I have always told myself I have no right to be disappointed in someone else, as nobody owes me anything. Not that this means I have had the unique good fortune to avoid disappointment throughout my life. My seven year sojourn with infertility gave me very personal, first-hand experience of disappointment and its impact on our lives.
However, while not everyone will know the repeated disappointments of multiple failures to conceive, I venture to suggest that no-one can journey through life untouched by disappointment. The simple truth is that if we hope, we open ourselves to disappointment. And who can exist without hope?
The problem with disappointment is this: long after it’s cause has been relegated to the past, it’s effects can still be felt in our lives. It shatters dreams, steals our hope; we no longer look to a future: we become bitter. In short, disappointment will rot you from the inside.
We need only consider the jilted Mrs Haversham, from Dickens'”Great Expectation”. The image of the aged bride, in her yellowing wedding dress, surrounded by the dusty, fermented remains of what would have been her wedding feast, is a vivid depiction of what we can become if we remain stuck in the disappointment.
So just how do we overcome disappointment and ensure that we do not fall victim to it’s life-sapping effects? For that, let us consider another woman (2 in fact) who tasted the bitterness of disappointment.
5 Steps For Dealing With Disappointment
- Get moving:
Naomi was disappointed, hopeless, bitter – unable to see a future for herself BUT she got moving. Don’t wait until you feel better. Just get up and start moving on from the place of disappointment.
The first few steps are the hardest but just keep putting one foot in front of another and you will make progress.
- It is better to walk alongside someone than to walk alone.
Naomi didn’t want company. She tried to send her daughters-in-law home but widowed, childless Ruth (equally disappointed by life) had nowhere else to go and Naomi relented. So often, in life, we hug our disappointments to ourselves, pretending to everyone else that we are “fine”.
Acknowledging that we are struggling and reaching out for help is what separates the functional from the dysfunctional. Take hold of the hand reaching out to help you and the journey to wholeness becomes less arduous.
- Shift your focus:
At the start of her journey Naomi is wallowing in bitterness and self-pity. After her return to Bethlehem, she asks Ruth “Where did you glean today? Where did you work? Blessed be the man who took notice of you!” Naomi’s focus has undergone a significant shift. She has moved from a place of introspective despair to looking out for another.
Even the tiniest pimple or blemish looks HUGE when we spend all our time examining it through a microscope. When disappointment threatens is drowning you, lift your head above the waves and shift your focus.
- Learn to be content. Take your disappointment to the threshing floor:
Acting on Naomi’s instruction, Ruth spent a night on the threshing floor, at Boaz’s feet. The threshing floor is the place where the wheat is separated from the chaff. It is necessary step in separating ourselves from our disappointments.
For me, personally, threshing floor moments are moments of worship, moments where I commune directly with my Creator, where I still my own voice and listen to His. It is in those moments that I am reminded of what is true, lasting and eternal and can release the temporal “clutter”.
When the weight of your disappointment becomes unbearable, take it to the threshing floor, lay it down and allow God to deal with the things that need to be “winnowed” from your life. And when you get up to go, make sure you leave the chaff behind.
- Take hold of the new
Letting go of disappointment is not an end, it’s a beginning. Only when we let go of what we are clutching, are our hands freed to take hold of the new. The story of Ruth ends with Naomi embracing the child born to Ruth and her new husband, Boaz.
The gift of the child was given but Naomi had to reach out and embrace him. The same is true of every gift/opportunity God gives us… in order to make it ours, we must reach out and take hold of it.
A final thought on dealing with disappointment:
When David suffered the crushing disappointment of loss, when the baby born from his union with Bathsheba died…
the child Bathsheba conceived next was Solomon.