Question: "How can I overcome disappointment with life?"
Answer: One of the unfortunate byproducts of living in a sinful, fallen world is that every person, Christian or not, experiences pain and suffering and disappointment in this life. From failed relationships to unfulfilled dreams, life can be filled with sorrow and disappointment. In fact, Jesus assured us of it: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). No one is immune.
In overcoming disappointments, it is important to keep them in perspective. Even though we cannot eliminate suffering or disappointment this side of heaven, it can become less formidable when viewed from a different vantage point. The first thing to keep in mind is this: no amount of suffering or disappointment we experience in this life can ever undo what God has done for us in Christ. Apart from Scripture, it is very difficult to have a proper perspective on suffering and disappointment, and these things will rarely make sense to those unacquainted with God’s Word. Neither psychology nor philosophy can offer a sufficient explanation for it. No social science can work restoration on the soul; only God can do this (Psalm 23:3). The truth is, our trials and disappointments, though we may not like them, do serve a purpose. It is through trials that we learn patience and humility, endurance and trust—virtues that strengthen us and develop godly character.
Also, it is during the difficult times that we learn to rely on God and experience firsthand the absolute trustworthiness of His Word. We also learn the truth of what Paul taught: God’s power is at its strongest when we are at our weakest (2 Corinthians 12:9). As A. W. Tozer observed, “If the truth were known, the saints of God in every age were only effective after they had been wounded.”
It is important that our perspective includes eternity. Our time on earth is an incalculably small fraction of our eternal journey. Consider the apostle Paul and the persecution he was subjected to while spreading the gospel. Although his litany of suffering seems unbearable by any measure, he amazingly referred to his hardships as “light and momentary troubles.” This is because he focused on the “eternal glory” that far outweighed any earthly disappointments he experienced (2 Corinthians 4:17; see also Romans 8:18). We can do this, he said, when we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but rather on what is unseen, our heavenly home (2 Corinthians 4:18).
It is faith that allows us to see the unseen. That’s why faith is such an indispensable element of the Christian life. Scripture teaches that we live by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) and that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). We know that, as followers of Christ, we will experience disappointment and endure trials where our faith is indeed put to the test. And the apostle James tells us we should “consider it pure joy” when we face these trials, as this is how our faith strengthens and we mature as Christians (James 1:2-4).
Now, even though disappointments plague us until our final heartbeat, we can minimize them by understanding and applying the principle of reaping and sowing found throughout the Bible. “He who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward” (Proverbs 11:18), whereas “he who sows wickedness reaps trouble” (Proverbs 22:8). When we faithfully live in accordance with God’s perfect Word, we forgo bringing unnecessary troubles and disappointments into our lives in the first place. As the psalmist declared, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your Word” (Psalm 119:9).
It also helps to remember the absolute sovereignty of God. Everything occurs either by His prescription or permission and in perfect accordance with His sovereign purposes and unfathomable ways (Romans 11:33). Prayer is the ultimate acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty. In the midst of our trial and disappointments, prayer gives us strength. It did for Moses (Exodus 32:11; Numbers 14:13; 20:6), David (Psalm 55:16-17), and Daniel (Daniel 6:10; 9:20-23). And before our Savior took on the sins of the world, He spent His final night in prayer (Matthew 27:36-44; John 17). Now He invites the “weary and burdened” to come to Him, and He will give us rest (Matthew 11:28).
Being a child of God means we are never alone in our trials (Hebrews 13:5). God gives us the strength and grace we need to endure any circumstance and to overcome any disappointment (Philippians 4:13; Psalm 68:35). His peace will guard our hearts when we look to Him (Philippians 4:6-7). As Maurice Roberts stated, “The degree of a Christian’s peace of mind depends upon his spiritual ability to interpose the thought of God between himself and his anxiety.” If we keep our mind on God, nothing can steal our peace.