dealing with disappointments

May 3, 2017

We all experience disappointment for different reasons. In itself, feeling disappointed is not a sin. How we handle it is the crucial issue. Disappointment is so common to humanity that it was difficult to choose which biblical characters to best illustrate it. The Bible is full of disappointed people!

Think of the years of disappointment experienced by Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth. Month after month, year after year, they saw the evidence of their childlessness. Job and Joseph had good reason to be disappointed, too, both in people and in God. Elijah the prophet expected the great evidence of God’s power on Mount Carmel would bring revival. Instead, it only put a price on his head. He was so disappointed he asked to die.

Moses—A Man Who Understood Disappointment

If anyone was ever faced with a repeated disappointment, it was Moses. In infancy he was rescued from death by the faith of his parents and the ingenuity of his mother. God arranged for him to be adopted by the princess of Egypt. But he spent the first formative years of his life being raised by his own parents. From them he learned of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was taught that the Israelites were God’s people, chosen to bless the world, and that God would make them a nation and give them a land.

Moses was never able to forget what his parents had taught him, even after he went to live with Pharaoh’s daughter, his foster mother, in the palace. This double identity must have caused him a great deal of tension. As he grew, he saw the Hebrew slaves struggling under terrible bondage while he lived luxuriously, enjoying all the privileges of royalty. Finally, Moses tried to do something to help his people.

“When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his fellow Israelites. He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not” (Acts 7:23-25).

Many years before God called him to do so, Moses longed to be a deliverer of his people. He was willing to use his power and influence to change their desperate situation. But they rejected him. In fact, he had to flee for his life from Egypt to live in the backside of the desert for another forty years after the murder incident. Talk about disappointment!


Moses had two reasons to be disappointed. First, he was disappointed in people—because his expectations that his people would understand what he wanted to do for them and would accept him were not fulfilled.

Second, he was disappointed in his circumstances. After years of privilege and education in Egypt, he certainly had never dreamed that he would spend the rest of his life tending sheep in a desert. What a discouraging future!

Today, we become disappointed for precisely the same two reasons. When we set our hearts on people or on circumstances, we are usually disappointed. God wants us to set our hearts only on Him. He wants us to trust in His goodness, even in the midst of our deepest disappointments.

Moses was leading a flock of sheep around the Sinai wilderness when God spoke to him from the burning bush. What a shock it was to hear that this was the time for him to do what he had once wanted to do—to deliver his people from Egypt.

“The LORD said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey. . . . And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt’

“But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’

“And God said, ‘I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain” (Exod. 3:7-8a, 9-12).

Despite the thrilling experience of hearing God’s voice coming from the burning bush, all of Moses’ self-confidence was gone. For the rest of Exodus 3 and half of Exodus 4, God patiently answered each of Moses’ objections and insecurities. He promised to be with him. He gave him the power to perform miracles. He assured him that the Israelites would follow him this time and that God would compel the Egyptians to let them go by His great power.

But Moses was a discouraged and defeated man. Even God’s wonderful promises didn’t convince him.

“Moses said to the LORD, ‘O LORD, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue!

“The LORD said to him, ‘Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go: I will help you speak and will teach you what to say’

“But Moses said, ‘O LORD, please send someone else to do it” (Exod. 4:10-13).

This time God was angry; nevertheless He agreed to allow Moses’ brother Aaron to accompany him and be his mouthpiece. Then Moses and Aaron told the elders about Israel God’s message.

“Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites, and Aaron told them everything the LORD had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, and they believed. And when they heard that the LORD was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped” (Exod. 4:29-31).

This time the people accepted him and worshiped God, and Moses was encouraged. Things were working out as God had said they would. Now it was time to tell Pharaoh.

‘Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: “Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the desert.”‘

“Pharaoh said, ‘Who is the LORD, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD and I will not let Israel go” (Exod. 5:1-2).

With these words, the battle lines were drawn between God and Pharaoh. Pharaoh oppressed his slaves even more, until life became unbearable for them. And who was to blame? Moses, of course.

“When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, ‘May the LORD look upon you and judge you! You have made us a stench to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us” (Exod. 5:20-21).

Can you imagine the disappointment Moses felt when he heard their words? He had told them God would deliver them. Instead, their circumstances were worse than ever. Naturally, Moses was disappointed too. But in handling his disappointment he showed us what to do when our own expectations are not realized.

“Moses returned to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all” (Exod. 5:22-23).

Moses blamed God for all the trouble. He accused God of not keeping His promises. But the important thing is that he came to God and expressed his doubts, fears, and feelings. God can handle that; He knows how we’re feeling anyway. When we honestly tell Him of our disappointments and heartaches, He can reassure and comfort us and give us strength to go on.

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country’ . . .

“But Moses said to the LORD, ‘If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?”‘ (Exod. 6:1, 12).

Poor Moses! He was in the pits! He was depending on his own ability instead of realizing that he was simply the instrument in God’s hands. God would accomplish the deliverance of his people, not Moses. His faith had a lot of growing to do, and God was very patient. He let him suffer disappointments because they drove him to know God, enabling Moses to trust Him to a greater degree. Of course, He does the same with us.

We’re all familiar with this story describing how God displayed his mighty power in the devastating plagues that ruined Egypt. Ultimately, on that first Passover night, while the Egyptians mourned the deaths of their firstborn, Israel marched triumphantly out of the land of their long and cruel bondage.

