The second in a three part series on disappointment, The Effects
of Disappointment looks at the consequences
of unsettled disappointment.
At the very heart of disappointment is misunderstanding. What we believe is going to happen in a situation based on intuition, interpretation of circumstances, teaching, life experience, or a vast array of other reasons, does not happen. We base our judgement of situations upon temporary platforms and forget to look beyond our misaligned outcome to the eternal view of the situation. When we lose perspective and start to believe that the temporal is the end of the road, disappointment creeps into our lives.
It happens to the best of us. It happened to Jesus' close inner circle following the days of the crucifixion. They interpreted Jesus' teachings from a worldly point of view. They did not understand there was something much greater taking place, the redemption of all mankind. They weren't seeing the circumstances through Christ's eyes. Thus, the days leading up to and following the resurrection were filled with tremendous grief and disappointment.
Disappointment can have difficult consequences:
We begin to fear the future. Sometimes, we can subconsciously believe that bad things aren't going to happen to us, at least not the really bad things. After all, we're Christians, right? Although we might not say it out loud, on occasion, we get the idea that if someone has a horrible circumstance in their life it's because they've obviously done something to bring it upon themselves. They should have been more careful. They were living in sin. They should have taken better care of their bodies. Then, one day, it happens. From out of left field, devastation tumbles into our lives. It doesn't take us very long to realize that we have very little control over our lives, and something else, just as horrible, could happen to us again. The disciples were not an exception. After Christ was crucified, they were camped out in an upper room in Jerusalem. They figured if it could happen to Jesus, it could happen to them. They were terrified of what the future would hold.
We stop reaching for the good things in life. I love science. I love the idea of a Creator who meshes together cycles and patterns that work together with great precision, intricacy, and rhythm. Our God is powerful! Nature calls out to us that our God believes in new beginnings. The Springtime, the birth of a new baby, the sunrise, all echo to us that our Heavenly Father never stops giving good things, but sometimes, we choose not to receive them. We stand with clinched fists and fear in our heart, trying to protect self, trying to protect our heart. Matthew 28:8 reads: And they (the women) left the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to report it to the disciples. I thought it was interesting that both fear and joy coexisted within these women. They had seen angels. That would explain part of the fear, but these ladies were as human as we are human. Even though they had gotten a glimpse of victory, they were afraid. The scripture doesn't give us a picture into the most intimate thoughts of their hearts, but maybe, like us, they weren't sure they could survive another disappointment. So, they
held on to fear and refused to grab on to the good things that were right in front of them.
Words can become empty. Great pain creates a disconnect between the mind and the heart. There is a reason why words become useless when we are hurting, we do not have an intellect problem. Intellectually, we know the Word. We know Biblical principles. We know God's promises. We hear them being said to us, just as did Christ's followers, but they aren't registering. Ever been there? I have. That's because the problem is not with our brain. It's with our heart. It's broken. The heart requires intimacy if it is ever to be mended. Christ knows this. It was in the garden that He spoke Mary Magdelene's name. It was with the two men on the way to Emmaus that He broke bread. It was Thomas' fingers that felt the scars in His hands, and it was only Christ who could bring understanding and revelation of the scriptures to the remaining disciples. Luke 24:45 Then He opened their (disciples) minds to understand the scripture. We can and should be Christ's hands and feet, but at the end of the day, it is He who binds up the wounds of the broken hearted. As we can see from scripture, Jesus breathed into the life of Mary Magdelene, the Emmaus men, Thomas, and let's not forget Peter, all in a very different way. Only He knows our secret places. Only He knows how to restore us back to life.
We all suffer from the effects of disappointment. They're not new. They're not unusual, and best of all, they're not condemning. Jesus' followers wanted to believe He was alive, to believe the truth, but disappointment and grief had gotten the better of them. It didn't matter! Jesus loved them. He came to them. He ministered to them. Scripture documents ten separate occasions that Christ appeared to His followers between His crucifixion and the ascension. Jesus told the ladies who had found the empty tomb, Tell my disciples and Peter (Peter! The one who denied Him) , I will meet them in Galilee. Jesus met each follower in their sin and disbelief and brought hope back into their lives.
