Monday, March 21, 2016

Dealing with Disappointment

Philippians 2:5, John 13:3, Luke 22:14-15, Matthew 26:36

Introduction
            Palm Sunday fell on the first day of spring this year.  I love springtime.  The short days and cold, gloomy days of winter are just depressing to me.  Then, spring comes and it revives my soul.  New life begins to bud and it has a wondrous effect on me.  Yet there are still disappointments in life regardless of the season. 
I suppose it was springtime when Jesus faced his most disappointing week.  The week from Palm Sunday to Easter was a very difficult one for Jesus—full of tremendous highs and awful lows.  The week began with a Palm Sunday parade filled with great expectations; but what followed was disappointment after disappointment.  Of course, we know how the story ends—with the ultimate triumph of Easter morning, with Christ rising from the tomb.  But it took a week of disappointments before the glory of Easter was realized. 
            Meditating on Christ's final week on earth made me think a lot about disappointments and how Jesus coped with them and how we might cope with them better too.  Philippians 2:5 says, “You must have the same attitude Christ Jesus had.”    Jesus dealt with his disappointing week in a few key ways.  Perhaps these can help us through dark times as well. 

Faith
John 13:3 – “Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God.  
The first factor that strengthens us when we face disappointments is faith in God.  Think about what Jesus did during his last week on earth.  In the midst of disappointments, Jesus had an unwavering faith in God’s ultimate will.  Jesus was not fooled by the exulting crowd waving palm branches.  He knew that the people of Jerusalem would reject him in just a few days.  However, he was able to see beyond that disappointment to the ultimate victory of God.  For though God’s kingdom would not be realized in Jerusalem that week, ultimately—because of Jesus’ sacrifice—God’s plan of salvation was accomplished.  Jesus had faith in God’s ultimate will and that steeled him when disappointments came.  Perhaps that is how he was able to keep preaching and teaching and speaking the truth about God’s coming Kingdom, even though he knew people would reject his message and hang him on a cross.  Perhaps that is how Jesus was able to wash his disciples’ feet even though he knew one would betray him and they all would desert him.
            Our disappointments are tempered when our faith in God puts them in perspective.  God can use our disappointments to make us stronger; and He can and does turn our disappointments into victories.  We can endure disappointments and continue on the road God has set before us because we know that ultimately, if we have faith in God, we will have “Victory in Jesus”.  And on that Day, the glory we find will overshadow any disappointment we face in this lifetime.
            But faith only soothes our disappointments; it does not usually cancel them.  We still feel the sting when friends betray us.  We still feel sorrow when someone we love dies. 
            Many years ago, Kelly’s brother, Wesley, went down to Florida for Spring Break with a bunch of his friends.  Well, they had been drinking one night and then went out into the surf to swim.  And when they all came back in, there was on missing.  They searched frantically for their friend until they found the guy’s body floating in the waves.  They dragged him up on to the shore and tried to revive him, but nothing worked.  Their friend was gone.  Their Spring Break turned into a terrible disappointment.
            Now you take a Spring Break tragedy like that and you put yourself into the shoes of those friends.  What are we to do in the mean time?  What comfort can we find now—right now while we are hurting so bad?  So there are other things—when accompanied by faith in God—that can help us cope with disappointment.   

Friends
Luke 22:14-15 – 14 When the time came, Jesus and the apostles sat down together at the table. 15 Jesus said, “I have been very eager to eat this Passover meal with you before my suffering begins.
Jesus coped with his disappointing week by spending time with his closest friends.  Each day, he would teach in the city and then at night he would retreat to the quiet Mount of Olives with his disciples—his twelve closest friends.  And of course, on the very last night—when his anxiety was heaviest—Jesus shared one last meal with his friends (that meal which we have come to call the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion).  When we are overtaken by deep disappointment, it can be very helpful to withdraw a little from all your casual acquaintances and surround yourself with your closest friends. 
One of the biggest disappointments Kelly and I faced together was a miscarriage in December of 2005.  (This was before Abigail was born.)  We were both looking forward to having our third child.  We were already picking out names and had become attached to the tiny new life forming inside Kelly’s womb.  And then, as we went together to the doctor’s office expecting to see a sonogram our tiny little baby’s heart beating—we instead got the disappointing news that the heart had stopped and the child was dead. 
One of the best things we did to cope with our disappointment was to get away for a few days.  A friend loaned us a cabin in Dahlonega.  We left Gavin and Grace with our parents and we just took some time to get away—just the two of us.  Kelly is my closest friend.  To be away from everyone else and just be with her was very therapeutic.  And I think the same was true for her.
So when we have disappointments, it helps to have an unwavering faith in God’s ultimate victory and to surround ourselves with our closest and dearest friends.  Can we learn anything else from Jesus’ disappointing week?  Well, Jesus also sought strength and support from God through prayer.  And I think we should do the same.   

Fervent Prayer
Matthew 26:36 – 36 Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” 
After sharing his final meal with his disciples, Jesus went into the garden to pray.  And I want you to note the tone of his prayer.  It was a very honest, heartfelt prayer.  Jesus didn’t use flowery language.  He wasn’t trying to impress God or anybody else.  He just poured out his heart.  My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.[i]  And he prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away until I drink it, your will be done.”[ii]  Jesus did not seek to change God’s will, but sincerely contemplated whether there was any other way to fulfill God’s plan.  And when, through prayer, Jesus determined there was no other way, he sought and found strength and determination from God.
            Prayer is indispensable for us too when we face disappointment.  It’s not just a way for us to ask God to change our situation—though God does sometimes change the situation.  More importantly, prayer is a time for us to honestly express our disappointment—even if our disappointment is with God.  God can handle our disappointment and through prayer He can help us let them go.  God can give us strength and determination to pass through our disappointments.  So telling God our disappointments is very important.
            Faith, family, and fervent prayer helped Jesus during his most disappointing week.   

Conclusion
            The final days of Jesus’ life teach Christians we must pass through the disappointment of the cross before we reach the victory of Easter.  We want to skip the difficulties.  We like to dwell on happy days and victory songs.  But let us never forget Jesus’ words when he said in Mark 8:34, “If any of you wants to be my follower… …you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me.”  Sometimes the victory is not just what happens when we rise again on the other side of disappointment.  Sometimes the true victory is the way we live while we are in the midst of terrible trials.  For then God’s power is truly revealed in us as it was in Jesus on the long road to Calvary.   
Christians are not immune to trials and disappointments in this life.  Yet we have something others don’t have.  Jesus walks with us through our trials.  And we have an assurance that something far better awaits us on the other side.  Don’t you want to take hold of the hope Jesus offers today?  Don’t you want Jesus to be the Lord and Savior of your life?  Then why not ask Jesus into your heart today? 


[i] Matthew 26:39
[ii] Matthew 26:42