Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Bitterest Pill

Disappointment. We are all far more familiar with it than we'd like to be and very few of us would ever argue that good has come to us from our disappointments. We have allowed ourselves to believe that our lives and the worlds we live in should be places of never ending bliss, free from disappointment or discomfort.

Baloney...that way of thinking is nothing but baloney.

The truth is that disappointment is a part of everyday of our lives. None of us is immune from it and the sooner we face that truth and learn how to profit from our disappointments the better. Life is full of pain and all of us experience loss more than we know victory. May I suggest that there is far more benefit from failure, loss, and disappointment than in victory, ease, and comfort.

In my life I have experienced a great deal of success in a number of areas. I have known what it was to win overwhelmingly as well as scratching out a win at the last minute. I celebrate my victories and remember them accordingly. Yet none of my victories gave me the knowledge or the understanding to become better equipped at handling life. Winning is a temporary high that does little to mold us in the way of genuine success. I have often told my kids in their lives that they will be remembered more for their reaction to disappointment than for their success. I believe that we have overvalued winning. Success is more dependent on character and discipline than on winning.

So how do we handle disappointment? I cannot speak with great authority because I still struggle with it myself. I want to win every time I step on the playing field or power up the video game with my kids. I still get upset when the backgammon app on my phone beats me at a game, much less a match. That is perhaps the first step, realizing that dealing with disappointment is a process, and it's a step that must be repeated over and over again. What I mean by that is that we come to see our disappointments in the overall arc of our lives. We tend to live in the moment and fail to see that life is not individual experiences but the sum total of all that we are and experience. Life itself is a process, a progression that will not be completed in this lifetime. As Christians we need to understand that we are being made into the image of Christ and that process takes time. In fact, it takes a lifetime.

Secondly, we need to get over ourselves. Most of us have a grossly overrated opinion of ourselves. We believe that God cannot get along without us, that the world hinges on our very presence. Hubris (pride) is a powerful motivator and an equally powerful force that directs our reactions to situations. I don't mean to burst your bubble, but God can and will do just fine without you (and me). God blesses us by allowing us to be a part of His work. He doesn't need us, regardless of what we think. Pride is a dangerous attitude when it comes to dealing with others and handling our disappointments.

Thirdly, and certainly not less importantly, we need to examine our motives. I have a habit of keeping cartoons that I find to be funny or thought-provoking, and in a file in my desk I have a cartoon of a man about to sing in church. The caption is the man saying "I don't really care for the words of this song, but I really sound good singing it." Obviously his motives should be questioned. Disappointment often springs from misguided motives. "Why am I doing what I'm doing? is a question that we all ask frequently. When our motive is to advance our image or to influence others to our way of thinking we open ourselves to disappointment. The apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians that everything we do should be done as if it were for the Lord (Col. 3:23). Please note that I am not saying that we should not be trying to convince others of the truth or of our strong convictions. The question is why we are doing a particular thing. Are we simply trying to draw attention, approval, or applause to ourselves? Often times prideful, "all about me" people will cloak themselves in "good" motives while trying to obscure their real motives. Such attempts always lead to disappointment.

Perhaps we would all be better served by remembering that God is in control of all things and that they will unfold in the manner that he has ordained. We are blessed to partner with Him, but we are not essential or indispensable to His work. I believe that when we submit ourselves to His authority and commit ourselves to His glory we'll learn that there is no such thing as disappointment. His ways are beyond ours, and the sooner we realize and submit ourselves to that way of thinking the better and easier we will understand and respond to disappointment.

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