31 March 2020

Dealing with Disappointment

Dear Church Family,

On Saturday, 28th March I was feeling disappointed. It was supposed to be a really busy day for us as we were supposed to be having the Spring Supper at church. People had signed up and in the past these events have born fruit with people coming to church off the back of them. But it had been cancelled. In fact, ‘cancelled’ seems to be a word we have seen a lot. Here are what would have been the church notices for two weeks ago (you can imagine yourself, if you can remember, sitting in a chair listening to these):

  • Tonight is the evening service where we will continue looking at the 10 Commandments
  • The Sunday School prize giving is next Sunday morning
  • On Thursday we will have our business meeting where we look forward to welcoming new members and affirming the vote on new elders.
  • Little Miracles, Discoverers and 116 will be meeting
  • On 21st March is our church walk. We will meet Cannock Chase
  • On 28th March we will be having the Spring Supper
  • On 1st April Pelsall Village School will be coming to church for an Easter service

All of these things, good things, gospel and growth opportunities, have been cancelled. And these are just some events at church. All of us have personal appointments that have been cancelled: school trips, birthday parties, medical treatments, family visits and so much more. And all of us, as much as we are blessed by the online service, are deeply disappointed that we are not able to meet each other physically week by week. How do we live with these disappointments? 

It is helpful to define ‘disappointment’. The prefix ‘dis’ means ‘apart’ or ‘away’ as in pulled apart or away. So the word means that an appointment we expected has been ripped away from us. It is sadness or displeasure caused by the non-fulfilment of one's hopes or expectations. 

Paul the apostle is an example of someone who had to deal with disappointment. In Romans 1:13 we read of how he wanted to visit Rome but was prevented. In Acts 16 we see how he kept on trying to preach in various places but was stopped by God:

“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, 
having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.
When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, 
but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas.

Paul wanted to do good things, there isn’t much more good one can do than preach the gospel, but he was “kept by the Holy Spirit” and Jesus “would not allow him” to. In Paul’s letters he sometimes talks of how he longs to be with people but is prevented. However, in Paul’s disappointments, he was being led by God to something else. The story continues…

“During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him,
“Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for
Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

He was led instead to Macedonia and whilst there saw conversions and churches planted (see the rest of Acts 16). From this small account there are three truths that we can meditate on which can help us overcome our disappointments at this time:

  1. Notice how God is in control

It was God who stopped Paul going to the places that he’d planned. God had a bigger picture in mind for his glory as the gospel spread into Europe. We just don’t know what God’s plans are behind our disappointments, but we do know that he is in control and, as we read in Ephesians 1:11, “works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will”.

  1. Remember that God is working good from our disappointments

With the benefit of having the whole story in Acts 16 we can see how God worked good out of preventing Paul doing what he wanted to do. We don’t always have the benefit of seeing this but we do know the truth that Paul writes in Romans 8:28: “ And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Your disappoint is, even if we can’t see it now, being worked for the good of all of God’s people.

  1. Disappointments bring new appointments/opportunities

Paul being prevented from going in one direction was led in another. Going to Macedonia gave him new opportunities he would never have thought he had. Think about what opportunities you have now that you wouldn’t have had if appointments had not been cancelled (the blog from last week may help with this). One such opportunity that I would ask you to pray for as a church is that the online services would be watched widely across Pelsall. We are advertising them on the Pelsall Common page in time for Easter. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people came to know Jesus over this time because they had been forced by the uncertainty to think of eternal things and found the answers through the gospel preached online?

Our disappointments can actually reveal the state of our hearts and what our deepest desires are. It is good to have desires and fine to feel the sadness of disappointment. However, we should not be disappointed to the point of being completely crushed by it, rather Paul encourages us in Philippians 4:12-13 to be content in all circumstances. Our greatest desire ought to be Jesus, his promises always remain, and he can never disappoint.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment in history happened on Good Friday. How disappointed the disciples were when the Messiah hung on a cross and died. However, on the third day Jesus rose from the dead. The cross and resurrection shows how God brings amazing good out of the worst of circumstances. And the resurrection is the promise of an even greater appointment that will never have a ‘dis’ in front of it. We too will be raised with new bodies in a new creation with no sin, sickness or death. This will be the opposite of disappointment, it will beyond our imagination:

However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him

With love and prayers,
Steve