Message of the Week: Coping with disappointments
We have all experienced the discouragement or heart-ache that come to us from disappointments in life. Some of our disappointments dissipate after a short while. Others hang on for an extended period of time, leading at times to depression or bitterness.
How should we handle disappointments in life?
We can learn much from the short Old Testament book Haggai, which is addressed to the people of God who returned to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon to find the temple destroyed, their land in ruin and their neighbors hostile. Since the issues of disappointment touch upon our past, our present, and our future, the prophet Haggai addressed each of these in his counsel to the people.
In Haggai 2:1, the prophet speaks to the people on the last day of the Feast of Booths — on the final day of a week in which the people lived in tents in their yards to remember the way God had cared for them when they wandered through the desert centuries before. For an entire week they recalled God's great works of the past. The key here is that when we recall God's works of the past, we bring to mind God's ongoing character and his heart toward us still.
This is a good thing for us to do when we face disappointment: Recall what God has done for us in Jesus Christ and keep in mind what that reveals about his character and his heart for us. When we recall what Jesus did for us, we take to heart his love that moved him to die for us, the certainty of our forgiveness at the cost of his own suffering, that nothing can separate us from his love, and that not even death is an obstacle to his care for us into eternity. What the past reveals to us of God's character and his heart toward us provides an adequate foundation for us to stand upon as we face disappointments.
Three times in Haggai 2:4 the prophet tells people to be strong. In Haggai 2:5 he adds, "Do not fear." Those are good commands, but how can even a good command help us when we are caught in the throes of disappointment? Fortunately, God does not just give to us commands when we are filled with disappointment; he gives us something far better. In those same verses God gives to us the promise of his presence with us. In Haggai 2:4 God tells us, "For I am with you." In Haggai 2:5 he assures us, "And My Spirit remains among you." There is the foundation for us to be strong and to fear not: God's presence with us in the present no matter what disappointments we face!
Amidst their disappointments, God gave to them promises of greater things he would yet do for them, including his promise in Haggai 2:9 that, "The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house." When we face disappointments, may we also hold onto the promises God makes concerning our future. Promises such as:
• Deuteronomy 31:6 that God will never leave us or forsake us
• Matthew 28:20 that Christ has promised to be with us always — even to the end of the age
• Romans 8:28 that Christ will keep working all things together for good for those who belong to him
• Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from the love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord
• Philippians 4:7 that Christ will fill us with a peace that surpasses understanding
• Philippians 4:13 that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us
• John 14:2 that Christ will bring those who belong to him to the home he has prepared for us in heaven
When disappointments come upon us, may we hold those disappointments lightly while holding firmly to the promises God has made to us!
Tom Tripp is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Fourth and Jay streets. Colusa. Message of the Week appears on Saturdays.