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Dealing with Disappointment

Dealing with Disappointment

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Dealing with Disappointment

216 pagine
3 ore
Sep 1, 2018


Disappointment can be a crippling issue for Christians. Worse, it can lead to long term bitterness, which can sap the vitality of any believer. More often than not, disappointment is ultimately directed toward God. Whether this bitterness began when a marriage imploded, a career never materialized, or an illness was never cured, Christians today wrestle with why God will not deliver them from their disappointments.

What are the root causes of being disappointed? How can you be delivered from what is disappointing you? Dealing with Disappointment is a both a study from the Book of Jonah and a series of character studies based on the lessons of that study which analyze this issue. Dealing with Disappointment offers hope for those who are in the midst of being disappointed and gives personal, practical, and biblical advice on this topic

Sep 1, 2018

Informazioni sull'autore

Ken Hathcoat was involved with the Navigator ministry in college and throughout his twenties. He has developed and taught Christian Education curriculum, spoken numerous times from the pulpit, and led various small group studies for over 30 years. He and his wife of 37 years have two sons and make their home near Fort Collins, Colorado.

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Dealing with Disappointment - Ken Hathcoat



Disappointment is a difficult topic to pin down in the Bible. You won’t be very successful using a concordance and doing a word search on it. Answers to its causes and resolutions require a fair amount of research and meditation. My search began, not out of academic curiosity but out of necessity. As I mention in When God Disappoints, it was only after hours of extended time with the Lord that I realized that the source of my disappointment wasn’t a what (job, health, ministry, marriage)—it was a who. The who in my case, as it ultimately is with all people, was God.

I still remember one Christian woman who stopped by my table at a book fair. With a quizzical look on her face, she stood for a moment without saying a word. I knew what she was thinking as she stared at the cover of When God Disappoints, having already seen that look and having carried on the same ensuing conversation many times before. She finally blurted out, God isn’t disappointing, in a straight-forward, gentle rebuke to me. No, you’re quite right, ma’am, I said. "God isn’t disappointing at all. But to many individuals who are in the midst of trials, God can seem disappointing. That’s the point of this book. It’s meant to offer help to those individuals. Oh," she simply said, and walked away.

I also remember another book fair where a woman stood quietly staring at the title of the book, but she didn’t have a quizzical look on her face. Her pained expression seemed to show that she understood the point of the title quite well. It was if those three words of the title had pierced her heart, and she could burst into tears at any moment. I tried to talk to her, tried to ask her what was happening in her life. She didn’t answer, but meekly smiled and walked away. I still wish I would have shoved a copy of the book in her hands and said, Please read this. I think it will help.

To be fair to the first woman, the title can be misleading to those who have never been through difficult trials. In fact, for any true Christian looking at the title from a purely biblically academic perspective, at best, it looks nonsensical; at worst, it looks heretical. Why? Because life is disappointing, not God. People disappoint, jobs and ministry disappoint, acts of randomness disappoint (droughts, hurricanes, drunk drivers that have head on collisions with a loved one, cancer, etc.). In fact, every day, you and I disappoint ourselves because of our fallibility and sinfulness.

Yet as I briefly mentioned, if you believe that the entire universe is under God’s control (1 Chronicles 29:10-14; Isaiah 45:7), that means everything that has happened, is happening, and will happen is something that God has caused (or allowed). Therefore, whatever you believe is a disappointment in your life, whether that be your children, your mother or father, your health, your career, your spouse—even yourself—is truly not the root of your disappointment. God is the One who ultimately has control of your life. Therefore, the source of anyone’s disappointment is with God.

That logic may seem difficult to accept for many people. It’s easier to blame a person (including yourself) or some tangible thing for our disappointments. I can shun an abusive father and slander him to anyone who chooses to listen. I can organize a boycott of a company whom I believe treated me unfairly. I can hire a lawyer and do my best to ruin the life of my ex-spouse. Yet none of those things will ever remove the disappointment and bitterness that lies deep in my heart. The Person I truly need to take up my complaint with is God.

