We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope
(Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Between Healthcare Reform and The US Open Tennis Tournament, this past week has taught me more lessons. The biggest one however is how to deal with disappointments. If there is one thing I know for sure; it is this: Try as you may...things don't always work out the way you'd like the to.
Such is the nature of life. We are destined to engage in a series of celebrations interspersed with a series of disappointments. How we deal with those disappointments is a matter of maturity, discipline and personal strength. I've been reading, writing and collecting again...so I've culled these suggestions from some of my favorites:
1. Adjust your expectations. Even champions lose. Remember disappointment lies not it what you get; but what you expected to get. Not every team wins the Super Bowl or Olympic gold. Not every applicant gets the job. Illness happens. Not every marriage soars. If your highest hope is in achievement, you will eventually be disappointed—success is transient. King Solomon wrote, "As I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless . . . like chasing the wind" (Ecclesiastes 2:11). On the other hand, if we're so afraid of disappointment that we lower our hopes, we can close ourselves off from what God may have in mind. The proper balance can be elusive. Of course you want to set a high bar for success; but when it depends on other facts (as everything in life does) understand that the win is in the trying even if you don't come out on top every time and when you do; it is a fabulous bonus on top of your winning fight!
2. Learn from your defeats. Disappointment and failure build character and patience, when allowed to do so. They can teach you to win and lose with grace, an increasingly lost art these days. Romans 5:3-4 says it like this: "We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character . . . " Inner spiritual strength, the kind resulting from sincere faith in God, helps cultivate that attitude.
3. Build friendships. God often ministers to our hurts through other people. It can be tempting to put up walls when you're feeling especially vulnerable, but if you shut out friends, you could be sealing off healing and hope. Friends will help you realize that you're not alone and that others have overcome similar problems. And speaking of friends, don't disappoint them and chances are they'll never disappoint you, but if they do, forgive them, for how can someone hurt you if you forgive them? If you appeal to the best side of your friends, the chances are you won't be disappointed.
4. Go deeper with God. Friends are essential, but humans can let us down and err in judgment. I had earlier discovered that God would never desert me. He said, "I will never fail you. I will never forsake you" ( Hebrews 13:5). His friendship had sustained me over the years amidst criticism from friends and adversaries, financial challenges, educational disappointment, and broken relationships. God had a good track record; it made sense to trust Him. The apostle Paul found strength and hope through his friendship with God. He wrote, "If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since God did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won't God, who gave us Christ, also give us everything else?" (Romans 8:31-32) Paul was convinced nothing could separate him from Christ's love: "Death can't, and life can't. The angels can't, and the demons can't. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, and even the powers of hell can't keep God's love away" (v. 38). The more we stake our security in God's enduring love, the less power disappointments will have to undermine our hope.
5. Focus on ultimate hope. During those dark times in life, let me remind you of what Paul said in this same letter: "God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God" (v. 28). While we sometimes get stuck focusing on the here and now, our present situation isn't the end of the story.
Finally, cultivate patience, for as Joseph Addison (1672 ~ 1719) wrote, "Our real blessings often appear to us in the shape of pains, losses and disappointments; but let us have patience and we soon shall see them in their proper figures." Expect nothing more from life than what it offers and you will never be let down. Welcome the opportunities it provides by making the most of the cards you're dealt.