The space between our expectations and our reality is a fertile field. And often it's a place where disappointment sprouts up.
"They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed." Psalm 22:5 (NIV 1984)
When I was in high school, I had a friend whose sister had the coolest hairdo. It was cropped short with straight bangs that fell messy over one eye. She was that older sister who just seemed to have a handle on how to do everything with style.
I somehow decided all of her coolness traced back to her hairdo. Like that was the budding spot from which the life I wanted could sprout.
Yes, that hairdo.
Never mind the fact her hair was thin and obedient. And mine was thick and rebellious.
Never mind that her hair was sleek and straight. And mine was curly at best and frizzy at worst.
Never mind that her bangs fell nicely over her forehead. And mine had a crazy cowlick causing them to grow up, not down.
Yes, never mind reality.
I set my expectation on the highest bar and willed my hair to fall in line.
The hair dresser chopped. And chopped. And chopped. And tried to assure me I now looked JUST like the picture of the older sister.
But that was a lie. I knew it. She knew it.
And oh how the space between my expectation and my new reality grew some serious disappointment. I still have nightmares of that disastrous hairdo where I wake up desperately grabbing at my head to make sure my hair is still there.
But hair grows back. Bad cuts can be fixed in time. That disappointment can be remedied.
Other situations aren't so easy. Maybe you have some space between a current reality and an unfulfilled expectation. If so, I imagine disappointment can be found growing there.
Psalm 23:1 says, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." (ESV) The Hebrew word for "want" is chacer meaning, "to lack, be without, become empty." So, if the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not become empty. I shall not live in a constant state of disappointment where circumstances leak me dry.
But ... I still do sometimes. And not just with my hair. It's other stuff as well. Important stuff.
So, how do I let the Lord shepherd me so that the gap between my expectations and reality closes? I ask myself these questions when faced with disappointment:
What do I need to learn? Maybe God has an appointment for me in the midst of this disappointment. If God wants me to see, learn, know, or grow in some way while I work through this unmet expectation, I have to be open to hear this from Him.
Many times God shows me a flaw of mine that needs to be addressed. When I am willing to listen to Him, I can more easily adjust my expectations.
Could it be that I'm so concerned with what I don't have, I've forgotten to be thankful for what I do have? Sometimes, it's not that my reality is bad. It's that I created too much space for disappointment to grow by placing my expectations too high.
Is there something I can do to change this situation? If so, I need to ask God for the courage to make changes. If I keep hoping things will get better but don't make any adjustments, that's foolish. The space between my reality and my expectations will only change if I do.
Now back to my high school hair situation. If I ever start flashing pictures of cute pixie hair cuts I'm considering getting, somebody remind me of my high school hair debacle. Please. Pretty please. With a dollop of hair gel on top.
Dear Lord, thank You for turning my disappointments into opportunities for growth and learning. I know that only You can close the gap between my expectations and reality. Guide me in trusting You through every situation, even if I can't understand why it's happening at the time. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
How do you typically handle disappointment?
Reflect on the three questions above and write down your answers. This will give you the opportunity to get a better perspective on your own particular situation and the way you handle disappointments.
Romans 5:2b-5, "... and we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us." (NIV)