Therein lies the problem: how do I do that with God? He’s invisible and spirit for one thing, so it’s hard to know if I’m really communicating with Him. He’s all powerful and indestructible, so I can’t intimidate Him, let alone hurt Him. He knows everything, so I’ll never win any argument with Him (although I’ll still try). What am I left to do? I can pout and disconnect myself as much as possible from life. I can live my life in a perpetual state of on-again/off- again anger or depression. Or I can push all the balloons of disappointment down as far as I can, and pretend I’m just fine. The second and third options were what I did for most of my adult life. There should be a door number four, for none of the first three options work very well in dealing with disappointment.

There is a door number four. That is why I wrote When God Disappoints and When God Disappoints: Character Studies in the Bible. One frustration I had after I wrote those two books was exemplified with the two women I described. Either people were dismissive of the title (and the true source of their disappointments) or they were too ashamed or too proud to admit they needed help. My other frustration was that many times, people did choose to read one of the books for help. The problem I saw was that these two books were meant to be read consecutively. I believe they are synergistic (one plus one equals three) in dealing with disappointment. While each could be read as a stand-alone book, Character Studies was written to show biblical examples of the main lessons discussed in When God Disappoints.

The simple answer for me was to combine these two studies into one volume. Part One is a study of Jonah, for he is a perfect example of a believer who is disappointed in God. Part Two will examine 16 men and women based on the five key lessons outlined in Part One. My prayer for you, my friend, is that as you read this book, it will deeper your relationship with God. I also pray that you will discover a better path for dealing with disappointment, both for your own disappointments and for those loved ones that are in your circle of influence.

Part One

Lessons from Jonah


It happened in mid-May, and like many illnesses, I was blind-sided by it. Part of the reason for being so caught off guard was that for the first time I could remember in my adult life, I had passed through the winter without a cold or flu. I had also just finished teaching a class on Revelation and had high hopes for a book I had published on the subject. Then I got a sniffle and a cough. No fever or aches and pains like the flu; just a continuous cough and weakness that wouldn’t go away. After two weeks of this, I went to the doctor. Viral pneumonia was the diagnosis.

I would wake up refreshed after a good night’s sleep, hoping I had finally turned the corner on this disease, only to find a few hours later that I pretty much felt the same as I did the day before—which was the same as I did the day before that—still weak and sick. For the next two months, I could barely work or do much of anything. I was discouraged and wondered what God was doing with me.

When I was finally well enough to work, I still had this nagging tightness in my lower diaphragm that would not go away. I had x-rays taken of my lungs again; nothing unusual. I began to have heart palpitations, and went to the emergency room on two separate occasions with what I thought were heart attack symptoms (rapid heartbeat and breathing, sweating, dizziness). The doctors found nothing. I went to a heart specialist, a pulmonary specialist, and an allergy specialist. All the tests were negative. Finally, one doctor, after grilling me with multiple questions, offered a simple diagnosis: stress. My symptoms were of a textbook panic disorder.

But what was I anxious about? My job really didn’t put tough demands on my time. In fact, I was not only comfortable with my job, I had the best boss I ever had in my life—a soft-spoken, easy-going man who rarely got excited or visibly upset even when anyone under his supervision (including me) messed up. My teenage boys were healthy, obedient and walking with the Lord. My wife and I had (and still have) a close, loving relationship that has lasted over 38 years. I couldn’t identify anything, and yet my anxiety symptoms just got worse. I couldn’t sleep, lost my appetite, and had a host of other physical symptoms. I finally went to a Christian psychologist.

Over the next few weeks of counseling, I realized the viral pneumonia I experienced was simply a catalyst that God used to remind me how deeply fearful I was of circumstances beyond my control. I also had wounds I had never resolved with God:

• The death of my father when I was only three months old.

• The bullying of my older brothers when I was growing up.

• The debilitating memories of loneliness I still carried from those events, even though I had a loving wife, sons, and caring friends.

• The lack of fulfillment and purpose that seemed to invisibly hang over me.

I was disappointed in the way God had handled these problems in my life. I was disappointed in what I thought God should be doing in my life (opposed to what He actually was doing). Through all of this, I realized I had been disappointed in either the answers I thought I was getting from Him in my prayers and devotions, or from the complete silence from Him on those unresolved issues. I had to admit this was why my prayer life seemed so shallow and fruitless. I came to understand I really didn’t believe He would grant most of my prayer requests, any more so than I believed He had resolved those wounds of the past. All of this finally led to the panic attacks I experienced.

