I’ve been mulling over this article You Can’t Turn Lemons into Lemonade, especially as I wrestle with some deep, abiding and lengthy disappointment. I appreciated the honesty in which the author acknowledges that we do experience disappointment in this life. Try as we might, we just can’t make it right so its important to think about our disappointments theologically and put them in perspective. I noticed some of the reactions to it that made it seem like as long as we know of our future hope, we should not be disappointed.
I’ve heard this before…
I often get the impression in our Christian circles that disappointment is taboo. It’s not that disappointment is not a reality but when we do get disappointed, its because we need to adjust our attitudes. I have often heard this expressed this way – the problem is our expectations. If we could just temper our expectations than we won’t be disappointment anymore. The underlying sentiment is that disappointment is a product of our own choosing, that if we make the necessary changes than we should not be disappointed. But more telling in this sentiment is the understated reality that somehow disappointment is our fault.
But what this misses is the fact that we live in imperfection. Our lives are not perfect and neither is the world. I’m struck by Paul’s words in Romans 8
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that creation itself will be set free from its bondage of corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we are now saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:18-25)
Written in the Christian’s heart is a longing for the day when everything will be set right. I think we all acknowledge this on a cognitive level. We know this world is broken and there will be a day of ultimate redemption where every trace of sin, death, pain and tears will be no more and we will live in pure fellowship with God. But based on the trite prescriptions of disappointment that I hear so often, I don’t believe we have enough appreciation for the depth and breadth of the Fall’s impact and the contradictions it produces juxtaposed to the longing in our hearts for full redemption. If all creation groans, I don’t know why we are expected not to and if we do, only for so much and so long.
Could it be that our disappointment is a reaction to the reality of living in the already-but-not yet? Because our union with Christ does not prevent us from feeling the impact when things aren’t quite right. In fact, I think this union will more acutely make us aware when things are not right and impress on our hearts this contrast down to the core. It’s why we feel the pain of this contrast until its made right and experience joy when corrections are made in this life. Is this not just a glimmer of eschatological hope when everything gets redeemed?
Now, I’m not saying that we should neglect an examination of motives or adjustment of perspective. Yes, we do need to do this and cull out any selfish or self-centered motives. I do think we need to evaluate the source of disappointment and put it in perspective of God’s grander picture that what he purposed in Christ, he is working out all things for good.
But what I think we need to stop doing is telling people that disappointment is their fault because they haven’t adjusted their attitude. That disappointment is there for a reason. I think we need to stop de-humanizing our faith and making it seem that we should not be touched by the Fall’s brokenness and the contrast it has produced. Yes, we must embrace what Paul says in Romans 8:18 “our present sufferings are not worthy comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” We have a future hope. But there is also a present reality and we should recognize that until full redemption happens, the discrepancies in life will disappoint us.