Processing Disappointment for the Glory of God
Life is full of disappointments. We have expectations of other people, ourselves, job situations, how our plans will play out, etc. If I were to ask you at the end of a day if you did not feel let down by people or circumstances, you would be hard-pressed to give an honest “no.” We all have expectations. This is natural and human. The issue, then, is not having expectations. The issue becomes, “What do I do with unfulfilled expectations?”
David, in the Psalms, dealt with unfulfilled expectations. In Psalm 13 he cries out to God, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long must I take counsel to my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2). David is not only dealing with unfulfilled expectations about his life circumstances but he is facing disappointment with God Himself. He feels utterly forgotten and abandoned by His Creator… as if God has failed in fulfilling His promises.
We also see this idea expressed in the book of Habakkuk. God has just revealed His plan of a Chaldean invasion of Israel to the prophet Habakkuk. Here’s Habakkuk’s response, “I hear and my body trembles; my lips quiver at the sound; rottenness enters into my bones; my legs tremble beneath me; yet I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us” (Habakkuk 3:16). Exile for God’s chosen people. This is not what Habakkuk was expecting of God, another unfulfilled expectation.
My natural inclination when looking at these verses in the Psalms and Habakkuk is to inwardly cringe and say, “Is it okay to be upset with God about my own unfulfilled expectations in how I expect God to work?” We get the answer to this question later in chapter thirteen of the Psalms. “But I have trusted in Your steadfast love, my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:5-6). Habakkuk has a similar response in 3:17-19, “Through the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places.” These verses serve as a powerful reminder of who God is and offers some incredible theology for us in our toughest times.
David and Habakkuk show us that, yes, it is okay to express anger towards God. However, we are not to stay in that anger. How do we put away anger towards God when life circumstances do not match up with what we expect of Him? The answer comes in Psalm 13:5-6 as well as Habakkuk 3:17-19: Trust. Rejoice. Sing.
Trust. Trust that God has a bigger plan for your life than your own earthly comfort… that He is ultimately concerned with your heart and soul being prepared for eternity with Him. This describes His steadfast love towards your heart. And the comforting thing? God works every single event in your life towards the good of you being made more into the image of Christ (Romans 8:28-29). Arthur W. Pink writes, “He foresaw my every fall, my every sin, my every backsliding; yet, nevertheless, fixed His heart upon me.” God has eternity in view as a context for your present situation. As people disappoint you, a job remains unstable, and even tangible items that we own fail us in their usefulness, it is all ordained by a sovereign God who delights in preparing our hearts for eternity. There is so much joy that comes through dwelling on these truths.
Rejoice. Joy is the natural outflow of trust in God. What are we to take “joy” in? David says, “My heart shall rejoice in your salvation” (Psalm 13:5). Habakkuk echoes this in verse eighteen of chapter three, “yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.” Our hearts are to find joy in the salvation of God. This is where true genuine joy is found. Believers should be the most joy-filled people on the planet. Unbelievers can experience happiness, but not deep, lasting, genuine joy that comes from a confidence in God and His plans for us. We see this echoed in Psalm 31:7-8, “I will rejoice and be glad in Your steadfast love, because You have seen my affliction; You have known the distress of my soul, and You have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a broad place.”
Sing. The last verb in Psalm 13 is to “sing,” to lift up our voices in praise to God for what He has done. David says in verse six, “I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:6). David’s reasoning goes from, “God, why are You silent and why have You cast me off?” to, “God has given me so much more than I deserve and this only through salvation and His bountiful love towards me.” Even when we do not “feel” these truths, it is still vitally important to remind ourselves of God’s character and His promises.
In conclusion, as we continue to process unfulfilled expectations, let us remember to always keep God as our central focus. He has given us so much more than can ever imagine as a free gift through the death of His Son. Let us rest in grace and trust in His divine goodness and sovereignty. Everything that God does is morally right and just. Even the minor disappointments in our everyday lives are opportunities to process for the glory of God.
Susan Anthony in her journals, wrote the following:
“For when the glory of God is my highest and desire; and I firmly believe that God, Who has the ordering of all my affairs, has this in view, namely, His own glory, well may I rejoice. For I have nothing to fear. He has infinite wisdom to direct, and almighty power to affect what He pleases, and therefore can never fail of His purposes. All His dispensations towards me, I would always realize, as the result of infinite wisdom and eternal counsel; and therefore most perfect. And though my proud rebellious heart dare rise up in opposition, and call into question His ways, yet through grace, I never leave struggling, until the conquest is gained and my soul submits to the scepter of Jesus.”
“Surely God has done and is doing great things.”
Brittany Proffitt lives in southern Ohio and holds a BA in Religion. She is passionate about Scripture and how God’s Word impacts individuals’ hearts and lives.