You cannot avoid disappointments in life. Dreams that do not materialize, unfulfilled expectations, and people who don’t keep their promises are only a few common examples of what we can face in life. Then there is the whole array of personal failures that shame us or leave us feeling bad about ourselves.
The problem with disappointments is that they tempt you to shut down emotionally and spiritually, allowing discouragement and depression take the place of hope and passion. The pain of your loss drives you to retreat into your emotional shell like the turtle that hides within itself for safety. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to stay engaged, especially after repeated disappointments. You start thinking that if you don’t engage, you won’t be disappointed any more. It feels safer to turn the lights off and go to sleep at all levels. So you sleep. You will coast your way through life in a sleepwalk state. You’ll do just enough to survive, but you will stay asleep on the inside and avoid any more disappointments.
Your discouragement might be coming out of your wrong measurements.
Another problem with discouragement is that it usually comes from artificial measurements of what is important in life. We measure what we think matters or what we think other people expect of us. But we don’t hold our expectations up to God and ask him to measure them for us. He has a completely different value system. God measures fruit not dollars, he measures character not achievements, he measures relationships more than results. The measurements God uses are confusing to us, so we find it easier to use our own rulers of success, even if we are measuring the wrong things. Your discouragement might be coming out of your wrong measurements. In fact, I have found that people are generally much more blessed and have much more fruit in their lives than they are recognizing; they just are not looking at the results that really matter.
The Apostle Paul might well be considered as one of the most successful missionaries ever. He would certainly win that honor in the Book of Acts which records his drive and tenacity in spreading the Good News throughout the known world of his time. But Paul also experienced many disappointments in his life. He was not accepted by the believing community after his conversion, his apostolic standing was repeatedly challenged, his ministry was undermined everywhere he went, his converts turned on him, he was beaten and stoned several times, and he ended his career in prison. Yet Paul refused to stay discouraged for very long. He kept a perspective that made him stand tall in the face of adversity and discouragement. Here is how he put it, “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 NLT) Now that is what I call resilience!
Paul used the metaphor of Olympic competition to explain his view of life. It seems that he never spent too much time looking at either his successes or his failures. He simply kept his eye on the big picture, what he called the prize. Here is his mindset in his own words, “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Philippians 3:13-14 NLT) He focused on something beyond the immediate successes or failures of his life and that kept everything in perspective for him. There was an end of the race, a finish line, where God would reward him for what God thought was important and that is all Paul cared about.
Maybe it is time for you to do some strategic forgetting.
Maybe it is time for you to do some strategic forgetting. Maybe you need to stop focusing on what was, or even what is, and start looking at the big prize. Paul recognized that God had called him to be something bigger that all the things he was doing. He was called to glorify God by how he lived his life and not just by what he may have achieved in his life. He simply wanted to be what God called him to be. That is what you need to focus on. Forget what you have failed at or what you have missed out on and start living with the simple goal of being the very best version of yourself no matter what life throws at you. Don’t let disappointments derail you or move you to the sidelines of life. Shake it off and keep pressing onward to win the prize reserved for you. Keep focused on what God desires for you and of you. Life is richer and more rewarding when you don’t let disappointment ruin it for you.