You Can Be Happy Despite Disappointment
WHO has never been disappointed? Why, even our heavenly Father, Jehovah God, has experienced the pain of disappointment. For example, he delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and blessed them richly. Yet, the Bible says: “Again and again they would put God to the test, and they pained even the Holy One of Israel.” (Psalm 78:41) Nevertheless, Jehovah has always been “the happy God.”—1 Timothy 1:11.
Indeed, many are the causes of disappointment. How can we prevent them from robbing us of our happiness? What can we learn from the way Jehovah God handled disappointing situations?
Things That Disappoint
“Time and unforeseen occurrence” befall us all, states God’s Word. (Ecclesiastes 9:11) All of a sudden, a crime, an accident, or a disease can bring great distress—and disappointment. The Bible also says: “Expectation postponed is making the heart sick.” (Proverbs 13:12) Eager anticipation of something good fills us with joy, but if it is not soon realized, we may feel a depressing sense of letdown. For example, Duncan, * who had his heart set on being a missionary, found that after many years in missionary service, he and his wife had to return home. “For the first time in my life, I lost all sense of direction,” he said. “I had no goals. Nothing seemed important anymore.” The pain of disappointment can be long lasting, as in Claire’s case. She explains: “I was seven months pregnant when I lost my baby by miscarriage. That was years ago, but even now, when I see a boy giving a talk on the stage, I think to myself, ‘That is how old my son would be.’”
It can also be painful when someone lets you down, as when a courtship ends, a marriage fails, a child rebels, a companion is disloyal, or a friend is ungrateful. Since we live among imperfect people and in difficult times, the possibilities for disappointment are endless.
Our own failures can likewise cause disappointment. For instance, if we fail to pass an exam, get a job, or win someone’s heart, we may feel worthless. We can also feel disappointed with ourselves when someone we love falters. Mary says: “My daughter seemed to be doing well. I felt that I had set a good example for her. But when she turned her back on Jehovah God and our family values, I felt that I was a total failure. None of the successes I had in other aspects of life could make up for it. I was so discouraged.”
How can we cope with such letdowns? For the answer, consider the example set by Jehovah in dealing with disappointment.
Focus on the Solution
Jehovah God lovingly provided for the first human couple, yet they proved to be ungrateful and rebelled. (Genesis, chapters 2 and 3) Then their son Cain began to develop a bad attitude. Ignoring Jehovah’s warning, Cain murdered his own brother. (Genesis 4:1-8) Can you imagine the disappointment that Jehovah felt?
Why did that disappointment not rob God of his happiness? Because he had purposed to fill the earth with perfect humans and he continued working to accomplish that purpose. (John 5:17) To that end, he provided the ransom sacrifice and his Kingdom. (Matthew 6:9, 10; Romans 5:18, 19) Jehovah God focused, not on the problem, but on the solution.
God’s Word encourages us to focus on positive things rather than on what might have been or what we should have done. It says: “Whatever things are true, whatever things are of serious concern, whatever things are righteous, whatever things are chaste, whatever things are lovable, whatever things are well spoken of, whatever virtue there is and whatever praiseworthy thing there is, continue considering these things.”—Philippians 4:8.
Proper View of Disappointment
Things may happen that can alter our life dramatically. For example, we might suddenly find ourselves without a job, without a marriage mate, or without the privileges we once enjoyed. We might lose our health, our home, or our friends. How can we cope with such changes?
Some have found that setting priorities is helpful. Duncan, mentioned earlier, says: “When my wife and I realized that we could never go back to our former way of life, we were devastated. Eventually, we established two priorities: caring for Mother and if at all possible, continuing in the full-time ministry. When faced with decisions, we consider how they will affect these priorities. This simplifies everything.”
Many of us tend to exaggerate the negative when we experience disappointment. For example, our efforts in raising a child, qualifying for a job, or preaching the good news in a foreign field may not produce the desired result. We might think, ‘I am a failure.’ Yet, just as the disappointing start of the human race did not prove God a failure, we are not failures simply because our efforts disappoint us at first.—Deuteronomy 32:4, 5.
It is easy for us to react with bitter resentment when people disappoint us. Jehovah does not act in that way. King David was a disappointment when he committed adultery and then had the woman’s husband killed. Yet, Jehovah saw the sincerity of David’s repentance and continued using David as his servant. Similarly, faithful King Jehoshaphat erred when he formed an alliance with God’s enemies. Jehovah’s prophet said: “For this there is indignation against you from the person of Jehovah. Nevertheless, there are good things that have been found with you.” (2 Chronicles 19:2, 3) Jehovah recognized that one mistake did not make Jehoshaphat a traitor. In the same way, we can avoid losing friends if we do not overreact when they err. Friends who disappoint us may still have fine qualities.—Colossians 3:13.
Disappointments can be viewed as necessary experience along the way to ultimate success. We may be disappointed with ourselves when we commit a sin. Yet, we can recover if we take proper and purposeful action and move forward. When King David was painfully disappointed with himself, he wrote: “My bones wore out through my groaning all day long. . . . My sin I finally confessed to you [Jehovah] . . . , and you yourself pardoned the error of my sins.” (Psalm 32:3-5) If we realize that we have not done what God expects of us, we should ask for God’s forgiveness and change our ways and be determined to follow God’s counsel more closely in the future.—1 John 2:1, 2.
Prepare Now for Disappointment
Without doubt, all of us will face some sort of disappointment in the future. What can we do to be prepared? Interesting are the comments of Bruno, an older Christian man who suffered a disappointment that changed his way of life. He said: “In my case, the most important factor in coping with the disappointment was that I continued to do what I had been doing before to strengthen my spirituality. I had learned why God permits this cruel system of things to continue. I had spent years developing a close relationship with Jehovah. I was so thankful that I had done that. The consolation of knowing that he was with me helped me to endure the depression I experienced.”
As we contemplate the future, we can be sure of one thing: Although we may disappoint ourselves or others may disappoint us, God will never disappoint us. In fact, God stated that his name, Jehovah, means “I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be.” (Exodus 3:14) That gives us confidence that he will become whatever is necessary in order to fulfill his promises. He has promised that by means of his Kingdom, his will shall take place “as in heaven, also upon earth.” That is why the apostle Paul wrote: “I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments . . . nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus.”—Matthew 6:10; Romans 8:38, 39.
We can confidently look forward to the fulfillment of God’s promise made through the prophet Isaiah: “Here I am creating new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart.” (Isaiah 65:17) What a marvelous prospect it is that the time is coming when all memories of disappointments will be a thing of the past!
^ par. 5 Some names have been changed.
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We are not failures simply because our efforts disappoint us at first
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God’s Word encourages us to focus on positive things rather than on what might have been
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God is happy, despite the failings of humans, because his purpose is sure of fulfillment
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Setting spiritual priorities is helpful in coping with disappointments