God opened the Red Sea for them to pass on dry ground. In the days that followed, He led them with a pillar of cloud and fire. He fed them with manna. He gave them water from the rock. He supplied their every need. The Israelites heard God’s voice at Sinai when He gave them His law to live by.

But over and over, the people complained. They were disappointed about one thing and then another. Even though Moses increased in his faith and dependence on God, the people’s constant griping drained his strength. In Numbers 11 they complained about the monotony of eating manna every day. Again, Moses was disappointed and discouraged.

“Moses heard the people of every family wailing, each at the entrance to his tent. The LORD became exceedingly angry, and Moses was troubled. He asked the LORD, ‘Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers? Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, “Give us meat to eat!” I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, put me to death right now—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin” (Num. 11:10-15).

Moses was worn out. Instead of a grateful, joyful people, willing to endure anything to get to the wonderful homeland God had promised, he had to play nursemaid to a bunch of babies who were never satisfied, no matter what he or God did.

“The LORD said to Moses: ‘Bring me seventy of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people. Have them come to the Tent of Meeting, that they may stand there with you. I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone” (Num. 11:16-17).

First, God gave Moses seventy men to help him carry the burden of all these people. He didn’t punish him; He helped him. God still uses other people to encourage and help us. But God wasn’t finished. He told Moses to tell the Israelites, “Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow, when you will eat meat. The LORD heard you when you wailed, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We were better off in Egypt!’ Now the LORD will give you meat, and you will eat it. You will not eat it for just one day, or two days, or five, ten or twenty days, but for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and you loathe it—because you have rejected the LORD, who is among you, and have wailed before him saying ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?'” (Num. 11:18-20).

God gave the people the change in diet they craved. But He showed His displeasure about their constant complaining and ingratitude by sending death with the quail He provided. For many, their first bite of quail was the last thing they ever ate.


Moses wasn’t through with disappointments. How his heart must have broken when the people refused to go into the Promised Land because of the bad report of the ten spies. When God punished them with thirty-eight more years in the wilderness, Moses had to endure it with them, even though he had wanted to go forward and possess the land.

His worst and final disappointment came when he was forbidden to enter the land himself. This happened because of an outburst of pride and anger. He begged God to allow him to go across the Jordan. After all, hadn’t he been a faithful servant for forty years? But God’s answer was a resounding “No.”

“The LORD was angry with me and would not listen to me. ‘That is enough,’ the LORD said. ‘Do not speak to me anymore about this matter” (Deut. 3:26).

Imagine God forbidding Moses even to pray about it anymore! Moses had to be satisfied with a bird’s-eye view of the land from a mountain before he died, but he did not lead his people into it. There are some circumstances that will never change. We have to learn to accept them and to keep trusting God in spite of our disappointment. Only in doing so are we able to experience life at its fullest.

Disappointment: The First Seed of Doubt

Disappointment is the first seed of doubt that intrudes on our faith. Disappointment sounds so harmless, but it’s the tip of a wedge that will stop our spiritual growth and make us bitter and defeated (more about that soon). Think of disappointment as a test permitted by God to see if you’ll continue trusting Him, obeying Him, and believing that He is good. That brings us back to those two sources of most disappointment: people and circumstances.


When we place our expectations on people, we are usually disappointed. Has a close friend turned away from you? Has someone betrayed you? If you have set your hopes on your children being all you want them to be, you could be headed for a huge letdown. Did you marry, thinking your husband would meet all your needs? I have to tell you something: No man can meet all of a woman’s needs, and no woman can meet all of a man’s needs. God made us with a vacant space in our innermost being that only He can fill. So He will always let us experience disappointment with people so that we are driven to find fulfillment in Him.


If our joy depends on circumstances, we are in trouble, because circumstances are always changing. There are too many variables for them to remain the same. Did you expect a promotion, and someone less qualified got the job instead? Has illness interrupted and permanently altered the plans you had for your family? Has a divorce you never wanted radically changed your circumstances? Disappointment works in our lives like the wedge illustrated  bellows.

Satan has a strategy to invade our spirits and bring us down until we are defeated. The tip of the wedge seems so harmless. It is simply disappointment.

But if we let our disappointment fester, the wedge is driven in a little farther, and we experience discouragement.

Unchecked, discouragement because disillusionment.

Then the wedge invades even more territory as it proceeds to depression.

Ultimately, we end in defeat.

How do we prevent the penetration of this deadly wedge into our spirits? We find the answer in 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “Give thanks in all circumstances.”

Thanksgiving—the Antidote to Disappointment

No matter what we are going through, we can find something to be thankful for. First and foremost, we can be thankful because we belong to God. If we have trusted Jesus Christ, God is our heavenly Father. He knows everything we are going through, and He is the only one in the universe who can make bad things work together for our good. So we can thank Him for His presence, His love, His blessings. We can rejoice that He has good plans for our future and that we receive His daily care, no matter how dark our circumstances seem.

Take another look at the wedge and you’ll see that the best place to give thanks is at the disappointment level. If we break the progression there, we won’t go on to experience the other emotions that stunt our spiritual growth and drag us down to defeat.

The secret is to “nip it in the bud” if you don’t control your thoughts, your thoughts will control you. Your emotions will then be in charge and then you’ll make horrible decisions. You can see how this will spiral downward into despair and you lack faith to believe God will lift you up.

2 Corinthians 10:5 (Amplified Version)            [Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One),

God bless from


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