Dealing with Disappointment by Steve Gaunt
Disappointment comes in all sizes, doesn’t it? Any time our hopes aren’t realised or our expectations
or desires aren’t fulfilled, we feel disappointed. Reality over expectations – that’s disappointment. The
larger the spread between those two values the more the disappointment. Disappointment can be a
passing emotion over a temporary loss, or it may strike powerfully when something permanently
changes our lives. A major disappointment can remain within us all the time, casting a shadow over
our reactions to everything.
We all experience disappointment for different reasons. In itself, feeling disappointed isn’t a sin. How
we handle it is the crucial issue. Disappointment is so common to humanity that it was difficult to
choose which biblical characters to best illustrate it – the Bible is full of disappointed people!
Disappointed people in the Bible
Think of the years of disappointment experienced by Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, and
Elizabeth. Month after month, year after year, they saw the evidence of their childlessness. Job and
Joseph [technicolour coat] had good reason to be disappointed, too, both in people and in God. Elijah
the prophet expected the great evidence of God’s power on Mount Carmel would bring revival.
Instead, it only put a price on his head. He was so disappointed he asked to die.
If anyone was ever faced with repeated disappointment, it was Moses. He had many reasons to be
disappointed. Moses was worn out. Instead of a grateful, joyful people, willing to endure anything to
get to the wonderful homeland God had promised, he had to play nursemaid for 40 years to a people
who were never satisfied, no matter what he or God did. His worst and final disappointment came
when he was forbidden to enter the Promised Land himself.
There were times when David faced discouragement so acute that his faith in the future that God had
promised him vanished. He consequently did things that were wrong and foolish. At one point, he
even pretended to have lost his mind. Another time, he tried to run away and hide among Israel’s
Disappointment among God’s people wasn’t limited to the Old Testament. Jesus’ disciples also knew
what it was to be keenly disappointed. They had fervently believed that Jesus was the Messiah, and
they expected him to usher in the Messianic kingdom. The disciples expected Israel to be rescued
from Roman oppression when the Messiah came. Instead, the One on whom they had set their
hearts died a criminal’s death on a Roman cross.
Sometimes God’s way of doing things is really difficult for us. If he would only keep the schedule
we’ve laid out for ourselves! If he cooperated, we wouldn’t have doubts or disappointments. Of
course the truth is that the most important time for our faith to be sturdy is precisely when we’re
disappointed and confused about what God is doing. Think of disappointment as a test permitted by
God to see if we’ll continue trusting him, obeying him, and believing that he is good.
The Disappointment, Discouragement, Disillusionment, Depression, Defeat – Wedge
Disappointment sounds so harmless doesn’t it, but it’s the tip of a wedge that can stop our spiritual
growth and make us bitter and defeated. Disappointment is an emotional wedge that Satan will use to
put lies into our mind that starts a progression. The tip of the wedge is disappointment, but if we let
our disappointment fester, the wedge is driven in a little farther, and we experience discouragement.
Unchecked, discouragement because disillusionment. Then the wedge invades even more territory
as it proceeds to depression. Ultimately, we end in defeat. Defeat is when we’ve totally surrendered
to the lie that God doesn’t want our good. And if God isn’t for us but is instead against us, then what
can we possibly do to reverse that? That’s the lie that’s believed by the person in defeat.
So you can see how important it is to deal with the tip of this wedge before we end up in depression
and defeat? So how do we deal with these very real feelings? How do we prevent the penetration of
this deadly wedge into our spirits? Three lessons from Exodus chapters 15-17.
Lesson 1: We need to realise God’s loving purpose for us
Lesson 1: We need to realise God’s loving purpose for us. God loved Israel deeply, which is why he
called them out of slavery in Egypt. And because he loved them, he wanted to make them obedient
and holy. That was his loving purpose for them. In Exodus 15:22–25 22 we read: Moses led Israel
from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled in the desert
without finding water. When they came to Marah, they could not drink its water because it was bitter.
(That is why the place is called Marah.) So the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What are
we to drink?” Then Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. He threw
it into the water, and the water became fit to drink.
After Moses threw the piece of wood in the water. God said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the
Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his
decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who
Because God loves us, he tests us. Sometimes he allows trying events and circumstances to enter
our lives to test us, so he can accomplish his loving purpose in us, which is to mature us spiritually, to
make us more like Jesus. Maybe you’re in a hard place at the moment. Maybe the Lord’s trying to
mature you. You’re not in that difficult circumstance by accident. In his love God has either allowed
you to be there or he has placed you there to accomplish his loving purpose in you. That’s the first
lesson we need to learn.
Lesson 2: We need to remember God’s loving provision
Lesson 2: We need to remember God’s loving provision. The Israelites were out in the wilderness.
They were whining and complaining. They didn’t have any food. So what did God do? He gave them
quail and manna. Manna was this substance that tasted like wafers with honey on it. God gave that to
them every day. They always had what they needed. It was abundant.
Because God loves us, he doesn’t always give us what we want; but he always gives us what we
need. Like any smart parent, God knows giving children what they want isn’t necessarily good for
them. In fact, one of the best ways to create a grumbling, complaining, discontented adult is for a
parent to give that individual whatever they want when they’re a child.
Look at Exodus 16:32–35. After having provided the children of Israel with all this manna, notice what
the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron to do. Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded:
‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave
you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’” So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a jar
and put an omer of manna in it. Then place it before the Lord to be kept for the generations to come.”
As the Lord commanded Moses, Aaron put the manna with the tablets of the covenant law, so that it
might be preserved. The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled;
they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan.
God wanted them to take the manna, put it in a jar, and place it in the Testimony – which is by the Ark
of the Covenant, which they always carried with them – so they would remember God’s loving
provision, and as a result, they would develop a sense of gratitude towards God.
Here’s a question for all of us. How has God in his love graciously provided for our needs in the past?
And have we thanked him for that? Are we developing a sense of gratitude for God’s loving
provision? We need to learn about God’s loving purpose, which is maturity. We need to learn about
God’s loving provision to meet our needs.
Lesson 3: We need to recognise God’s loving presence
Lesson 3: We need to recognise God’s loving presence. In Exodus 17, in the first couple verses,
Israel went to Rephidim. They arrived, and, once again, there was no water. And they whined and
grumbled and complained against Moses. “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our
children and livestock die of thirst?” So God told Moses to go to Horeb and strike the rock with his
staff, and the water poured out on Israel.
But look at verse 7, which is the end of the narrative. And he called the place Massah and Meribah
because the Israelites quarreled and because they tested the Lord saying, “Is the Lord among us or
not?” Their sin was that they got so caught up in their circumstances – their thirst and their search for
water, their ongoing discontent – that they forgot the presence of God with them. But he hadn’t
abandoned them. He hadn’t forgotten them. He was always with them, leading them, guiding them,
protecting them, providing for them.
If you and I want to be saved from a life of disillusionment and disappointment and discontent, all we
need to do is run to the loving arms of Jesus. We need to learn about his loving purpose. Remember
his loving provision. Recognise his loving presence. Then we find our rest, peace and contentment in
If you’re dealing with a disappointment right now, remember that you can rely on God. When we
recognise God’s goodness, even in our disappointment, we begin to really know him. As Paul tells us
in Philippians 3:8 I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ
Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.
We’re reminded that God himself represents the greatest good and if we set our eyes on him, we
won’t be disappointed or discouraged because he will satisfy us. I’m talking about really knowing him
– sensing his closeness, his love, and his constant presence. When we truly know God, we know that
no matter what our circumstances, he satisfies our every need and we will never be disappointed