the struggle is real, so is God

Fighting disappointment by clinging to God’s promise and hope

We packed all four kids, luggage (including swimsuits), toys, and plenty of snacks into the vehicle for a three hour drive to watch our high school girls basketball team play in the first round of the state tournament. In the days leading up to the big game, we explained again and again that IF the girls won their first game, we would be spending two nights in a hotel so that we could attend all their tournament games. We made it very clear that the hotel stay and swimming pool were dependent on the outcome of the game. Even our toddler was saying, “If we win, we go swimming.”

Decked out in our purple and blue with faces painted, we settled in (or in our case, spread out) to watch the game and cheer on the lady Thunder. The whole game was close, we had the lead but not comfortably. In the fourth quarter, disappointment started to creep into the older two who understood the score and the game. They were keenly aware of the real possibility that the dry swimsuits would simply be moved from the suitcase back into their dressers. We continued to cheer, and hope, and maybe even pray. In the end, though, our girls lost the game, and my kids lost their weekend in a hotel.

The disappointment was visible in my preschooler’s face; for fifteen minutes he cried in the stands. His was not the only face of disappointment. Moms in the crowd hugged other moms. Disappointed dads shook hands with other dads. The student section was quiet. The girls and their coaches walked out of the gym with solemn faces and tears. In the crowd and on the court, the disappointment was heavy.

Looking at my little boy’s face I couldn’t help but think about the future disappointments he will encounter. In his five years of life, this moment, a lost game and hotel stay, felt devastating. However, his disappointment faded with a promise to eat at a restaurant on the way home and the hope of a hotel stay over spring break. But I know that it in the coming years he will feel real disappointment, the kind I cannot soothe so easily. He will again need a promise and hope to heal the disappointment, but it will have to come from God, not me.

In John 16:33, Jesus told his disciples and us that we will have “tribulation.” Look at these synonyms for tribulation: suffering, distress, trouble, misery, heartache, grief, sorrow, pain, anguish, agony. These are things that our Savior tells us to expect in this life because we live in a fallen, sinful world. Just like we try to comfort our children through disappointment, our Heavenly Father provides a promise and hope in such times. John 16:33 continues, “…But take heart; I have overcome the world.” When faced with disappointment, we must cling to the promise and hope given by the One who has overcome the world.

We are given the promise that God will never leave us. No matter how lonely we feel in the middle of our disappointment, He promises to be with us. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). When disappointment cripples, paralyzes, or threatens to crush us, our God promises to strengthen, help, and uphold us.

Disappointment destroys our expectations, but even then, we can look to the hope that only God can provide. In Romans 5:3-5, Paul, who suffered more than I can imagine, tells us to “…rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Disappointment leaves us worn, destroyed, and hopeless, but with God’s help that dissapointment will produce endurance, character, and hope. A hope that comes from God’s love not our expectations. A hope given to us when we accept Christ as our Savior. A hope that will carry us through disappointment into eternity with our Lord, where “He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

When you face disappointment in this life, remember that one day it will pass away, and we will experience the Lord’s promises and hope revealed in the beauty of heaven. 

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