I set my alarm last night and woke up exactly when I wanted to. I already knew what the weather would be so I got dressed before looking outside. I took my kids to school and fully expected it to begin at precisely 8:15, allowing me to plan out my morning meetings to the minute. I zoomed around town knowing exactly how much gas I had in my car, and should I need gas, I have an app to find the nearest station and credit card to pay at the pump. I opened an app on my phone to access up-to-the-minute news on just about every major event around the globe and I thought, “Man, this world is out of control.” Yet, in my own day-to-day life, I actually have control over almost everything.
We have communication with loved ones at our fingertips at all times, our schooling plans and financial strategies, insurance for everything and customization of just about anything from lattes to playlists. This gives us the sense that we can simply choose for things go a certain way in life, right? This sense of power makes us feel good. We feel strong. The truth is, I can get addicted to this feeling, so addicted that I begin to build expectations for things to go a certain way- “my way.” I can probably speak for all of us in saying, when circumstances or health or other people’s’ choices don’t go our way, we can easily feel that life is unfair, that things are out of our control. I felt that way recently about a situation. Something I was really looking forward to didn’t go the way I really hoped it would; I was inconvenienced, frustrated and really disappointed. But then I thought… What if that control I feel over most of my life is just an illusion to begin with? What if, in our modern, prosperous and productive society, our threshold for uncertainty has become quite limited compared to most folks in the world?
Maybe we need to practice disappointment. I know that sounds so strange but hear me out. Maybe disappointment is something we actually need. Disappointment gives us the opportunity to be humble, broken and maybe even bored or scared. It reminds us that, ultimately, we are not really in control at all. It gives us space to see our own deep, dark issues so light can begin to shine on them. Practicing disappointment can also be very connected to what it means to suffer with others. As we often say here at Heartwork, the original meaning of the word compassion is “to co-suffer.” Learning to navigate disappointment in our own lives gives us the tools to embrace the disappointments of life with others, giving us an opportunity to practice real compassion as opposed to sympathy.
Think about this: The widow, the orphan, the refugee, the poor, the sick, the social outcast, the imprisoned are by definition, disappointed. They didn’t hope for life to go the way that it has. Nobody does. And somehow God calls it true religion (James 1:27) to be connected to these people, the disappointed ones, who he loves and blesses. What if Scripture is trying to show us that in connecting with the disappointed and broken-hearted we are actually understanding a profound mystery about the nature of God?
The uniqueness of our God (as opposed to idols that we humans have traditionally looked to for power, security and control) is that Jesus took on our disappointments and failures – he became weak, he suffered. He didn’t have to be in control or manipulate things to his advantage, even though he could have! He left the comfort of His Father’s side, he came to Earth, not just descending to the level of man, but as an infant, vulnerable and needy, in a poor and unknown family. He lived as a common carpenter, never grasping at the power he could have accessed for his own comfort or prestige. We get so used to hearing this but try to hear it for the first time: What kind of all-powerful God is this?Why would he humble himself in such a way? And maybe the most important question… How do I follow his example and become like him?
We have a family rule at our house- “Always get your hopes up!” I wonder if the reason children often hear, “Oh, I don’t want you to get your hopes up,” is because we’re afraid they’ll be disappointed. I don’t think Jesus is afraid of being disappointed. God is probably disappointed all the time, and yet he fills us with hope. In the end his love is the cure to all disappointment for all of us for all of time. So, let’s get our hopes up, friends, and stop fearing disappointment. Embrace it and use it to spend yourself for others.