I used to think I did fine at handling disappointment. You just kind of roll with the punches and realize life isn’t fair, and “move on.” But what if you’re stuck in the dead of winter with no signs of spring to blossom forth from the snow? The mantra to encourage ourselves to “move on” seems a little insufficient and even slightly detrimental with this sort of disappointment.
In one of our posts Using the Serenity Prayer in Our Everyday Life, I talked about how we were close to finding a home sans the harmful mold that has been a highly biotoxic detriment to our health. The house, unfortunately, fell through with the housing market only providing a sparse amount of homes for rent meeting our health criteria. It can feel like we’re trapped in a place that halts any significant progress in health.
So as I’m writing this, guys, I’m trying to figure out even for ourselves how to handle disappointment without damaging ourselves further.
That’s why when Michael put on a sermon from Tony Evans based on the book Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny that we will be reviewing soon, I completely related to the story he launched into, detailing the disappointing life of Joseph. I think we like to read several chapters out of the Bible that can be isolated as a singular story and deduce that those several chapters took only several months to transpire.
I would like to think Job only went through a little over a month of hardship. And as I read the life of Joseph, I’m extremely tempted to think that his detour only took him off to the side of the road for the duration of a short nap. I know- wishful thinking. In actuality, it took him over twenty years from pit to prison to a position next to Pharaoh. Now both of us are less than a year shy away from being on this earth for three decades, so the thought of a twenty-year long hardship can almost leave me in tears at the thought.
We pick up the story of Joseph after his brothers sold him into slavery and after he was falsely accused of rape and thrown into prison where we find him next to a cupbearer and a baker. Pharoah was angry with both of them and threw them in prison, most likely because one of them was attempting to poison Pharoah.
Since he didn’t know which one was responsible, both of them got the boot to prison. But their commonality wasn’t just reduced to their convicted sentence; both of them also began having dreams. Joseph assured the men that his dream forecasting was God’s business, but that he would interpret for them on God’s behalf.
After the cupbearer rattled off his dream about grapevines and branches, Joseph gave him an uplifting interpretation that he would be restored to his position. The baker looked on with delight and most likely assumed he would be offered a carbon copy interpretation. Except, his dream foretold death, transpiring within days. The cupbearer’s dream forecast was also accurate as he was restored to his position with his prison garments all but forgotten.
These next words are what this article hinges on. They’re the moments of a seemingly paused life after a breakthrough that was so certain. That breakthrough that was so tangible to coming through you could almost taste it on your tongue.
Joseph did what any one of us would have done. When he accurately interpreted the cupbearer’s dream, he pleaded with the cupbearer to remember him and let his innocence be known to Pharoah now that he would be released and in good standing with the authorities. But these are the words I hate in the story. “Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer, however, forgot all about Joseph, never giving him another thought.”
The kindness extended was forgotten. And his accurate prediction was passed to the side because the cupbearer had no need to remember him. Two years passed by. Two. Years. And then, the cupbearer remembered Joseph because it was convenient. Only because it would serve to bolster his credit further with Pharoah who had his own dream that needed interpreting. Joseph does see his twenty long year vision come to fruition. (Heavy emphasis on the word long.) But I think there are some takeaways that we can all remember in that long stretch of a disappointment:
1. Just because we’re on a detour doesn’t mean we’ve stopped moving. Tony Evans didn’t say this (that I’m aware of) but it’s an inarguable given that I haven’t always loved. My life felt like it was paused several years back when my health condition hit me full force, yet, life has moved on at a steady pace for others just like it would have for myself years ago. I can honestly be tempted into thinking my car broke down while others are speeding past my broken down encasing.
But my life has moved on, just as Joseph’s did. For those of us who are sick or stuck in uncontrollable struggles, we can still move forward internally, if not externally. As we see Joseph’s life progress, we see him physically halted from a consecutive upward climb to success, but we also see him growing in integrity, humility, and communion with God.
2. We can be tempted into believing that thinking LESS will bring us peace in handling our disappointment when in reality we need to think MORE- just a refocused thinking.
Self-help guides and gurus will tell us to suppress our thoughts and to “silence negativity.” But doesn’t this sound a little like the phrase, “just move on” that we all kind of hate? Instead of thinking less, we need to intentionally think about what truly matters to reframe our mind. We need to…
Think on the Cross When Horatio Spafford lost all his family but his wife in a shipwreck, he penned the lines to the famous song “It Is Well With My Soul.”
“My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
It can sound a little odd that this man who just lost the lives of his young girls should be delighted at the thought of his sin and the cross. But haven’t we all fallen prey to believing the untruth that God now hates us because we’re facing suffering? Do we not feel as if we’re being brutally punished by God Himself? Do we not feel as if He somehow turned His back on us, lending us only His shadow in our time of need?
But that isn’t so when we think of the cross. The cross tells us that the perfect God-man was not spared of suffering. That He brutally declared with broken flesh and outpouring blood His love. Do you see? When we look at the cross we see that Christ took on the punishment for our sins. Yes, we can have “bliss” in our trials when we meditate on our sin because we can remember that Christ blotted it out.
When we’re facing suffering as believers, we’re not being punished by Christ because Christ took on our punishment. Has God turned his back on us? No. But he did to his own Son, Christ, so that we would never have to face the brutal separation from the God who encompasses love.
“Peace comes from a disciplined thinking out of the implications of what you believe. -Tim Keller
Think of Our Future Glory Disappointments would seem purposeless if it weren’t for a future glory we had to look forward to. What would the point of agonizing hurts be if we were simply going to be food for the worms after death? But as believers, we can say along with Saint Paul that our future suffering is not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us. We have something to look forward to on the renewed earth that will make our disappointments fizzle from any meaningful memory.
3.Continue to pray and rely on God’s wisdom. This sounds super easy, but it’s not. Becuase if we think God hates us, our communication with Him will. Shut. Down. Promised.
What happens when we think God hates us? We do what we do in every other relationship. We shut down. Can I be honest? With the continual disappointments in our lives, I’ve come to think God just doesn’t like me anymore. That He’s moved on to His other “better children.” But has He? In reality, no. And just like any other relationship, wouldn’t you think God would want us to be honest with Him about our hurts, even if our hurts that include Him? We still need to have that time plugged into prayer, seeking God for wisdom, especially in our disappointments because our hurts can oftentimes cloud our judgment.
May it be remembered as Tony Evans says that we “don’t get from detour to destiny in a straight line.”
Life is filled with the messy middle. But there is still hope, in the detours and when the destiny is fulfilled.
Walking alongside you in this messy life,