Disappointment – the Sovereign Surprise

by Andy Wood on May 13, 2009

in Life Currency, Tense Truths, Time

delaysSo have you had any disappointments?

That’s what an old friend asked me last week.

We hadn’t talked much in the last five years, and were in catch-up mode over lunch.  Because of the really good things happening at our church lately, I had gushed a lot about how great things are.  Then he caught me flat-footed with that question, and I gave him my best deer-in-the headlights gaze.

The answer was obvious, but I had to think a bit before I could actually name any.  I finally regained my wits and offered a random list of times when Church World had punched me in the gut.  But they were nothing, I hastened to say, compared to the joy and gratitude we were experiencing these days.

In thinking a bit more about the experiences I’d shared, I realized with stunning 20/20 hindsight that my disappointments weren’t all that random after all.  As frustrating or painful as they are, my disappointments were part of God’s larger plan to take me where He wanted me to go, and to make me who He wants me to be.  Disappointments are actually God’s way of taking care of me – and His plan – for the long term.

I suspect the same could be said for you.

So have you had any disappointments?

I also was reminded that in times of great disappointment, we have some pretty good Bible company – starting with that motley crew of liberated Israelis in Exodus.  From one end of the desert to the other, these people faced a steady stream of unwelcome news.

In looking at my experience, and theirs, I see four faces of disappointment.

1.  Delays

It was a six-day march from Egypt to Canaan.  But God had other ideas.

When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”  So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. (Exodus 13:17-18, NLT)

This detour was intended to last months.  It wound up lasting 40 years.  And it teaches me some things about the scenic route:  God has His purposes in His delays. What’s more, our responsibility is not to get where we are going. It is to be where God wants us to be.

Let me be painfully plain.  If you want with all your heart to be married, it isn’t your job to find a spouse.  It is your responsibility to be a follower of the Spouse-giver.

When you are trying to make a decision, and there doesn’t seem to be any answer coming from God, it isn’t your job to get the decision made one way or the other.  The timing of God’s answer is just as significant as the answer itself.  And He doesn’t need you or me to be His efficiency expert.

There may be instant spirituality, but there is no such thing as instant maturity.  And God will allow you to experience delays in order to teach you the discipline of waiting on Him.  Don’t settle for cheap and superficial shortcuts.

2.  Distressing People

Pharoah – wow.  What a piece o’ work.  But get this:  the same God who had a plan for the Hebrew nation had a plan for Pharaoh, too.  Did you also know that part of His plan for the children of Israel was to harden Pharaoh’s heart?

I wonder if He still does that.

I wonder if he still deliberately gets people under our skin.

One of the biggest kinds of disappointment is when people don’t measure up to their own promises or to our expectations.

  • You fix a special dinner for your husband and he is three hours late, and never calls to let you know…
  • A hero falls – someone you look up to suddenly proves to the world that they are human…
  • You get a new job, and discover that the person you interviewed with isn’t nearly as nice as they acted, and they lied about how much money you would make.

Check this out:

Even human wrath will praise You; (Psalm 76:10)

If God can make the wrath of man praise Him, don’t you think He’s big enough to handle the jerks, the failures, and the fakers you have to deal with?  And don’t’ you think He’s wise enough to turn the frustrations they bring into something magnificent?

Tomorrow I’ll show you the other two faces of disappointment.  In the mean time and the lean time, let’s thank God for the times He said, “Wait.”  And for the people He has used to sand off our rough edges.

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