Disappointed to the Full

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I watched a movie recently that I can confidently recommend—and not only because at one point it introduces a South African accent. I Still Believe is based on the true story of Christian singer Jeremy Camp and his first wife, who died of ovarian cancer not long after they were married. What I most appreciated about the movie was its raw honesty concerning suffering and the Christian. To avoid the need for a “spoiler alert,” I will simply say that the film makes the point that the prayers of Christians are not always answered as we would desire. And this is a biblical truth that is always relevant, and in these times, perhaps especially so.

In one particularly moving scene, one of the characters makes this insightful point: “My life is not full in spite of the disappointments; my life is full because of the disappointments.” Rarely do I retain lines from a film, but I have been intentionally rehearsing this one. What a profoundly biblical and therefore helpful truth! It is a truth that you and I, as maturing Christians, need to constantly embrace.

Life is full of disappointments. Yes, even for the Christian. The well-known lyric “I never promised you a rose garden” serves as a realistic view of following Jesus. The garden in which Jesus prayed to the point of sweating blood (Luke 22:39–46) is more like the garden we should expect. Life is difficult for everyone, and disciples of Jesus don’t get a pass. We too find ourselves disappointed. We are disappointed by unanswered prayers, broken relationships, betrayals, the failure to attain goals, and, yes, church life. “O to dwell with saints above, that will be glory! But to dwell with saints below? Well, that’s another story.” We can all relate to this. So, what do we do with our disappointments—our “disappointments with God”?

First, do not blame God. God does all things well. Our covenantally faithful God who is in heaven does what he pleases and what he pleases is always best (Psalm 115:3). Second, do not look to blame anyone. My wife has observed that, in our current hyper-fragile, super-critical, anti-authority culture, we are always on the hunt for someone to blame for our disappointments. To quote Bob Newhart, we should “stop it!” If we believe God’s word and therefore, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28), then, rather than looking someone to blame, we should be looking to God for someone to bless! He plans to use our disappointment to enrich our life. God orchestrates our disappointments. That may initially cause some discomfort but, in fact, it is a truth that comforts. God revealed, “I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7). There is no wiggle-room here. God is behind our disappointments because, as LORD—the covenant-making and keeping God—he is fulfilling his plan to enrich our lives. And the ultimate enrichment is conformity to Christ (Romans 8:29).

Dear Christian, a short devotional cannot unpack all the related implications and applications of this biblical reality. Suffice it for now to embrace the truth that, if our lives will be full, it will not be despite our disappointments; rather, our lives will be full because we chose to still believe and, therefore, we chose to be disappointed to the full.

Choosing with you,

Doug