When Disappointment Comes…

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I received some upsetting news the other day.

As soon as I heard it, my heart started pounding and a cold chill swept through my body. I could barely process what I’d been told. It was completely unexpected. My first response was, “I can’t believe this is happening. Jesus, have mercy on me. And help me to respond well.”

When I had time to calm down and think through the next steps, my second response emerged. I asked God to fix the situation. Or, more accurately, to make it go away. I didn’t want to face it or walk through it. I wanted God to take it away, make it right, prevent me from suffering. That would be easiest for me.

And then came my third response. I’m not proud of it.

I thought: “Why me? Why do hard things always happen to me? Things were getting better – but now they are getting worse again. My life is filled with disappointment, but what more could I expect? My life never turns out well.”

I am ashamed as I write those words. Ashamed that I so easily fall into self-pity. Ashamed that I conveniently forget all of the incredible blessings the Lord has given me, particularly in the last year. When things are bad, I respond by complaining. Whining to God that my life is harder than other people’s.

I assume everyone else has perfect health. Fulfilling lives. Conflict-free relationships. Successful careers. Thriving children. Insignificant problems.

In short, I overestimate my problems and minimize other people’s struggles.

Now for a little perspective – this disappointing news was not life altering. It was difficult to hear, but not insurmountable. In the scheme of life it would be an insignificant event, but in the moment it was all-consuming.

So in the midst of my pity party, I call my sister. For those of you who don’t know her, she is my rock and my reality check. She reads and edits every one of my blogs and reminds me of truth when I forget it. She keeps me grounded.

So when I start ranting about how difficult my life is, she listens. She agrees it’s a hard situation. But then I start spiraling downhill, demanding, “Why me? Why is my life harder than everyone else’s?”

She pauses to choose her words carefully. “I know it’s incredibly difficult right now. And I will be praying continually for you. But don’t believe that your life is always harder than everyone else’s. Life is hard. For everyone. You don’t always know what others are going through.”

I sigh as I lean back in my chair. She’s right, of course. Her words remind me of the quote that I recently tacked on my door: Be Kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

Everyone struggles. Worries about their children. Has hard days. Faces disappointment. Feels inadequate. Makes mistakes they wish they could erase.

After I get off the phone with her, I remember Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ words, “Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?

And so I start talking.

I remind myself of all of the extravagant blessings the Lord has poured on my life. The unique blessings, such as my loving husband and my supportive family. And the spiritual ones, which are lavished on all believers, such as redemption, the forgiveness of sins, the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the promise of eternal life. We are given all of this along with countless other assurances from the Bible. Assurances like, “All things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8 helps me see that there is a bigger picture. I don’t see the full plan. I can only see today.

Remembering those verses puts my life in perspective. God is not surprised by disappointing news. He knows it all beforehand and uses it to conform me into His image.

As I reflect on the situation, and the character of God, my prayer changes. I am able to say: “Though I don’t understand this Lord, You have brought this situation into my life. Because of that, I know it is good. And I know that you will use it – both for my good and for Your glory. I want to trust You. Help me to do that.”

Every time I think about the situation, I decide to seek God in it. Rather than dwelling on the negative, I begin praying that God will use it. In my life. For others involved. To His glory.

This is not an easy prayer. It is a deliberate choice to push worry, anger and self-pity away. But as I seek the Lord and keep talking to Him, He enables me to take my thoughts captive. Slowly, my sense of desperation dissipates.

Recognizing that God is going to use this trial makes me feel calmer. Every time I think about the issue, rather than getting upset and anxious, I pray. I ask God to work in the situation. To redirect my emotions. To help me trust Him.

It’s easy for me to jump to conclusions. To think that a trying situation is going to lead to another and then another. I often extrapolate present difficulties into the future- which is the crux of not trusting God. Those difficulties may not ever present themselves, but even if they do, God’s grace will be there to meet me. Even if the worst happens, God will not fail me.

I wish I could remember that when problems first arise. I needlessly worry when I could be trusting God. I shouldn’t be surprised when trials come. The Bible says to expect them. They train me and refine me. They do deep work in my soul and reveal my character.

I do not know how this situation will end, but I do know that God brings beauty from ashes. No matter what happens, I know He will use it for my good and His glory.

There is no greater comfort on earth.

