When you experience something that is disappointing, have you struggled with how to handle disappointment?
Do you get mad? Do the tears flow? Do you take it out on the people around you? Maybe retreat and isolate yourself? There are plenty of ways to react to disappointment. But you don’t need to stay in that place of reaction. Instead, you can learn how to handle disappointment in ways that are helpful instead of destructive.
No one is a stranger to disappointment. In everyone’s life, some things don’t go the way we hoped, the way we thought they would, or the way we deserved. Walking through those experiences can be challenging, especially if we don’t want to devolve into a spiral of negative emotions.
Let’s start by taking a look at disappointment so we understand why it affects us so deeply.
What is disappointment?
We walk through life full of expectations. We expect the water to get hot when we turn on the shower, the person we love to love us back, the car to start and the kids to listen. Expecting things to work and go our way is such a regular part of living we don’t even think about it until something doesn’t work.
When the shower is cold, the person we love rejects us, the car doesn’t start, and the kids don’t listen, we feel unpleasant sensations. The thing we expected to happen didn’t happen. Our expectation is unmet. This is the heart of disappointment: having an expectation or hope that is unmet.
This may not sound so bad as we read these examples, but when these things happen to us, it can be devastating, especially if they were things we were counting on. That feeling of disappointment, of hopes that don’t come to pass, can leave us with a host of emotions and reactions.
Even the Bible alludes to disappointment and its effects on us. Solomon writes in Proverbs, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12, NIV) Disappointment, or hope that doesn’t come to pass, is something that hurts our hearts. Conversely, a longing that is fulfilled brings us life.
God knew we would face disappointments that would trouble our hearts. But we don’t have to stay in that place of strife and disappointment. When Jesus was talking about the disciples and the grief they would face upon His death, He shared a word of hope: “‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’” (John 16:33, NIV)
We all experience disappointment.
It’s sad, but also amazing to think that the idea of disappointment goes back so far. Back to the days of Jesus and His disciples, back to the days of Solomon, back, even to the days of Adam and Eve when their mistakes changed everything. It seems everyone has experienced disappointment.
But that is not the end of the story. Disappointment does not have the final say.
Just as Jesus gives the disciples hope for the disappointment they were about to walk through, He offers you hope as you walk through disappointment.
How to handle disappointment.
While there may not be a magic solution that helps you avoid disappointment in your life, there are things you can do to help you handle it when you experience disappointment.
Start by remembering what is true.
When you face something disappointing, it is easy to spiral mentally. If, for example, you don’t get the job you applied for, it is easy to think about things like the following:
- I’m not good enough.
- I’ll never find a job.
- Nothing ever works out for me.
While those feelings are valid, they may not represent what is true in your life. Those feelings are a temporary response to the disappointment you are facing. Instead of believing those feelings, you can acknowledge them and speak the truth.
- I feel like I’m not good enough, but I am created by God and He has good things planned for me to do. “ For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)
- It may seem like I’ll never find a job, but God will always take care of me. “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19, NIV)
- I feel like nothing ever works out for me, but God promises to work all things for His good purposes. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV)
Next, consider your blessings.
When you feel disappointed it can be difficult to think about the blessings in your life. The disappointment can be all you see. But just like you started by choosing to believe in Truth and hope in faith, you can choose to see your blessings.
This doesn’t mean the disappointment isn’t there. People often make the mistake of thinking that their feelings need to be all one thing or the other. All good or all bad. All hope or all despair. All blessings or all disappointments. Instead, you can choose to see the blessings in your life even while you walk through disappointment. They can coexist in your heart as you recover.
Start by saying: I feel disappointed, but I also have __________. Here are some examples to help you get started:
- I feel disappointed, but I also woke up this morning.
- I feel disappointed, but I also had a delicious cup of coffee.
- I feel disappointed, but I also love seeing the sunshine today.
The blessings you identify don’t need to be profound to have a profound impact. Start with simple things that you can use to begin shifting from disappointment to blessing.
Finally, ask for help.
When you face disappointment, it can be tempting to isolate yourself, choosing to face it alone. Instead of asking people for help you may struggle through it on your own. But there is so much good that can come from asking for help.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2, NIV
Not only do you need help from those you trust, but you also need to ask God for help when you are disappointed. So many times, people avoid God when they feel this way. God isn’t waiting for you to get yourself together before you come to Him. He welcomes you to bring your feelings to Him so that He may help you carry them.
Hannah gives a perfect example of bringing her bitter disappointment to God. She had wanted a baby. She felt desperate with despair and she stopped eating. Hannah knew what disappointment and longing felt like. Instead of holding onto these things and separating herself from God, she brought her feelings to Him: “In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly.” (1 Samuel 1:10, NIV)
Just as the Bible is full of stories of people bringing their struggles to God, so can you.
Another option for help.
As you navigate feelings of disappointment, you can work through these steps to find relief. But this doesn’t need to be something you do on your own. There are counselors in our office trained to help people learn how to handle disappointment and navigate the hard things they face in life.
Whether you are trying to handle a small, nagging disappointment or you are burdened by a heavy disappointment that is affecting your life, there is help for you. Reach out to the office today. As you consider the disappointments you face in life, you can hold onto that same promise that Jesus gave the disciples. There is hope in Him.
“Down”, Courtesy of Arif Riyanto, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Misty Mountains”, Courtesy of Jan Brennenstuhl, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Compass”, Courtesy of Jen Theodore, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Open Hands”, Courtesy of Ave Calvar, Unsplash.com, Unsplash+ License