Psalms 22:5 To You they cried out and were delivered; In You they trusted and were not disappointed.
It’s funny how so many people use the term disappointed to describe relationships, careers, religion, friends, family, the list could go on. The definition of disappointment is feelings of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations. What a lonely and desperate existence and it describes how the majority of people feel on a regular basis. We each have hopes and expectations for how our lives will unfold. We hope and dream of that one thing, whether it be a relationship, a career, or a change that will lead us to happiness (or all of the above), and more often than not, it seems as if these hopes and expectations are left wanting. The amount of disappointment, the sometimes constant and unwavering experience of the pain of unmet expectations, of the loss of hope, overwhelms our society. We are a people who have a deep and radical need for hope and achievement of those things that God has put in our hearts, but for most of us, we cannot see the hope in ever experiencing the fulfillment of those hopes and dreams. Without that, we are left disconnected and incomplete, the feeling that no matter what, something is missing.
That feeling that something important is missing in our lives is what drives us to seek out a way to fulfill that deep longing. Unfortunately, this world is rife with temporary fixes that will alleviate the longing and the emotional pain for a time but come with deadly and even more painful consequences that what we are already experiencing. Regardless of what we use to numb that void, to dull the aching in our soul for contentment, if we are looking for a worldly solution, we will always end up with a consequence that was never meant for us and will lead to further discontentment and disappointment. The world will offer us alcohol, drugs, sex, pornography, anger, rage, selfishness, entitlement, relationships, food, shopping, gambling, and anything and everything else that will activate the reward center of our brains and temporarily distract us from what is missing. No matter which of those vices you cling to, instead of delivering freedom from the anguish and generating hope, they destroy the very fabric of who you were created to be. When we set our sites on someone or something that is not God, those things become idols in our lives and we are enslaved to the service of that person or thing. For those of us who claim to be believers in Jesus Christ, we know that idolatry is not only forbidden but will destroy us and those around us. The Bible is full of warnings and examples from God saying as much, and we are wise to heed those warnings lest we get caught up in something that will consume and destroy us and those we love.
Here’s the part that makes me so eternally grateful that I am a believer. I have idols in my life, we all do. Every time I get rid of one or think I have gotten rid of it, another one sneaks in and takes its place. I believe that this is what Paul was alluding to when he wrote in Romans 7:15-20 when he said that he does the things he does not want to do while neglecting the things he should be doing. The struggle to keep our eyes and our minds focused on the only One who can heal disappointment and deferred hope is exhausting and more often than not, we will fail. The things in this life that vie for our attention, that draw us to them with the lie that we will be better if we would just indulge in this person or this thing, always feels good in the moment. There is always a temporary relief of carrying the burden and sadness that comes when our needs, our hopes, and our desires are unmet. Alongside the deep and intense desire for those hopes and dreams God has put inside of us, is an intense and primal desire to rebel and to do whatever we have to do in order to feel good. We justify our behavior and our choices convincing ourselves that the consequence we know will come, will not be as bad as we think it will be. We delude ourselves into thinking that since we are covered by grace, since we are forgiven by faith, since we are doing this thing in secret, or since the person we are hurting made a commitment before God to love in spite of, that we are free to go ahead and indulge that part of us. What we forget is that even though all of the above is true, God never promised choices without consequences. Even though as believers we “can,” more often, there are times that we “shouldn’t” because the consequences will not just destroy our relationship with God, but will destroy others or our relationships with others as well. Our idols do not just affect our existence, but they have a profound and sometimes catastrophic effect on those around us. There are examples throughout scripture, especially in the Old Testament, where one man’s sinful idolatry brought destruction upon the whole nation of Israel, or upon his entire family.
This is where we have the power to affect positive or negative consequences in our lives or the lives of those we love. The only way to be set free from the cycle of feeling disappointment, turning to idolatry to numb the pain, and destruction, is to interrupt the cycle by crying out to our Savior when the disappointment comes. When the pain is too much, when the loss is too great, and when the hope is gone and you do not feel like you can hold on anymore, the only real way for freedom is to cry out to Him. Repeatedly throughout scripture and throughout our lives, we can see examples where we, or the people of Israel, cried out to God in anguish and despair and He sent them a deliverer. God always provides a way out of the situation in which you find yourself, even if it’s not the way you hoped for. God will always deliver His people when they cry out to Him and ask Him to. We tend to get so focused on the solution that we envision for our problems, that giving up control and allowing God to intervene in the way that will bring full resolution and restoration proves too difficult and so we choose not to cry out and humble ourselves before our God. That’s the trick, though, we have to be willing to relinquish control of the outcome first. When things in our lives are spiraling madly out of control, the instinct is to hold tighter, to white-knuckle every bit of control we think we have and try and direct the spiral in the way we hope it will go. This never turns out the way we hope, and definitely does not turn out the way we need. God is the God of peace, of hope, of deliverance. He longs to free us from the burden, from the soul anguish, the disappointment, and the unrelenting cycle of pain and idolatry, but because He is a good God, He gave us the option to choose. We have to choose to let go of our sense of control, to humble ourselves and cry out in desperation for Him to intervene in whatever way seems good to Him. We cannot expect the God of the universe, the Creator, the Healer, the Savior, to give us less than what He has planned for us. We cannot expect Him to give us mediocrity when He wants to give us the extraordinary! God can and will deliver us from the pain of this life, but we have to let go and trust Him to bring about the restoration, the healing, and the peace. We have to let Him fix the problems and trust that He will always have the best in mind for us. Believing His promises that He not only has amazing plans for our lives but that those promises are good, exciting, and exactly what we need and getting out of His way, ushers in the opportunity for God to actually reach down and fix what is broken. Every story of salvation and redemption is preceded by the person humbling themselves, letting go, and allowing God to do amazing work in their lives. Trust Him, even when the pain is immeasurable, even when the vices you’ve turned to sing a siren’s song. Cling to the One who brings deliverance and hope, instead of the things that are meant to destroy.