I suffered a huge disappointment in my life that still haunts me. I can’t shake the ache. How do I get over it?
You’re talking to the right person on that subject, my friend. Disappointment and broken dreams are desert roads I’ve traveled through most of my life. In some ways, I’m still walking that path, but I’ve learned to rename it. These days, I call it “Waiting on the Lord.”
I believe it’s safe to say that every person in human history understands our plight. The wise prophet Isaiah said this, “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary” (Isaiah 40:31, NASB.) We may have suffered disappointment when a sure-thing didn’t pan out; or when we assumed a person would remain true to us and they didn’t; or when we wrapped all of our hopes around that certain circumstance that suddenly went sideways. Yet with God these things are never a finality. Are you still above ground, breathing air? Still standing somehow, though broken and hurting—maybe walking with a limp? You’re in good company with all kinds of biblical giants of the faith. And your story, like Jacob’s, for example, isn’t done yet by a long shot.
It’s important to comfort ourselves with Bible stories when we’re down and out. I do this on a regular basis, but not because I’m a pastor. Decades before I was ever in a pulpit, I forced myself, often through devastating disappointment, to read the tale of Joseph, for example, in Genesis chapter thirty-seven. The poor boy had done nothing at all but shoot-off his mouth in front of his jealous brothers. The baby of the family, Joseph trusted his siblings to put up with him and protect him. Yet they sold him into slavery where he ended up in jail for years...innocent and broken; stripped of all dignity. Exactly. It was in those horrific, unfair, “Where’s God?” circumstances that Joseph became the man who saved nations and made history. His success was unconventional. It didn’t take the path we see in the movies. Nor does yours and neither does mine. God’s path for us is good, nonetheless, but there’s nothing God does that isn’t good. His unconventional plan is our true success.
Even when we suffer a death, is not the end either. Death of a person; death of a business; death of a relationship? God tells us over and over that sometimes something must die in order for the real dream and the real path of his plan to reveal itself. We don’t like this, of course. Matter of fact, we hate it and cry out, like Jesus did on the cross, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34) Yet where would any of us be if Jesus hadn’t gone through all that?
On our Christian journey we often come to an intersection: Do we trust God with every circumstance of our lives no matter what? Or do we walk away when the going gets tough and fester in bitterness, licking our wounds and claiming entitlement to a perfect life? We cannot control people or the decisions they make against us (not even God will invade the human will.) Even so, we must hang our hats on the belief in a God who holds our lives in his hands. A true Christ-follower will decide to trust God on the stormy seas, let go of the paddles in the boat of life and believe that somehow, some way, the goodness of God will prevail in our favor. Graham Cooke, a mentor of mine, put it like this: “God allows in his wisdom what he could easily prevent by his power.” Trust God’s choices for your life and stop asking the why-word. Asking God why things happen is usually not answered here on earth. We’ll know the reasons why when we get home. And it won’t matter then, anyway.
The only way to get over our mountains is through them. King David, God’s favorite person, wrote about this all the time in a book I highly recommend to you: The Psalms. In the Psalms we find life’s ups, the downs and numerous illustrations of how to set one’s mind on God (and not our disappointments.) Getting over something that happens to us; or something we regret; or a mistake that was made is simply a decision. We partner with the Devil when we allow what has occurred in the past to haunt us. If we’ve repented of our part, forgiven our enemies and embraced our God fully as we walk forward into the future, we then must stand on the truth, denying the Devil his mockery. This is truth between us and God: “Higher than the highest heavens— that’s how high your tender mercy extends! Greater than the grandeur of heaven above is the greatness of your loyal love, towering over all who fear you and bow down before you! Farther than from a sunrise to a sunset— that’s how far you’ve removed our guilt from us. The same way a loving father feels toward his children— that’s but a sample of your tender feelings toward us, your beloved children, who live in awe of you. You know all about us, inside and out. You are mindful that we’re made from dust” (Psalm 103:11-14, TPT.)