Someone asked me a while back when I was going through a really difficult season of my life how I was able to stay positive. My response was that for most people somewhere a long the line lies disappointment, whether that be financial struggles, health issues with your child or parent, or even just a lack of relationship and dependence on the Father. I told my friend that I was choosing to trust that this life is not the end of the story, that I still had so much to be thankful for and that if I trusted Him, fixed my eyes on things above, I could get through anything. The truth is this life can easily be filled with disappointment, disappointment in others, ourselves, or even filled with the deception that somehow God disappointed us. This world is full of heart ache but it's not forever. How do we make it through those hard seasons of disappointment? How do we still live a hopeful, joy-filled life in spite of experiencing crushing disappointment? I want to share with you a few things I've learned so far, a few pearls of wisdom that haven't failed me yet and have really got me through those barren places of my life.
Number 1: Forgiveness
I don't think I could say enough about it. The act of giving and receiving forgiveness has completely and utterly transformed my life and set me free. Let me stop right here and say I've been wrestling with this blog post for a few days because of this lesson on forgiveness. I don't take lightly how hard the message of forgiveness can be. While praying about it a little while ago I asked Pappa, "Why isn't forgiveness one of the fruits of the Spirit?" And this is what He said, "It's not a fruit because it's the tree." Forgiveness is the Spirit. Forgiveness is Jesus and when He's planted within you, you have the ability to forgive. All those other fruits are fruits of that Tree of forgiveness, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. We couldn't have any of that if it weren't for the forgiveness that was planted in our hearts to begin with. It's a gift. Just as He's given us forgiveness He has lovingly given us the ability to forgive others. I believe it's because we were never intended for a life where forgiveness was necessary. Unforgiveness is part of this world and it leads a dark and miserable place that He doesn't want any of us to live. When we're not able to forgive in our own strength He gives us grace to walk forgiveness out one day at a time, one minute at a time sometimes. And sometimes He can change our hearts in an instant, whether that's through a change of perspective or a deeper revelation about the situation or a miraculous healing of our hearts. And as we forgive we are set free. Free of the hurt. Free of bitterness. Free of the dread of running into the person we need to forgive. Free from fear, and I've come to realize that fear is largely linked to unforgiveness issues. The gift of being able to forgive others is so overwhelmingly loving on the Father's part. He understands the world we live in and the likelihood of the hurt we are liable to experience. Instead of having to carry all that hurt and pain around we can let it go through forgiveness and experience freedom. Please know I don't mean to trivialize any hurt or offense you may have experienced. I know this is not a Disney movie. I'm not so naive that I don't understand serious trauma and dysfunction others can cause us. But I can testify that no matter what the offense, you can be free from it. Why does He let those hurts happen to us in the first place? Well that's a blog for another day, and I don't have the answer other then it's just part of dysfunction of this world. I've asked Him many, many times why and you know something? He doesn't ever have an answer for me either. He's only ever given me a deeper understanding of His love for me and even the love He has for those who hurt me. And sometimes that's STILL not enough for me. But His grace is sufficient to get me through it in that moment as I surrender and allow Him to move in my heart and as I lean into His gift of forgiveness.
Number 2: Forgiveness
Ha! See I told you I couldn't say enough about it! But this time I want to share the other side of the coin that is the gift of forgiveness. I struggled for a long time with not being able to receive forgiveness. I believe that was largely in part to the fact that I'm acutely aware of my unworthiness and likelihood to mess it all up again and again. How could I receive His forgiveness when I know in my heart I'm just going to sin again. But the truth is, He is worthy. What does that have to do with forgiveness? His ability and willingness to forgive is His prerogative. Is it right for me to doubt His grace? Or the amount of grace He's capable of? He is worthy of my surrender. My surrender to His will, to His desire to move on my heart, and His ability to forgive me no matter the sin. By not receiving that grace I've put myself in a place of pride and false humility and that's one place I've learned is not fun either! He's so worthy of our trust and surrender so let go of that veil of shame and let Him cleanse you, again and again and again.
