“Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:8
Disappointment feels like a heavy rock sinking to the bottom of my spirit. I’ve felt disappointed in many situations – a business opportunity that didn’t pan out, a writing door that didn’t open, and a relationship that broke my young heart.
The heaviest disappointments for me, however, stem from people. And not just any people; people who I’m closest to. People who turn out to be not at all what I hoped they’d be, or not who I thought they were.
I know I’m not alone in wondering how to deal with people who let me down. Just last week a friend said with a choke in her voice, “I wish my mom and I could be closer, but I don’t think we ever will be.” Another woman said with sadness, “My husband and I just don’t talk.” I’ve heard the edge of bitterness in women’s voices as they vow never to trust again because of a friend’s betrayal. And most of us have swallowed the hopelessness that comes with a broken heart, “I thought he was the one.”
I’ve tried different ways to handle disappointments in relationships. One way is to ignore the disappointment, to shut it in a box and hope the lid holds. Another way is to gloss over it with a quick statement such as, “People will let you down, but God never will.” True, but does this really help me process the hurt?
One morning in my quiet time I was pouring out my sadness, anger and disappointment about a close relationship. As the tears slipped down my face, I begged God to show up. What do I do with all this? Show me and I’ll do it because what I’ve been doing is not working.
Clear as a bell ringing in my spirit, Jesus said, Grieve.
Really? I questioned. I remembered that Jesus knew all about disappointment – Peter’s denial, Judas’ betrayal, and the disciples falling asleep during His anguish before His crucifixion (Matthew 26). I remembered people in the Bible who were well acquainted with people they loved letting them down, such as Joseph or Job. I felt reassured that Jesus wouldn’t misunderstand my sadness as a lack of faith.
So I cried, feeling every ounce of the disappointment. I told God all the things I wish were different about this relationship, all the things I thought this person had done wrong, and what I wish this person would do differently.
After the winds of grief subsided, I was done. Grieving was the bridge I had to cross to move beyond the disappointment. On the other side I found myself in a place where I could embrace the relationship for what it is, not what it’s not.
On the other side of grief lies a place where we can consider how to respond to the person who disappointed us. There are a number of possible responses. Sometimes we need to talk to the person or get godly counsel. Other times we may need to create healthy boundaries, or we may need just to let it go. Only after we’ve allowed ourselves to grieve, however, will we know how to respond to this person in the way that God wants. Then the words, “People will let you down, but God never will,” will be truly comforting, not just empty words.
Dear Lord, I’m so thankful that when it feels like no one else understands, You do. You understand about being disappointed in people but You loved them in the midst of that. Lord, I want to follow Your example. I’m thankful You know this sadness is a part of healing from the pain of disappointment. Give me guidance in handling this -I trust that You can bring good out of this. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.