Coping with Disappointment
Every believer who has ever lived has faced and experienced disappointment. There have been and will be no exceptions. Even the perfect Man of faith, our Lord Jesus Christ, experienced disappointments, difficulties, hardships. As he hung alone and abandoned on Calvary’s cross he cried out, ‘My God, My God, why . . .?’ Woven into the perfect life of holy obedience to the will of his heavenly Father, Jesus experienced inexplicable bewilderment. Yes, we know, and in the unbreakable fellowship he enjoyed with his Father and the Holy Spirit Jesus knew, that all was comprehended within the gracious, perfectly wise and gloriously good, will of God. But as the darkness of God’s saving purpose for the world engulfed his soul, Jesus could only cry out. ‘Why?’
There is much that could be said about the disappointments that punctuate our lives and at times overwhelm us. We live in a fallen world. We live in yet fallen bodies marked still by indwelling sin. Our enemy the devil truly is like a roaring lion, seeking to devour us, destroy our confidence in God, and leave our Christian testimony bereft of credibility. All of that is true. But there is a deeper truth we need to grasp.
The life of faith is lived within the orbit of our heavenly Father’s all encompassing sovereignty. Every detail of our lives is known to him. He stands in absolute, unqualified dominion over every circumstance in this universe. Not a hair from your head falls to the ground but that he knows. Why then, since he loves his children with an everlasting love and sealed that love in the covenant blood of his own and only begotten Son, does our Father not shield his children from soul crushing disappointments? Does he not care? Is there some kind of unholy perversity in the Most High? God forbid! He is the ‘Father of mercies and the God of all comfort’. He is the heavenly Father who for our poor sakes ‘spared not his only Son but gave him up for us all’. Why then does he allow, and within his sovereign providence, purpose disappointments to touch and at times all but crush our lives?
The Bible, God’s own Word, gives us this one answer – to make you and me more like his Son. God’s ultimate purpose is to make his Son ‘the firstborn of many brothers’ (Rom. 8:29). How did Jesus become the man he became? His sanctification to his Father was both absolute and progressional. In his mother’s womb the Holy Spirit sanctified his true humanity. But that once for all sanctification was the basis of a whole-life sanctification. The writer to the Hebrews remarkably tells us that ‘Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered (Heb. 5:8). Jesus ‘learned obedience’ through his sufferings. That is, he learned to trust his Father, not in studied, pleasant isolation, but in the midst of heartaches and disappointments. Adam failed to trust his Father in a lavish Garden. The last Adam unfailingly trusted his Father ‘unto death, even the death of a cross’. And his every obedience to the Father was not for himself, it was for us.
Without disappointments, heartaches, joys and sorrows, we cannot become like our Saviour. Perhaps this picture will help. Think of Michaelangelo with his block of marble. He has ‘The David’ in his mind’s eye. With every blow of his hammer he is removing every little piece of marble that needs to be removed if ‘The David’ is to be realised. Every blow is painful. Perhaps to some who are reading this, unspeakably painful. But they are the blows of the divine Sculptor who has your and my everlasting good at heart. One day when we know as also we are known and see no longer through a glass darkly, we will be overwhelmed by what our Father has made us. We will reflect the out-shining glory of our Elder Brother, God and Saviour. Then, all our disappointments will be swallowed up in a glory that will leave us overwhelmed in wonder, love and praise.
The truth about every one of us is that our heavenly Father is conforming us to the ‘pattern’ of his Son and that ‘pattern’ is a pattern of death and resurrection, dying and rising, of (as Calvin put it) mortificatio and vivificatio. It cannot be otherwise. As with the Head, so with the Body. Union with Christ makes it inevitable.
Till the day dawns and all the shadows flee away, be, then, of good cheer. Through your tears, ‘consider Jesus’. His tears unto death won your salvation. May your tears of faith bring you into deeper conformity to his likeness. With that your Father in heaven will be greatly pleased.
Ian Hamilton is Pastor of the Cambridge Presbyterian Church, now worshipping God on Sunday mornings in All Saints’ Church, Jesus Lane, Cambridge and in the Lutheran Church, Huntingdon Road, on Sunday evenings.
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