Dealing with disappointment

I have been interested in the reaction of Olympic medal hopefuls to disappointment.

One speed skater at the Vancouver Winter Games seemed to blame his less-than-expected result on his training program.  That implied criticism of his coach and the national sporting federation, although he later said he assumed responsibility for his result.

Another athlete said she spent a sleepless night after finishing out of the medals.  Clearly, she was disappointed in herself.

A skater who won silver instead of the expected gold said she skated as hard as she could and was happy with her medal.

Three different reactions mirroring many of the emotions I have felt when I did not achieve what I hoped I would.

In looking back over my life, I realize I have not always reacted well to disappointment.

Thinking of my working life, I can see that it was good I did not get one job that I really wanted.  From later experience, I now know that I was not suited for the job and would have been miserable.  God knew better than I did what was good for me and closed that door.

But, I also harbour some resentment that I was not considered for another promotion.  This came back to me today as I was thinking about those Olympic athletes.  Resentment is not good.  In the extreme, it can lead to bitterness and that is destructive.

On many occasions, I have also been disappointed with myself.  I can remember failing to meet my own expectations in my work and home life.  And I have often felt that I disappointed God.  If taken too far, these emotions can lead to depression.  Thankfully, that has not happened to me.

So, how does God want me to deal with my disappointments?

The answer seems to be to look away from myself and toward God.

In Paul’s wonderful letter to the Philippians, he says in chapter 4:4-7 that I am to rejoice in the Lord “always” – not once in a while, but always.  I am not to be anxious but to bring my concerns to God in prayer.  And God’s peace will fill my heart.  As he says in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, I am to be joyful and filled with thanksgiving in all circumstances.

Paul goes on to say in Philippians 4:11-13 that he has learned to be content whatever the situation – whether he is well-off or on the edge of poverty.  I am encouraged by the word “learned” because that tells me Paul did not reach that level instantly.  It took time and a lot of living.

Sometimes, the hardest disappointments are our failures to live up to what we feel God wants from us.

But, here I am so glad that the apostle John wrote about Peter’s encounter with Jesus after the resurrection.  Just before the crucifixion of Jesus, Peter had denied being a follower of Christ.  Later, he wept bitterly as he realized what he had done.

In John 21, we read that Jesus met the disciples while they were fishing in the Sea of Galilee.  As they ate on the shore, Jesus asked Peter three times whether Peter loved him.  Peter said yes and then Jesus told him to “feed my lambs”.

What is wonderful about this passage is that Jesus was showing confidence in Peter.  In effect, he was telling him: “I forgive you and I believe in you.”

That tells me that Jesus is ready to forgive me for my shortcomings.  And he counts me as one of his lambs.

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