“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
Have you ever felt disappointed over something? If not, you are one of the luckiest people in the world. Don and I were disappointed when the vacation we had planned for last summer had to be postponed until another year. We were planning to take two weeks and ride our motorcycles to Nova Scotia. We had money put back for the trip and we were having fun checking out websites for places we could tour. Unfortunately, when elements of my job were changed, we felt some uncertainty about the future. So, as much as we hated to do it, we felt it would be wise to postpone the trip for another year.
The Bible contains stories of people who experienced disappointment. I think of Sarai and Hannah who were unable to bare children; Job, who lost everything as the devil tried to break his faithfulness to God; Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers; and Moses, who came down from the mountain with the tablets of God’s commandments only to find that the Israelites were worshipping a golden calf. As you can see, we’re in pretty good company when it comes to dealing with disappointment.
The reasons for our disappointments are that we set high expectations on people and circumstances. I believe those expectations are greater when it comes to the church. We expect our programs to succeed. We expect worship services and sermons to move us. We expect our pastors to have all the answers and remain with us indefinitely. We expect our church buildings to last forever. We expect everyone to be of one mind in regards to issues and scriptures. But the reality is that even though we follow the One who is perfect…the church is not perfect.
The question then is how will we deal with our disappointments? Will we say things that are hurtful and regrettable; or will we participate in dialogue that heals and builds up the church? Will we distance ourselves from those we blame for our disappointment; or will we confront in love those with whom we differ and seek understanding? Will we withhold our time, talents and resources, making it more difficult to sustain our ministries and create new ones; or will we honor our covenant to support the church?
When we listen to the stories of our bible heroes, we find that they were faithful to their commitment to God; and they turned to God for help in dealing with their disappointments. They may not have always gotten the exact results they were seeking, but God provided what was needed. I took my vacation disappointment to God, which did not end with us getting to take our planned trip; but we did get a less expensive vacation trip and better yet…I was called to serve as your interim.
While the experience of disappointment is not something to be denied; neither should it take priority over our commitment to the church and to God’s call to ministry through the church. Holding on to and feeding disappointments with the church does nothing but weaken and tear her down. On the other hand, looking to God for ways to turn our disappointments into something positive will lead to success in helping to build the kingdom of God; and, that’s what it is all about… isn’t it? Let us never allow our disappointments keep us from our commitment to doing God’s will together.