Expectations vs. Reality: Surviving Disappointments


How do we counteract the pull of negative ruts? It involves an ongoing refocus in a positive direction.

Many things do not go the way we plan. Life is full of disappointments. Things don't work out, people don't show up, what could have been just isn't. When reality bursts our expectations, will we find ourselves overwhelmed with disappointments? Will we let these negative things define us, demand our focus, and rob us of peace and joy?

On the surface we say, “Of course not!” We want to focus on the good things and all the all that for which we are thankful! We will count our blessings! But disappointment can be very subversive in reality. Discouragement and despair creep into our lives in small moments and losses. Disappointments pile up:

  • When we have unrealistic expectations of how our life should be.
  • When we compare our lives with others who have what we desire.
  • When we list all the ways others should perform better if they really loved us.
  • When we rehearse all the ways that things could or should have been different.
  • When we find ourselves wishing for a different reality.
  • When we start define ourselves based on the negative.
  • We find ourselves embracing hurt and shame.

When we step into these ruts, we wallow in our pain. These steps may seem small, but the truth is that they lead us deeper into disappointment. So how do we counteract the pull of these negative ruts? It involves an ongoing refocus in a positive direction.

  • Choose realistic expectations of how life should be. Don't let fantasy dreams of a perfect life tarnish your real life.
  • Compare yourself with those who have less than you--consider how blessed and fortunate you are.
  • Don't expect others to already know your expectations and hopes and then be disappointed that they are "tuned out", but rather ask others for precisely what you need and wish for them to do.
  • When negative thoughts arise, be ready to contradict them with scripture. Remind yourself of how loved you are by God and how he is working all things for the good.
  • When you feel discouraged let it be reflex to come to God in prayer. There is nothing better than a good cry before God to release the burdens that we carry. Let him hear all of your struggles and your desires for those you love.
  • Instead of rehearsing your frustration start listing your blessings. There is no better exercise than counting your blessings to remind you of the rich love that God has poured out on you.
  • Consider what this disappointment looks like through a broader lens. Most disappointments don't matter in the big view. They don't change God's love or alter our salvation.
  • Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, look for ways that you can bless others with what you do have. When we look for ways to care for others our focus shifts off of our own situation.

Disappointments are inevitable in life. We are fallible human beings who make mistakes. The world will not always live up to our expectations. The devil may actively seek to undermine our peace, but he does not get the last word. Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Lay your disappointments at God’s feet and find peace in the great love of your Savior.

Written by: Deb Koster 

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