It is an impossibility that He could love us any less than He loved this rough and tumble group of early believers. We may feel the effects of disappointment, but we are not held captive by them nor condemned by them. We serve an intimate Heavenly Father who is in the business of healing our wounds, one hurt at a time, and restoring our hope for an eternal future.
A Series on Disappointment: Defining Disappointment
I decided to take my boys to the park last week. While we were there, my youngest son lost sight of me. I was out of his range of vision for mere seconds, but he was startled, and said to me, Momma, I thought you leave me. To which, I replied, Leo, you know that your momma would never leave you.
There are moments when The Lord speaks to us quietly, and then, there are moments when it feels like the Holy Spirit is searing us on the inside, like a hot rod is being placed into our soul.
The second happened to me that day in the park.
As soon as the words to my son left my mouth, The Lord spoke into my spirit. Victoria, he does not know that you won’t leave him. Don’t belittle his feelings.
I understood better than to brush off my son’s fears and should have chosen my words more wisely.
If you’re the adoptive parent of an abandoned child, I don’t have to tell you about the hole that’s left inside of your little one’s heart when their birth parents walk away.
Many of our children were not old enough to remember the moment that they were abandoned, but their hearts remember. It’s a myth that only active memories cause heartache. Our minds are miraculous creations that take every experience of our past into account and use those experiences to shape us into who we are in the present.
My boy is afraid of being left, and God reminded me that I have been called to prove my love to him.
Proving love to someone who has been torn apart at the very fiber of who they are can be challenging. It doesn’t take very long before it becomes clear that we have probably overestimated our ability to love when nothing is being given in return.
Doing unreciprocated love is no joke.
But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
God proved His love for us when we had nothing to give in return.
Jesus proved His love for us when He chose to walk among broken, sin-filled, mortal men.
Jesus proved His love for us when He healed the sick and poured out mercy to the most reviled violators of the law.
Jesus proved His love for us when He carried our sin debt to a wooden cross and died a criminal’s death.
And the proving, it continues.
I proved my love for my boys when I got on an airplane and crossed the ocean to become their parent, but they didn’t understand the brevity of the situation.
They were not suddenly convinced that I would never leave them, nor that I loved them.
I have to continue to love.
I have to continue to show patience.
I have to continue to give grace.
The alternative is that I am not proving my love to them.
So, The Father does the same.
He is continually doing a new work within us.
He is continually walking through the hard places with us.
He is continually speaking into our lives.
Filling the God-size hole that we all own simply because we are human.
He knew that we were orphans that needed a father.
He knows that we are insecure beings who need the constant reassurance of His presence.
He knows that it takes a lifetime of refinement for us to start to comprehend His love.
He is willing to do the work.
He is proving His infinite love for us.
(c) 2017 Victoria Paxton
Over the past few weeks, I've given a great deal of thought to the idea of disappointment. When I listen to others, when I see devastation around me, and when I examine my own life, I realize that at the heart of many of our hurts is disappointment. Disappointment is not selective. It comes to all of our doors: the person who said they loved us stops saying I love you, the job promotion that we deserved slips through our fingers, our husbands aren't the fathers or leaders that we were sure they would be, we lose a job or all of our investments, our best friend stops calling. We usually don't think too much about disappointment until it becomes personal, but when it's me or you that it happens too, disappointment can become hard to survive.
Then, there are the stand out disappointments that have others looking from a distance saying, Wow. I hope that never happens to me. Our children die, sometimes, more than one. We're diagnosed with cancer, our spouse slips away with Alzheimer's. The problem is it's happened to you, and it doesn't seem quite right. It stings and cuts at our souls. We realize it's the disappointment that nearly chokes the life out of us. It's the should have's, the what if's, the it's not fair's. It didn't turn out the way I planned. Why me? My future is forever altered. This is NOT what I signed up for. They were supposed to be here.
