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Dealing with My Biggest Disappointment

June 03, 2011

The psalmist said, “I have been young, and now am old . . .” (Psalm 37:25), and that is how I feel. “Fifty” is not over the hill, but it is surely down the road—and now that I am down that road I see things a lot differently than I did when my shoes were new and I hadn’t broken a sweat. Back then I was filled with convictions that have lasted and idealisms that have not.

I am more convinced than ever that Jesus is God’s Son, the One who made atonement for sin and exemplifies righteousness, that the Bible is God’s Word revealed to us in perfection and sufficiency, that heaven and hell are real, and that God’s glory is the only thing worth fighting for. But I am less convinced about methods—mine or yours. I am not persuaded that my way is the only way, or even the best one in some instances, and I have lost my naivete about people. I frequently doubt when a person expresses their sincerity, their longevity in leadership, or their commitment to do as they say they will. It’s so shocking to look back and see how frequently people are excited about accountability until they are the one who needs it.

And it’s not just others I am disappointed with, it’s myself. I see how often I have failed to be all that I wanted to be for God and for others. Without question my biggest disappointment is with people—you and me, the whole bunch of us. On our best day we are incredibly flawed, and the harder a sincere person tries to push the blame on others the more they should feel the weight of their own short comings . . . what “I” should have done differently.

But here’s the thing: give others the grace you know you need and move on in the lessons you have learned. Too much navel gazing and wallowing in disappointment hinders the work of God in and through you. The Christian life requires, “forgetting those things which are behind.” (Phil 3:13) If your focus is on the rearview mirror today, I challenge you to “lift your eyes” to the road ahead and leave your disappointment with people behind you. HOW???

Jesus had disappointments with people, right? With the religious leaders who attacked him, with the family members who first rejected him then fought for their own prominence when his popularity was on the rise. Where were they at the cross? Then the disciples—Peter denied, Judas betrayed, the rest ran when the Savior needed them most. Or did he? Of course Jesus loved people, but did he need them? An interesting verse in the opening of John is a lesson I could have used a lot earlier.

After many were flocking to Jesus and “believing in Him,” John 2:24-25 says: “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”

Jesus was neither cynical nor naive. He loved people without entrusting himself to them and he served people with out exposing himself to their faults or failures. Are we so attached to one another that we set ourselves up to be shattered when the inevitability of our fallenness comes to the surface? Are we so in need of affirmation and acceptance that we find ourselves ‘wheels up’ in the ditch when a friend or colleague denies or betrays? Loving people, yes. Living in community, yes. But attaching ourselves to people in a way that we lose our footing in following Jesus when they stumble or trip us up? No!

Let’s fix our eyes squarely upon the only one worth following—praising God for the blessing of people, but refusing to attach ourselves in a way that puts our faith/following at risk. Looking back, if I had been a little less euphoric in the glory days with any particular person, I would have been less crushed by disappointment when I discovered their feet of clay . . . no doubt they would say the same of me. Only Jesus on the pedestal, the rest of us on level ground, looking up. That’s how I deal with disappointment.

John 21:21: Peter . . . said to Jesus, “Lord what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “. . . What is that to you? You follow me!”


Read comments:

  • WesleyJun.03.2011

    Thanks for this James. I’ve just begun reading “When People Are Big and God is Small” by Welch and it seems to be hitting this same issue; fear of man and puttin gour hope and trust in people instead of Christ. That verse you quote from John makes so much more sense in light of this and reveals how much of m life has been spent seeking other’s approval when i should have sought only His. At 36, i don;t know if i’m at the “breaking a sweat stage” in your analogy or what, but i know enough now and have seen enough to see the wisdom in your words. Thanks for your openness and vulnerability which points us towards Him. God’s peace.

  • Lorraine WrightJun.03.2011

    Wow..wonderful message. God has been teaching me of late that MERCY triumphs over JUDGEMENT. Giving grace is getting easier knowing how much grace, I myself need. Thanks for the message.

  • Ellen BellJun.03.2011

    Thanks, James. I think this is a message that the Bride needs to hear. It is so important for us to be gracious toward those in the Body who have betrayed or disappointed us. The more we emulate our extraordinary Lord, the more we shine as a “city on a hill”. Those who are still in darkness will be attracted toward that light and come to meet Him who is the Light of the World.

  • Henry SalomonsJun.03.2011

    You are so on it Brother!

    Less then a month into 50 years old, and
    learning when friends forsake me. I am so glad to Trust in God, and keep following after Him hard! He is our Refuge and Strength, a helper and stronghold in the storms of life. To Him be all glory, power and praise!

  • Larry WhaleyJun.03.2011

    Thanks Pastor James for sharing this. It is a truth I will hold onto as a pastor still young in the ministry.

  • TheresaJun.03.2011

    “Even on our best day we are incredibly flawed.” – Humbling truth keeps me at the foot of the Cross. “He Himself knew what was in man.” Ps.103:14 He is mindful we are but dust.
    Thanks Pastor James

  • KimJun.03.2011

    Thanks for posting this. I SO needed to hear this in the wake of some big disappointments with people close to me lately. It seems easier to become cynical and pull away from others completely, but unfortunately, that carries over to your relationship with the Lord also. Thanks for posting this!

