Life is full of disappointments. That’s especially true during this season of social distancing and isolation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, as with anything in life, the sizes of these disappointments vary. It is one thing when your favorite frozen pizza is out of stock at the grocery store but it’s another thing if you had to postpone your wedding. It’s ok to feel disappointment in both cases, however the degree of disappointment should reflect the degree of loss. If you feel the same degree of emotion over your pizza as you do your wedding, then something is wrong! Either you care too much about your frozen pizza or too little about your wedding.
With that in mind, difficult seasons in our lives can actually provide a helpful window into our priorities. In 1 Timothy 6:17, we read, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” Clearly, God provides us with many good gifts for our enjoyment in this present age, such as friends, family, material possessions, recreation, work, and so on. Equally clear is the fact that we are not to set our hope on these good gifts but rather on God. We are all disappointed over the things that this pandemic has taken from us. However, if we are getting a little too upset or disappointed, then perhaps it reveals that these good gifts hold too important a place in our hearts. We may be placing too much value on the gifts while neglecting the Giver.
Live With An Eternal Perspective
So what can we do about this? We can recognize that one purpose God may be accomplishing in our lives during this season is to teach us to stop setting our hope on the things of this world. Corrie ten Boom (a woman whose entire family was incarcerated by the Nazis during WWII) said, “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.” Indeed, enjoy God’s good gifts as they were meant to be enjoyed, but put your hope where it belongs! “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
There is noting wrong with grieving the losses of God’s good gifts, but the hope we have in Christ should help us to keep things in perspective so that we do not descend into despair. This will happen more and more as we remember to hope in these seasons of disappointment. Here are three practical steps we can take towards that end.
Find Hope In The Truth That God Has A Purpose For Our Suffering. James writes, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). What James is saying is not that we should rejoice in the trials themselves but rather in God who accomplishes His good work in our lives through these trials. God never wastes suffering in the lives of His children. Instead, He works through it to conform us to the likeness of Jesus with a strong, more mature faith.
Experience Hope As The Holy Spirit Ministers To Your Heart. In Romans 5:3-5, we read, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Again, we find that God does not waste our suffering. However, we are also told that God Himself, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, is present with us, testifying to His great love for us even the middle of these trials. Listen to Him through His Word. Listen to Him as you go to Him in prayer. Listen to Him as He speaks through His people. God is not actually silent in our suffering. The problem, too often, is that we are not listening. Michael Card lamented this sad tendency for all of us in his song, “Will You Not Listen?” (listen here).
Listen to the sacred silence, Listen to the Holy Word Listen as He speaks through living, Parables that must be heard
He spoke a word of flesh and blood, Flesh and blood that bled and died Bled and died just to be heard How could you not hear this Word? Why will you not hear this Word?
Will you not listen? Why won't you listen?
God has spoken hope to us, How could you not listen?
Look Forward To The Hope That God Will Set All Things Right In The End. In Revelation 21:3-5, John described his vision of the New Heavens and New Earth after Jesus comes again. “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
God is true to His Word! There will come a day when the disappointments that we experience in this world will be no more. In part, this will be true because there will be no more sickness, death or pain. In part, this will be true because we will be free from sin, and our priorities will finally be squarely where they belong, on the everlasting God! This is not wishful thinking; it is HOPE, namely, the confident anticipation that God will do what He promised, even if we cannot see it, yet.
A Closing Blessing
So, let me encourage you during this season of disappointments to remember that God is not wasting your suffering, to listen to Him as He ministers to your heart, and to be encouraged that your story ends not with disappointment but with the richness of God’s amazing grace. Finally, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope” (Romans 15:13).