Dealing With Disappointment and Discouragement

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Most parents thoroughly enjoy pleasing their children. There’s nothing like causing a child to smile or laugh in delight. But even the best and most well-meaning parents have to say no to their children sometimes.

We can’t have candy now because dinner is almost ready. If you eat candy now, you won’t want your dinner.

In a few minutes we need to put away toys and get ready for bed.

I’m sorry, we can’t go to the splashpad today. It’s too cold.

No matter how kindly these things are said, the disappointment still stings sometimes, and for the very young, diversion sometimes helps. But as children mature, parents expect them to handle some level of everyday disappointment with some maturity. Of course, the disappointments can escalate (a broken heart, not making the team or the cast, feeling left out of a group) and will need more counsel and comfort.

Like our pint-sized counterparts, we all have to face disappointments and the accompanying discouragement. A lot of it boils down to not getting what we want: The promotion went to someone else, the loan was denied, our love interest loves someone else. For me recently, I had gone to an appointment quite discouraged because it was six weeks post-op, and I thought everything was supposed to be healed and functioning well at that point, and it wasn’t. I thought I would have to face another procedure, which I had really wanted to avoid. But the doctor said everything was progressing like it should. Even so, I felt down for several days and couldn’t figure out what the problem was until I realized it was just the disappointment not being “done” with this issue by now as I had thought I would be.

Sometimes the disappointment is due to misinformation, as in my case. Sometimes it’s a mistaken impression of what we need. Like a child who needs to get ready for bed because his parents know he needs rest and can see he is dangerously close to a meltdown, our heavenly Father knows that the thing we want, while not wrong in itself, is not what we need right now. Sometimes disappointment comes when other people don’t live up to our expectations or want something different from what we want. Sometimes other people are blissfully unaware or downright cruel. Sometimes it’s getting something we don’t want – an illness or an annoying neighbor.

Whatever the cause of disappointment, we need to put it in perspective. We had the wrong information: ok, we factor in the new information and adjust. We didn’t get something we wanted: then that was not meant for us, and something else is. Perhaps God withheld it for that exact reason, because He has something better waiting for the right time. In a book I am reading, the author was disappointed at not being asked to minister in her new church in a particular way (music), but then an opportunity opened up to minister in a different way (teaching) that she found she loved and thrived in. If it involves an opportunity, job, or person, then we continue to grow and develop and seek out new opportunities while praying for guidance. If it involves a failure, we examine it to see where things broke down so we can learn and grow from it. Christina Rossetti said, “A fall is not a signal to lie wallowing, but to rise.” Conflict resolution could take a whole different post, but if our disappointment involves disagreement with another person, we seek to resolve it in the best way possible. We’re not doormats, never having an opinion or a will of our own, but we also realize the universe does not revolve around us, that there has to be some give and take in a relationship. If another has failed us, we seek God’s help to be gracious, remembering the times that we have failed as well, forgive as we have been forgiven. Sometimes we’re disappointed in what we did receive: When I got transverse myelitis, I sometimes lamented to the Lord that surely I could serve Him better without it. But he showed me that limitations don’t hinder ministry: they just define it. Some disappointments come just because we live in a fallen world: this isn’t heaven.

It might take a while for our feelings to catch up with the perspective we’re trying to gain and maintain. It’s not wrong to grieve over a disappointment, but we can “feed” it and hang onto it longer than necessary. As we take our thoughts captive and remind ourselves of truth, eventually the feelings will lessen. Maybe someday we’ll see why we were denied what we wanted; maybe we’ll even rejoice at the direction that disappointment led us, like the author we mentioned. Maybe we’ll never know this side of heaven.

But we can trust our kind, loving, and wise Father and bring all our concerns to Him.

One more thought: I’ve read a number of articles that seem to indicate that whatever we have a problem with, it’s due to our making an idol out of it. If I am disappointed that my children aren’t obeying, I have made an idol out of being a perfect parent; I am disappointed at not getting that item or opportunity because I had set it up as an idol in my heart. Now, that may be the case. We’re all too prone to idol-making of some kind. But disappointment does not necessarily indicate a lurking tendency to idolatry. Consider David’s words in Psalm 142, written when he was hiding in cave and dealing with disappointments on several fronts:

1 I cried unto the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication.

I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble.

When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me.

I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.

I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.

Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I.

Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.

As with so many of the psalms, David poured out his heart to God, reminded himself of the truth he knew, encouraged himself in the Lord, and renewed his hope in Him. Asaph and others did as well. And by God’s grace we can do the same.

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Glimpses, Soul Survival, Wise Woman, Tell His Story, Faith on Fire)

***Please note, I am not talking in this post about clinical depression. Though the principles discussed will help, depression is a bigger issue needing more than encouragement and perspective. If you feel you may be suffering from depression, please see your doctor. Likewise, deep grief, like the loss of a loved one, is a bigger issue than disappointment and discouragement, and though many of the truths here still apply, dealing with grief is more involved.

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6 thoughts on “Dealing With Disappointment and Discouragement

  1. This was such a wise post. I also had to learn that what works for one child may differ from another. As an adult we still have disappointment but it is truly a comfort to have a Savior who never disappoints.
    Have a wonderful week!

  2. I like what you said about “idols.” While I do believe that disappointment (especially, when it seems dibilitating) can reveal things that we want too much, I think we can be disappointed over the events of life and growing as we turn those disappointments over to the One who never lets us down.

  3. Such good thoughts here. I especially appreciate the bit at the end. I too have often heard things to the effect of disappointment meaning we’ve made an idol of something. Sometimes maybe — but often, this seems to be “piling on” and making people feel even worse/guiltier than they already do.

  4. Thank you for the encouragement and good reminders that your words are here! I am currently in a season of weariness, and these words especially touched me as I am learning to let the Lord pace my days: “Like a child who needs to get ready for bed because his parents know he needs rest and can see he is dangerously close to a meltdown, our heavenly Father knows that the thing we want, while not wrong in itself, is not what we need right now.” While I may grow disappointed in the “No, not now,” when He speaks it, He knows my inner state so much better than I do! I am so grateful that He continues to guide me, even in the midst of what may feel discouraging to me! He is working for our good. Blessings to you!

  5. Dear Barbara … thanks for talking about the reality of disappointments in our lives … sometimes they seem to come in waves, don’t they! It’s so easy to morph right into discouragement, isn’t it. I have to work hard to choose to veer into another, healthier direction.

    What a superb post! And oh, those Psalms. How God speaks to our hearts through David’s pen.

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