September 16, 2015 | by: Angela Karum | 2 Comments
Posted in: Identity
That’s how I felt while my friend was talking. As the realization sank in that what I was hoping and praying for was not going to happen, the disappointment was overwhelming and I felt sick at heart. I think I said something appropriate, but I cried bitter tears as I drove home.
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Proverbs 13:12
How do we deal with disappointment? When things don’t turn out as we expected? What do we do when that relationship crumbles despite all our efforts? When we’ve been asking God to heal our loved one and things continue to get worse? When the people we’ve looked up to and trusted betray us or behave in ways we can’t respect? When that lost prodigal is still running from God? When we’ve longed and prayed for a child, but the test still comes back negative? When we’ve worked our tail off for months, but the promotion is given to someone else?
The worst kind is when God disappoints us.
Mary and Martha, the beloved friends of Jesus, experienced this when Jesus delayed to respond to their urgent request for Him to come heal their brother, Lazarus. Not only did Jesus fail to arrive in time, but He deliberately stayed where He was another two days. If anyone had a claim on Jesus, it was Lazarus and his sisters. Everyone knew they were a priority to Jesus. Everyone knew He stayed with them when He was in Bethany. Their friendship was the rare kind most people only dream of. So why didn’t He drop everything and rush to Lazarus’ bedside? Instead, He lingers and when He eventually gets to Bethany, Lazarus has been dead four days and the funeral is in full swing.
Disappointment doesn’t even begin to describe what Mary and Martha were feeling. They had counted on Jesus to be there, their motives were pure, they had done everything right – but Jesus did not save Lazarus. When He finally shows up, the sisters each greet him with the same bewildered question, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:21,32
Disappointments large and small take their toll on our hearts. Over time, we can become numb, no longer willing to dream or hope. It’s safer to shut our hearts down and keep our expectations small. If we don’t hope for much, then we won’t be so disappointed when it doesn’t work out. We can even take the “good Christian” route and tell ourselves it wasn’t really God’s will and He has something better for us. Or maybe God wanted to teach us something, build our character. Or we reason that maybe our desire was really selfish, so of course God had to say no, and we become mistrustful of our own heart’s desires.
Underneath this is a subtle lie: God doesn’t really care about us, about what matters to us. This is what Mary and Martha were asking Jesus – “Do you care about us and Lazarus? Because it looks like you don’t. If you really cared, you would have come in time to heal him.”
Jesus responds with compassion to Martha’s question by meeting the need of her heart. She needed to know who He is. “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” John 11:25 Martha needed a bigger view of Jesus, to see that He is the Source of Life, not just Healer.
To Mary, Jesus responds by sharing her grief. He weeps openly and loudly, so much that the people around were amazed, remarking on how much He had loved Lazarus. And then Jesus does the impossible -- He raises Lazarus from the dead. He enters Mary’s disappointment and grief, then overcomes it with joy and peace.
This is what our hearts need when we are crushed with disappointment. We need to take our disappointment to Jesus.
Ask Him the hard questions with vulnerable bewilderment.
Keep our hearts open to Him and let Him enter the pain of our disappointment, sharing our tears.
Allow Him to validate our pain and shows us who He is.
He answers the questions our hearts are asking and in His loving Presence, we receive His peace.
Angela Karum, mother of two teenagers and Florida resident since 2008, fills her free time hunting treasures in used book stores and sipping Nutella lattes with friends. Her compassionate heart and ready smile belie an adventurous spirit cultivated during her childhood in the Amazon jungle.