Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Disappointment That Does Not Destroy

In some of my more reflective moods, I ponder some of the disappointments I have faced in life. What I consider even more deeply, though, is how those disappointments have shaped the woman I have become. The disappointments range from simple childhood issues to life-changing moments as an adult. I'm sure you can relate. Life isn't all rainbows and flowers, is it?

One incident that comes to mind occurred while I was in college. I was privileged to participate in three missions trips with our denomination's youth ministry. Each year, we formed a choir, and sang songs we had learned in Spanish. The leader of these trips would choose one of the students to be the choir director. After the first trip, I had entered college as a music major. Prior to the second trip, one of my friends encouraged me: "They'll certainly ask you to be the choir director on this trip. You're a music major, after all!" Honestly, I hadn't even really thought about it. But those few words put the idea into my head, which I dwelt on until I was convinced she was right. You can imagine my disappointment when a high school student was chosen instead. I had already spent a whole year of college feeling quite inadequate in comparison to the dozens of music majors I had met. This was kind of the "straw that broke the camel's back" in regard to how willing I would be to participate in campus music for quite some time. After all, the ministry leaders from my own home state knew me, knew my abilities, and obviously saw that I greatly lacked in talent.

I do have to say that my home church pastor encouraged me to use my gifts, though. In fact, during that same summer, he was put in charge of the music for a community-wide church event. He asked me to sing several songs as the "special music" portion of the service. I practiced and practiced. I invited my cousin to sing a duet with me on one song. We even bought matching dresses to wear! The day of the service, we showed up early to set up, only to discover there was no sound system. Therefore, no way to play our background music (cassettes, of course...). My brother-in-law offered to go to our church and bring back a sound system, but the pastor in charge refused. "Music isn't necessary, and we just don't have time." If the other disappointment was a straw, that was a whole wagon-load of hay on this little camel's back!

(I'm not sharing all of this to get your sympathy. What I most desire is that as you read my little sob stories, you will be remembering similar events in your own life.)

Those were temporary setbacks, however. Passing moments that, in retrospect, became learning moments...times of growing and learning to just "get over myself".

There have been some "big" disappointments in my life. One of the most prominent in my memory are the many years we spent hoping for a child. Day after day of praying, crying, and begging God to have mercy. The lesson I learned from this, after torturing myself for so long: let it go, and just trust God. We did eventually have two wonderful sons. I realize this is not always the outcome for childless couples. But I do have to say, I think the years of struggle truly came from God. At times when I am so tempted to just totally "lose it" with my kids, God reminds me very clearly of the years of longing. Talk about putting things in perspective!

So, you may be asking yourself, what is the whole point of all this "sharing" you're doing???

I truly felt led to post all this today. I have the feeling the Holy Spirit is walking some of you through some trying times. Maybe someone you love very much has disappointed you. Maybe you have depended on a job or family situation working out in a certain way, and it ended in the exact opposite manner you expected. I don't know what you're facing. What I do know is that, in spite of disappointing circumstances, or people who have let us down, God is still God. He is still in control.

British author Eliza Taylor once wrote, "Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it."

In the words of Job: "But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food."
(Job 23:10-12)

The lesson God wants to teach us all, no matter how big or small the disappointments we are facing, is that, when we hold fast to His ways in spite of "life"...we will become a stronger, more holy person. The fires of life burn out the inconsistencies, selfishness, pettiness, and whatever else is "dross" in our lives.

St. Paul said it best in Romans 5: "And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." (vs. 3-5)

We need to let the hard times of life form us into His image. We will come forth as gold, and reflecting the character of the Lord more and more. Let Him wrap you in His mantle and carry you through, dear friend.
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