I need to be clear; it’s not that I stopped spending any time with God in the Word or prayer. I prayed because He asked me to pray, to expectantly ask in prayer (Matthew 11:22; Mark 11:24). He did answer and grant many of my prayer requests, but it seemed He didn’t speak to some of those key heart issues of mine—at least not in the way or with the words I expected of Him. I believed God was a giver of good things and was gracious (Matthew 7:8-10). And He did give many good things to me through most of my adult life, but not the things that I thought I deeply desired (Psalm 37:4).

There seemed to be a disconnect in my heart regarding what the Bible said about who God was versus what my apparent reality was regarding how God acts—at least concerning those troubling issues that plagued my heart. It’s not that I didn’t believe what the Bible said about God was true. Yet the reality was, as far as those festering wounds of mine were concerned, I didn’t sense that the God described in the Bible was the same Person who was dealing with me.

Perhaps you have unhealed wounds in your life as well. Maybe you thought God would do something in your life, something you thought you’d been promised, but the promise never materialized. Perhaps like me, you have been blind-sided by something as well—the loss of a loved one, a career, a marriage, or your health—and it seems God has been silent through all of it. Whatever the source of your wounds, you have probably tried to compartmentalize them and ignore them (as I did), or you’re acutely aware of them and have grown weary asking God why this has happened to you. Whether it is smoldering anger that lies just under the surface of your consciousness or unexplained depression or anxiety, numbness and apathy have likely replaced any sense of vitality and hope you used to have in God.

Like I eventually came to realize, you also probably know what the central issue of your depression or anger is, but you dare not say it out loud. How could you? Even when you whisper it to yourself, it sounds utterly sacrilegious. You know the Bible says God is perfect; perfect in His love, His actions, and His plans for you and for every living thing. Therefore, He should be perfectly fulfilling and satisfying to you (Psalm 73:25-26). So for you to even think what you feel about God, let alone say it, hints at a spiritual immaturity that is found only in three-year-olds. Or worse, it demonstrates an ignorance of God found only in the darkest non-Christian minds.

You are likely neither of those two things. You may believe you are a spiritually mature Christian. You may know and understand much of the Bible. You may have even memorized many passages of Scripture and taught them to others. Nevertheless, the thought hangs over you like a menacing, dark cloud, whispering what you cannot deny: the source of your disappointment is God.

If this is the reality you now face, don’t add to your sense of shame and defeat by thinking that only weak, immature Christians have lived through this darkness. Disappointment isn’t necessarily a sign of immaturity. Many other men and women of God have experienced this. Jonah lived through this, as well. He attempted to leave the ministry to which God had called him because of his disappointment in God. In fact, he almost died living in this hopeless and senseless world that is named Disappointment in God. Perhaps, like Jonah, your world also makes no sense. To be more precise, as far as Jonah was concerned, what Jonah thought was true about God made no sense; therefore, his world made no sense.

• • • •

Jonah 1:1-3

1Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me. 3But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD.

We really don’t know much about Jonah. We know he was a prophet during the reign of Jeroboam II, king of Israel (2 Kings 14:25). The prophets Amos and Nahum were likely his contemporaries. While it is not known exactly when this book was written (probably by Jonah), it likely occurred during Jeroboam II’s reign (792-753 BC). To put this in perspective, David has been dead for over 200 years. Israel and Judah have been separate kingdoms for some time.

Assyria is a powerful enemy to Israel’s north. That kingdom is expanding, but it is occupied with fighting the mountain tribes of Urartu (present-day southeastern Turkey). Nevertheless, Israel recognizes that the Assyrian Empire is an alarming threat to its very existence, and it is using this time to build its defenses and establish allies against this foe. With that last paragraph in mind, examine Jonah 1:1-2 again:

1Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2"Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me."

Jonah is told by God to go to Nineveh and "call out against it (some versions say cry out against it"). If Jonah was being asked by God to simply prophecy against a nation—as Isaiah prophesied against Babylon (Isaiah 13 and 14) or Egypt (Isaiah 19)—he wouldn’t need to go to that

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