you desire. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.