What to do when life disappoints you…
This Easter weekend my family and I went out for a day trip to the Baltimore Aquarium. Lately, we’ve been really needing a day out as a family – a day to just enjoy each other’s company and do something FUN. We’ve shared some tears together recently, a few things not going the way we had planned and a big revelation from a family member that shook us – as a family unit – to the core. To use a water metaphor, we’ve been in some rough waters. We saw the extended Easter weekend coming and purposed to make it a joyful time together. So off we went on a sunny day to peer into tanks full of aquatic life and “ooh” and “aah” at God’s creations. We spent hours exploring the aquarium, we
experienced a shark adventure in 4-D and got great seats for the dolphin talk (in the splash zone!) where we giggled as the dolphins leaped and spun through the air. We left the aquarium satisfied that we had seen it all and very hungry for some dinner. About half way home we stopped at an Italian restaurant for an absolutely amazing meal. Our server was so on the ball that we called the manager over to compliment her. My husband said it was maybe the best restaurant service he had experienced in his life. All around it was a great day and just what we had needed. We arrived home late (after 10 pm) and tired. It only took about 2 minutes after opening the front door to realize there was a problem…
We own a puppy. She’s a Golden Labrador, Australian Shepherd, Husky mix and she is adorable and super smart and from time to time really, REALLY naughty. We leave her with plenty of puppy puzzles and treats when we go out but every once in a while something gets torn up. Sometimes it’s a shoe (usually one of mine), a few times it has been a plastic food container that she pulled from the counter. Once she ate a tin of cupcakes that we thought we had set out of her reach. On this day – it was our living room carpet.
Oh, the disappointment. In the middle of our living room floor sat a large pile of unraveled carpet. In my mind, I thought that if I trimmed it quickly before my husband could see it, it might not be that bad. NOPE. With the carpet threads trimmed away there was a hole. A big one. In the middle. of. the. floor.
Here we are, swimming through life, dealing with challenges as they come, taking a moment to pop our heads above water and breath some fresh air and suddenly the wind gets knocked out of us. A living room carpet is a big expense but even so – it’s just stuff. There are disappointments in life that cut deeper. We’ve seen some of those recently too. Less than two weeks ago our home town experienced a school shooting that left two families without their children. Just five days ago in our county there was a house fire where two babies died. Perhaps you know from experience some level of the kind of hurt and disappointment I’m writing about. A bad report from the doctor, the loss of a job, infidelity of a loved one, perhaps an unplanned pregnancy? Disappointments like these can knock the wind out of you. They can leave you stunned, frozen in shock, and wondering how to handle life from this point forward.
The world keeps turning, life goes on, the current keeps moving. For a moment, you feel like an observer – like your world has stopped and EVERYTHING has changed and you don’t know what to do.
First, be encouraged. You are not alone. There are others who have faced life disappointments. Some to a lesser degree, some to a greater degree and some just like
yours. There are people who understand. People who have lived through what you are living right now. In fact, for thousands of years people having been living through life disappointments.
Unplanned pregnancy, unexpected death, even personal disappointment in someone close to you – none of these are new. In fact – we can read examples of all of these in the Bible.
Let’s look at Mary and Joseph. Mary, who had never slept with a man, had to go to her parents and her fiancée and tell them she was pregnant. I am sure she was scared, unsure of what her future would hold and certain that her life would now be different from what she had planned. And Joseph? He certainly felt hurt and betrayed by her news. He even planned to divorce her quietly. Even after realizing that this pregnancy was all part of God’s plan – surely Mary and Joseph wondered at their future and how it would now be different from what they had imagined. You can read more about their story in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke in the New Testament.
How about the widow of Zarephath? You can find this story in the Old Testament in 1 Kings 17. This woman had lost her husband and was raising her son alone in a drought that was so bad she was ready to cook their last meal and die. Elijah the prophet comes along and God provides food for all of them through the end of the drought. But then her son gets sick and dies. Here she was, doing what she knew to be right and suddenly her son is dead.
Or what about the life disappointment the disciples faced when Jesus was arrested, taken to prison and crucified? Here were these men who left everything, their families, their jobs and their homes to follow Jesus. They believed in Him and believed that He was the answer that they, that the whole community, had been looking for… and yet He went without a fight, allowed himself to be arrested, beaten, spit on and crucified. The Gospel of Mark tells us that when Jesus was arrested His disciples ran away.
Whatever emotion you are feeling as you face a life disappointment, be encouraged. You are not the first to face such a challenge – others have gone before you and survived.
I tell my children often – you can’t control the actions of others but you CAN control your reaction to them. If you are facing a life disappointment – it is so important to forgive quickly. This will set you free. If you hold on to the hurt it will only hurt you more.
Allow me to return briefly to the story about the puppy and my carpet. When the puppy causes destruction, the destruction often causes conflict between my husband and I. And this carpet destruction was no different. Instantly there was conflict. Tempers flared. It would have been easy to begin placing blame (I was the one who wanted the puppy after all) and let this explode into a bigger issue and a full-blown argument. Thankfully, on this occasion, that didn’t happen.
It is so very easy when disappointment happens to place blame. Often it IS someone else’s fault. Someone makes a bad decision, takes an action that offends another, it’s a ripple effect that causes a tidal wave of hurt. It’s so very easy to WANT to hold on to that anger and let it be the outlet for our pain. Maybe the anger and blame are aimed inward. If only I hadn’t … If I would have done this instead of that… Whether the object of your anger is another person or yourself, forgive quickly. Theologian Lewis B. Smedes once said, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”
There is hope. I promise you, whatever you are facing, no matter how big the disappointment, there is hope. You see, for Mary and Joseph the unexpected pregnancy really did change everything – not just for them but for the whole world. For the widow of Zarephath – Elijah called out to God on behalf of her son and the life came back into him. And for the disciples who watched their trusted leader be lead away, beaten and crucified – He rose again on the third day and defeated death. You see God had a plan. His plan was to send His own son to be born of a virgin (Mary) and live a sinless life. His plan was for his son to die on a cross and pay the price so that all who would believe in Him and call on His name could have eternal life. God has a plan for you too. You may not understand it right now, you may not be able to make sense out of what’s happening or how it could ever turn into something good. The Bible tells us that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts and his plans are better than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). Jeremiah 29:11 tells us: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And Genesis chapter 50 tells us that what the enemy means for evil God can use for good. Hope exists. It is real and it is available to you. Hope has a name and that name is Jesus.
As for my story… we bought an area rug, the carpet we knew we wanted to replace soon just moved up on our list of priorities and we will never, ever forget this particular day trip to the Baltimore Aquarium.
If you find yourself today in a hopeless place, we would love to encourage you, to help you find forgiveness and hope. Our client advocates have listening ears and honest and accurate information. We can help. Call or email us today:
Lexington Park: 301.737.4604
Prince Frederick: 410.326.6866
If it is outside of our normal business hours and you need help now please visit pregnancydecisionline.org
Chrissy Cooney is the Care Net Pregnancy Center of Southern Maryland Communications Director.