Number 3: Hope for Today
I think the biggest joy killer and peace robber is worry. We all know that right? I mean that's kind of old news. But how do you walk that out? When money is so tight and you don't know how you'll pay the next bill? What will those test results mean for your child and family? What if the house doesn't sell? What if you don't get that job? What if God doesn't heal you? What if your husband never gets free of addiction? What if there will never be peace in your home? Now, now don't worry...Yeah. Right. At least that's how I used to feel in my own valley of disappointment. But somehow, you can shut all that down even for just a second. Focus on the right now of the moment. Close your eyes and ask yourself, "Where is God?" He's with me. Breathe. What's He saying? He's saying He loves me. He's saying I'm beautiful. He's saying I'm enough. He's saying He is enough for me and I choose, in this moment to believe Him. Right now. Today. He's enough. I have hope that He will fulfill that promise just for today. When you have nothing for tomorrow, no idea how it will work out, you can have hope, just for today.
Number 4: Perspective
So I hope I'm alone in saying that upon occasion I may or may not have the tendency to be slightly self absorbed. But I wouldn't blame you if I'm not the only one. It's SOOOOO easy to do these days. Everything around us encourages us to live life all about ME and to want what we want NOW. It can be so easy to get caught up in our own drama, and sometimes it's kind of superficial like spilling coffee on our shirt on the way to work or getting a flat tire with a van load of kids. And a lot of our drama is #firstworldproblems. But. Sometimes we have legitimate drama, real heart wrenching, gut clenching issues and sometimes we've just barely got our heads above water so excuse me for not caring about your expensive phone being dropped in the toilet drama. Am I right? Maybe you're in that disappointed place and you just wish the people around you would get some perspective! You've got your own problems. So you are probably thinking this lesson is about teaching those superficial people about getting some perspective right? Don't you know me by now? The truth is if you're in a valley, and I know this next part is gonna hurt, Pappa's going to use it. He's going to grow you in a way others will never understand. This low place is really an opportunity to go deeper, deeper in Him, deeper in trust, deeper in faith, deeper in love. And that is the perspective I mean. So when I say to get perspective I don't mean, be happy to eat your vegetables because of all the hungry children in the world, (although that is true and you should) what I mean is set your sights on things above, on things eternal. "Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:1-3). I know looking up when you carry such a burden can be really, really hard and it takes a lot of self control. But you can do it one moment at a time. It's why He gives us daily bread. Hope for today. Provision for today. Grace for today. Peace for today. That's all you need every day.
Now here is where I say be happy and eat your vegetables because there are starving children in the world. I wasn't going to include this one in this blog because I thought it was a little too obvious. Yet, I know, for me at least, I still need to be reminded. Often. This IS a fallen world and there is always someone going through something worse then I am. Maybe something about my situation is so disappointing but my children are all healthy. Not every parent can say that. At least I HAVE children, not everyone who wants a child can have one. You get the idea. Maybe it's an issue with your spouse. Maybe it's hard to be thankful for the one God gave you right now. Can you find one thing you appreciate about them? Often times it will be the one thing that drives you the most crazy! At least it is for me. My husband is a rock. He's solid and dependable. When he commits he always follows through. He's not flighty or tossed to and fro. He doesn't scare easy and he's not easily provoked. And that makes me crazy sometimes! Why? Because I'm the total opposite and could be quoted in saying I feel like he's the rock tied around my neck dragging me down! But only in my most dramatic moments of course, because I am thankful for those qualities. He's saved us from some pretty horrible ideas I've had that at the time seemed brilliant. But seriously, maybe it's just a small tiny thing you can hold onto for today. I'm thankful for clean water, and a working washing machine, and children who sleep through the night, and breakfast in the morning. Those are small things to me but I guarantee you someone wishes desperately that they had what I have.
So there you have it. 5 simple steps to help walk through disappointing times in life with hope and joy. Simple right? But definitely not easy! Please share in the comments below if you are walking through something and would like prayer or if you have your own experience and lesson that has helped get you through hard times. Somewhere up there I should have included how much it helps to be encouraged by loved ones who truly see you and care about what you're going through even if it is superficial. Nothing is superficial to Him, He cares about what you care about!