Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dealing with disappointment

Disappointment is a rather unfortunate fact of life. Sometimes it stems from the little things we would have liked to be different. Sometimes it comes from the pain of something deeply longed for not coming to pass. Sometimes it happens when we loose something good. Whatever the cause, it can be challenging to deal with it in a healthy way.

This week I was reading the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel 1. I think she has a lot to teach us about dealing with disappointment. I’ve found her example really helpful as I work through some disappointment of my own. Hannah was deeply disappointed because wanted children but was unable to have them. To make matters worse she had a bully in her household who cruelly mocked her pain and a husband who loved her but failed somewhat at sensitivity and tact. Pointing out how blessed she was to have him as a husband was probably not that helpful!

There is a number of things it would have been tempting for Hannah to do. She could have gotten angry with her bully or husband. She could have turned from God. She could have gotten bitter and complained to everyone about her situation. She could have followed her husbands suggestion and tried to pretend she had nothing to be sad about. We don’t have record of her doing any of those things.

Instead she took it to God is prayer. These weren’t nice, polite, disinterested prayers. We are told she wept bitterly in public. Someone watching her pray thought she must have been drunk! It would have had to have been some pretty intense praying for it to be confused with drunkenness!

I think her example here is incredibly freeing. If we are disappointed, we can be honest with God about it. We don’t need to bury our disappointment under attempts to act pious. While thinking positive is sometimes somewhat helpful, faith doesn’t require we pretend that we don’t have anything to be disappointed about. We can tell God exactly how we feel about the way things have turned out. We can cry if we need to. We can plead with him to change things. It is a lesson we also see in other sections of the bible such as Habakkuk.

Hannah also provided a good example in how she acted after she had poured her heart out for God. We read about how she was worshiped God, even prior to her prayers being answered. It is easy to worship when our prayers are answered and things are going well. It can feel like a bit of a stretch to worship while we wait for God to fix what we are disappointed about or when facing disappointments related to things that can’t be changed or fixed. Choosing to worship God even when we really don’t feel like it can help strengthen our faith and help correct our perspective if we are sinking into bad bad attitudes. More importantly, our choice to worship honours God.

God did answer the prayers Hannah prayed while disappointed and blessed her with a child. Regardless of whether our prayers get answered the way we hope, her example of passionate honesty with God and choosing to worship can help us journey well through disappointment.