 

 

 

photo courtesy of Jonathan Davidar
  • June 12, 2015 - 9:17 am

    Rani - Dear Vaneetha,

    Thank you for just writing from your heart plainly inspite of all your struggles. God is good that He gives you the strength to encourage others. I am blessed to have known you through your writings. A friend of mine recently read an article of yours in desiring God and boy! She was so touched and I must say your articles do give a fresh perspective of God every time. That truly Gods Grace .ReplyCancel

    • June 12, 2015 - 10:54 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you for your encouragement, Rani. God is so good.ReplyCancel

  • June 12, 2015 - 9:42 am

    Christianna Hellwig - That was very helpful. Thank you! ~ I must be reminded of that more often. We are only being selfish when we imagine that we have it the worst of everyone else and I’m so thankful that God uses every trial for His glory!ReplyCancel

    • June 12, 2015 - 10:52 am

      Vaneetha - You are welcome, Christianna! I join you in being thankful that God uses all of our trials for His glory!ReplyCancel

  • June 12, 2015 - 10:18 am

    Debbie - You know, He has already used it for others and to His glory. Just like your last article, you can’t imagine what your words meant to me.ReplyCancel

    • June 12, 2015 - 10:51 am

      Vaneetha - So thankful that was helpful, Debbie. Every day I have to remind myself that whatever is happening is for my good and His glory!ReplyCancel

  • June 12, 2015 - 11:00 am

    Kelly Lessard - Your words speak to me like no one else’s. Every single one of your blog posts is like you are in my head. Needed THIS so much TODAY.ReplyCancel

    • June 12, 2015 - 11:08 am

      Vaneetha - Thank you, Kelly! So grateful the Lord is using this blog to speak to you. By the way- I needed this post today too. 🙂 I actually write to remind myself of the truth I know.ReplyCancel

  • June 12, 2015 - 1:03 pm

    jeri - I love the quote from Martin Lloyd-Jones it reminds me of Ephesians 5:19, Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord….
    It is OK to talk to myself!ReplyCancel

    • June 12, 2015 - 5:26 pm

      Vaneetha - I love that quote too, Jeri! Talking to myself is a lot more productive than listening to myself…ReplyCancel

  • June 12, 2015 - 1:12 pm

    Lola A. - “God is not surprised by disappointing news. He knows it all beforehand and uses it to conform me into His image.” YES!! Thank you for this sweet reminder. I often find myself freaking out when tough news comes. He’s teaching me and I’m sloooooooowly learning to redirect my thoughts toward prayer in these situations. Literally every day over the last few months, I’ve found myself saying, “God, I trust your heart for me.” He IS good and his heart is kind. Thank you for this post.ReplyCancel

    • June 12, 2015 - 5:19 pm

      Vaneetha - So thankful this was helpful, Lola. I often freak out when tough news comes- that’s pretty much my default attitude. I am glad for God’s gentle reminders that He is good in the midst of it all.ReplyCancel

  • June 12, 2015 - 3:08 pm

    Darlene Z. - Vaneetha,
    I can’t express the gratefulness I have towards your sensitivity towards God. Your life is an encouragement to someone like me. There are no words to explain how honored I am to have crossed paths with your blog.
    Your life is a testament of the loving grace God has on the broken. I am going through the most difficult time in my marriage and feel abandoned. Then I open your blog and read all the wonderful, encouraging words you so beautifully write about our savior. He truly is a good God, without a doubt.
    Thank you once again!ReplyCancel

    • June 12, 2015 - 5:17 pm

      Vaneetha - Darlene, I am so sorry that you are in going through a difficult time in your marriage. Those times can be excruciatingly lonely. So thankful that God is showing you His goodness in the midst of it all. He truly is a good God!ReplyCancel

  • June 12, 2015 - 3:20 pm

    Lauren Turnburke - Thank you, Vaneetha – your honesty is so refreshing in a world where social media portrays everyone living a “picture perfect” life. As women of faith, it’s so important to share both the good AND hard days…and be real with one another. That’s one reason I love your blog – you pour into others through your own experiences. I so appreciate your honest, heartfelt words!!ReplyCancel

  • June 13, 2015 - 1:12 am

    Julie Martin - My cancer returned and all the above came through my mind. It is not only cancer that is tough right now. Thank you for writing what your going through and how you are being encouraged so I can be encouraged. Keep Writing. God is good through it all.ReplyCancel

    • June 13, 2015 - 11:07 am

      Vaneetha - Oh Julie, I’m so very sorry. You are going through so much right now. I’m praying as I write this that God will be ever near to you as you walk through difficult days. So thankful that God used this post to encourage you.ReplyCancel

      • June 14, 2015 - 1:36 am

        Julie - Thank you for responding and joining our prayer team. We have so many friends, family members and even strangers praying for our family. Thank you for your posts.ReplyCancel

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