The scary part of disappointment is that it creates these very real emotions that are crippling. Those emotions challenge our faith and cloud our thought process. Ever had this thought? If God is good, why did this happen? He could have fixed it. He could have intervened. We all have. Disappointment brings us to that place. If we're not careful we'll be so thrown by our own doubts and emotions that we'll start to implode. We'll shut down, stop looking for answers, stop being real, stop listening for His voice.
I was reading through the last chapters of Luke today, about the crucifixion. Luke 23:49 says, And all His acquaintances and the women who accompanied Him from Galilee were standing at a distance, seeing these things (the crucifixion). The crucifixion was so traumatic to them that they had removed themselves from the situation. Ever been there? It was surreal. Their minds could not process what was happening. They were devastated, incredibly confused, and disappointed.
Why? Because what the people surrounding Jesus thought was going to happen and what actually happened were two very different scenarios. They thought that they understood what Jesus was all about, and they did kind of get it. Their faith was in Him. However, they were seeing everything through an earthly lens. They believed Jesus was going to set up an Earthly kingdom. How could He be their king if He was dead? Jesus said the temple would be destroyed. It was still standing. Talk about being confused and disappointed! Jesus' followers were seeing with physical eyes , not spiritual eyes.
So, what is disappointment? First, it's something that causes deep pain, and on the surface, it is when what we believe will happen ( sometimes, with great faith) and what actually happens do not line up. We believe in a healing, but it doesn't happen. We do all the right things for our struggling child, but we can't turn them around. We are the best wife we know how to be, but our husband still walks out.
When we dig deeper, disappointment is a reaction based on our perceptions. Like the followers at the cross, sometimes what we believe with all of our hearts is not really reality, and in order to overcome disappointment we must change the lens that we are looking through from an earthly perspective to a spiritual perspective.
Spring is hard. It used to be my favorite time of the year. I have high hopes that my love for the season will eventually return. But for now, new beginnings are difficult; especially, when it comes every year. How do you celebrate a clean start when the start will always be impossibly different? How do you look forward to all the fun adventures that the warm months will bring when one of your adventurers, whom also was the biggest adventurer of all, will not be returning? How do you embrace the newness of life, when no matter how gloriously full the cup is filled, it will always be a little empty?
This Spring, I am counting my blessings. No matter how unorthodox it may seem, there are blessings that come along with saying goodbye, too early, to a child. We don't stumble into them. We don't receive them by relying on ourselves, and they do not appear quickly. It can be a hard fight to get to the blessing, a long road filled with tears, doubts, and lots of "why's". Thankfully, the battle is not ours to fight, and somewhere in the process, we realize that the battle was taken care of some two thousand years ago on a cross.
Not really a cross, but THE cross...it was the Cross of Calvary that settled the victory over the grave. It is the cross that levels every death into two questions. "How will this death change me into looking more like Christ?" Maybe, it would be better said this way, "How much of myself will disappear so that Christ may make an appearance that will impact eternity?" The second question, two questions in one, is "Will I see my child again, and who will I bring along with me?"
Death does that. It simplifies the questions of life. It forces us to realize that we don't go around, under, or behind it. We must walk straight through it. That makes every question that has nothing to do with the eternal unnecessary and completely irrelevant. It is when we start to answer these questions in our grief walk that the blessings start to poke their heads up out of a stream of grief that sometimes seems to be waste deep.
My list, The Blessings of Losing Big:
1. Fear of the unknown is whittled down to next to nothing, and often times, it is completely gone. I say "whittled", but truly for me, it was more like a hammer smashing down on all my fear and anxiety. It dissipated the second I realized my boy had left this world. Worrying about the temporal had a hold on me, and I mean a good hold on me. My thinking changed. First, whose opinion of me matters? No one's, short of Jesus. In the end, it will be the Father and me. If He loves me, why would I seek the approval of others? Secondly, the rejection of others could never compare to the emptiness and loss I felt from losing Miles. If it can't get any worse ( and I don't think it gets any worse than losing your child), why not get on with it, get over ourselves, and serve Jesus with the ability He's given us? What if we fail? What if someone doesn't like it? It doesn't matter. What matters is that someone can get a glimpse....no, a full on picture...of Christ because we've chosen to put ourselves in the backseat.
