I’m very sensitive to frame words so that my negative feelings won’t be communicated to the person who might have “inspired” that feeling. I’m careful to not give the impression that a person’s actions “caused” my reaction, for I truly believe that my reactions are my own choice. Even if someone does something hurtful, for instance, I am responsible for how I react to it. I can resist believing that what was done meant I was somehow inadequate or worthless or at fault–or worthy of being treated that way. Another person’s reaction is their own choice.
So, when I was reviewing Jesus’ response to the disciples at the Garden of Gethsemane, I admit I had to pause. Matthew 26:40 tells us, “And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?” (NASB).
Jesus was disappointed that His closest friends couldn’t sacrifice their own comfort to support Him in prayer in His most difficult hour. He gently rebuked them with a question that clearly indicated His sadness at their lack of care.
I must admit that I would have handled it differently. I wouldn’t have wanted to make them feel bad. After all, who am I to expect anything for myself? And especially the feeling and attitude of disappointment is a curious one to handle. If I’m disappointed, doesn’t that mean I expected something and maybe my expectation was unrealistic? And shouldn’t I only expect God to meet my needs? People can’t and shouldn’t be depended upon.
I just heard from a friend today who planned a trip after much prayer and consideration of all the facts. She started out with great expectations and 500 miles into the trip, her car stopped working. She is disappointed. She felt she had done everything she could to prepare and protect the success of the trip. She had her car inspected and her mechanic said everything was A-OK. But her car broke down and now after almost $3,000 worth of repairs, she’s back on the road and two days delayed. She’s disappointed. In God? In her mechanic? If God, what could He possibly have in mind wasting His money for which she’s a steward?
I was proud of her for communicating that she was disappointed. I think disappointment often gets covered up with “Oh, well, praise the Lord. He’s in charge.” That’s certainly a godly response but not if it buries the longings of our hearts.
For years as my daughter held to her belief that she would never want children, and since our son was single, I buried my disappointment. I so wanted to be able to love and impact a grandchild. But “Oh, well, praise the Lord. He’s in charge.” I wouldn’t allow myself to fully feel my disappointment, thinking that it would be a lack of trust in God. My daughter knew of my desire yet I didn’t make a big deal out of it. It certainly wasn’t appropriate to lay a guilt trip on her if she really didn’t believe God wanted her to have children.
But one day I really got in touch with my longing and my disappointment. In all honesty, I didn’t belabor it but I didn’t feel guilty for feeling those feelings. I could still trust in God’s plan yet face what I’d love to have.
Then Christmas Eve arrived 4 years ago. My daughter and her husband had originally told us they wouldn’t come for Christmas but at the last minute, they drove down. All the family was there and while in the midst of everyone sitting around talking, Darcy seized a quiet minute and said, “I have an announcement.” The room got quiet and still. It was one of those moments where it’s only 30 seconds long but it felt like an hour. Something inside me knew what she would say and yet my brain couldn’t comprehend it and my heart was afraid to hope it was true. But she said the words, “I’m pregnant,” that I’d wanted to hear for years. She looked immediately at me and expected and received my shocked joy. The room erupted as everyone rejoiced.
Now, our grandson, Raphael, is 3 years old and fulfills the delight I’d longed for. No longer disappointed, I’m very grateful. But I’m glad I allowed myself to feel the disappointment. (By the way, Raphael was his mom and dad’s choice, and Darcy says that God changed her mind!)
Thinking back to Jesus’ disappointment, I believe there are things for which we should express our disappointment. Not everything. Yet, we can always be in touch with our longings and desires and then turn them over to the Lord. The goal is not to live in denial, but to feel all that God desires for us so that we can look to Him as our highest “fulfiller.”