  • GraceJun.03.2011

    Needed to hear this today. Although I know to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and to remember that ‘as long as I am in the Light, nothing can hurt me’, it’s still so hard when people intentionally set out to hurt me. I keep having to come back to the ‘quiet place’ with the Lord as He holds me up.

  • AnnJun.03.2011

    Thank you Pastor James!
    So true, so True.
    Encouragement when I needed it, especially today. I have been held accountable and yes it is humbling for me. I have also had friends who gave me no choice but to hold them accountable for their words and actions and I have regrettably lost their friendship. If we cannot stand for truth amoung the Body of Christ how will we be able to do so with the world??!

  • AndyJun.03.2011

    I was cutting my grass yesterday and a small part fell off the lawnmower. I was playing with it a bit, trying to get it back on, needed a little better view, so I kneeled down, and braced myself, rather unfortunately, with my hand on the muffler. It was like a cartoon – ssssssssss – hand smoking, me jumping up and down. Lol. Well, at least today looking back on it. People are like that sometimes. Get too close, touch them ( not literally ) in the wrong spot and maybe you’ll get burned.
    I think often what ends up being misplaced disappointment between people is not what was given but what was expected. And that unfortunately tends to say more about us than it does about the other person.

  • BonnieJun.03.2011

    This message is for all, and even one in their 60’s can benefit from the wisdom of the Lord. Thanks for delivering it, James. Powerful words with life-changing consequences.

  • JenJun.03.2011

    Convicting! Thank you Lord for this message that is so needed for me to hear!

  • JasonJun.04.2011

    Man, I don’t normally read your blog Pastor James, but I can’t help but see the same issue in my life right now. I love what Oswald Chambers wrote on this that I think it applies, “When God wants to show you what human nature is like apart from Himself, He has to show it you in yourself. If the Spirit of God has given you a vision of what you are apart from the grace of God (and He only does it when His Spirit is at work), you know there is no criminal who is half so bad in actuality as you know yourself to be in possibility.”

    I see that when we first try to work for God (without working with Him…) we weigh things up against one another. This keeps us from growing to who God wants us to become. Praise God for he is the Sanctifier.

  • JayJun.04.2011

    “On our best day we are incredibly flawed”. This really sums it up for me.

  • AndyJun.07.2011

    This is probably a bit off the beaten path Pastor James but I was listening to your message this morning and you mentioned the experience of athletes and after the win or victory and you were speaking to the emptiness they feel.

    It reminded me so much of this story:


    And the fall from sudden fame that people experience. It should be a good reminder of those who are seeking their 15 minutes of fame. Careful, you may just get what you’re asking for.

  • MadelinJun.07.2011

    Thanks Pastor James for this life changing post which is timely and convicting.

  • DaveJun.07.2011

    James — nailed that target AGAIN. It is especially hard for me to NOT guage what I am doing by the response I get from others, and this often keeps me from doing anything, for fear of disapproval. I should be working for God – praying for others, because Jesus wants me to – serving out of love for the Lord, and not constantly waiting to hear the ‘thank-you’s’ as a confirmation of doing the right thing. I need to adjust my vision – looking up to Him, not looking across to others. You said it well. Thanks. /D

  • AdamJun.14.2011

    Pastor James,

    I think this is the third time I’ve read this blog entry, after having shared it on Facebook. I always find it a treat when Godly leaders take time to share some insight on the things they’ve learned in their own journey with Christ and as ministers of the Gospel to aid us younger in the faith and less experienced in ministry.

    To me, it’s almost synonimous with what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10 as he explained that what happened in the nation of Israel was for our instruction. Let’s not make the same mistakes, right?

    I was curious though if (either in response to this or in another blog post) you could expound upon, how to practically apply how to avoid “attaching ourselves to people in a way that we lose our footing in following Jesus when they stumble or trip us up” and how you “fix our eyes squarely upon the only one worth following [Jesus]” in deed.

    (Even poining to a WITW ministry resource would be helpful)

    Thank you for all you do, Pastor James!


  • DaveJun.20.2011

    Pastor James,

    I look forward to investing my time at Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows on the weekends listening to your messages, taking notes and applying what I learn during the week. I have found the messages to be trustworthy and true to the awesome Word of God.

    Having been in the Bible for over 20 years now, I am only just beginning to see the brilliant lights of wisdom, be it ever so dimly, that each and every page of God’s holy book has to shine on my sinful life.

    I am listening right now to your series about David, ordinary people, and extraordinary God. I am captivated and convicted by the insights and so many practical applications I can think of as a result of the messages.

    Giving all praise, honor and glory to my Lord and Savior, I thank you Pastor James for all you do in the name of the Lord. Keep up the great faithful work in the holy name of Jesus Christ. Our purpose in this life is to know, love, honor and serve Him because He chose to do that for us in His first coming. I with you, look forward to His second coming!

    You are in my prayers, and you are loved, Dave


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