2. The cross has a new meaning. This occurs to me every so often when I'm worshipping. I used to sing the words to songs about Christ having victory or about His goodness, and I got them on an intellectual level. I could take you to a scripture that would point out that God was good. I could have a debate with you about why God was good, but I'm not sure it traveled past my brain and into my heart. It was cool that Jesus took away my sins and someday I would go to Heaven, but there wasn't a real personal value attached to the belief.
Now, there is. The cross means I will see my boy again. The cross means that no matter how crummy this life gets, it's not the end. The cross means that Jesus loves me and cares about my loss. He made a way for us to be together again. The cross means everything to my survival.
3. I have seen the power of the church of Jesus Christ. I have been loved in an incredible way. "I have been loved." How many people leave this world and can never say those words? I could, can, say them again and again and again. I would never have experienced such love without an extreme tragedy. Being loved by my brothers and sisters in Christ renewed my hope in people and reaffirmed the value that others attached to me. It is good to be loved. It challenges me to love in a radical way so that others may see Christ. In other words, I want to return the favor.
4. Healing. Yes, I said healing. When we face a problem that we cannot white knuckle, ignore, or smile away, we have to get help, and get help in a hurry. By the grace of God, I made that decision. It's funny how God always works in opposites. We think healing brings healing, but healing doesn't force us to face our demons or that baggage we've been dragging around for thirty years. Mine had gotten so easy to carry I think it must have had wheels.
It took a few years, but I found freedom. I threw that baggage right back into the pits of hell where it came from. I hope that one day I'll be able to tell Miles how I found freedom despite of the foolish choice that he made, that God worked it all out. Then again, there's a really big possibility that the trials of this life won't matter in the light of eternity. What I do know is God brought purpose out of Miles' death because his death meant something to Him, too. Nothing goes unseen from the hand of God.
5. I tried it, and I liked it. (As Jack says about everything he eats.). I think that parents who bury their children are special. They get a special treatment from the Father. I have seen the character of God in a way that other believers will never experience, or that they are afraid to experience because it would require great heartache. How do we know the greatness of God if we do not test the Word of God? How do we know every promise is true if we never get the opportunity to live and breathe the words of the Father? We can't. We can have head knowledge, but it is the heart knowledge that propels us into full abandon for Christ. Once we taste His goodness, the possibility of turning back shrinks into nothingness.
How do I know He is good? I got out of bed this morning. I laughed. I could breathe without it hurting the way it did in the early days of losing Miles. I have hope for the future. I was allowed and empowered to love again. Not an easy love, but I was allowed to love the unloved, an orphan. I hear my children laugh. Neither were laughing three years ago. God is good ALL THE TIME.
6. My purpose is clear, and my goal is in sight. I have a temporal connection to an eternal world. My boy is waiting for me, and sometimes, I'm almost certain he is cheering me on. There is no love like the love of a parent for their child. We know this by the Father's love. I will get to Miles. Not getting to him is not an option. It drives me to the Gates. It keeps my focus on forever in a way that nothing else could accomplish.
I used to say that I wanted to see Miles first of all, but the truth, of late, is that I want to see Jesus first of all. I want to thank Him for making it all possible, and then, I want to worship with my family, whole, complete.....no more saying goodbye...no more filled cups with a little missing. Everything will be complete, the way it was intended to be from the beginning.
My list could keep going. There are lists within the list. There are blessings in losing big. Why? Because, as you can see, each trial and blessing points back to our Creator. In our heartache, we are doing what we were created to do, glorify Him. Because He is worthy of being glorified, He promises that the process will bless us, make us more like Him, and the cycle continues, over and over and over again. Each time, we're drawn closer and closer to Him, and each time, He is lifted higher and higher.
That, my friend, is the blessing of losing big.
(C) 2017 Victoria Paxton
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Victoria Paxton spends her mornings teaching special education and her afternoons raising two fantastic sons. She's the wife of Mr. Paxton, and, also, the mother of a grown, full of faith daughter who is married to Victoria's favorite son-in-law, Nathan.