As we read Matthew 26:36-46, we can see Jesus dealing with disappointment. Just like Jesus, we will deal with disappointment in our lives. How we deal with disappointment is important in our walk with Christ. In this blog we look at how to deal with disappointment with wisdom and love.
We are in the third week of this series on God as our Deliverer taken from the last part of Matthew. We began with a general idea of God in Christ by the power of the Spirit as our D
eliverer. Last week, we talked about how the life of Jesus reflects deliverance from betrayal. This week, we are going to talk about deliverance from disappointment.
We can all think if times when we have been disappointed with another person. In the Wednesday night Bible study this week, I asked the group to close their eyes and think of an instance when they had been disappointed by another person. Every single person immediately smiled! Disappointment is a part of the human condition. Sooner or later we are all going to be disappointed and we are all going to disappoint another person.
Since it’s a political year, I thought I would begin with a story without mentioning a person or political party. Some time ago, I voted for someone in an election. I felt extremely good about my vote. I felt this person was honorable, experienced, and wise. As time went on, I began to change my mind and began to believe I had been mistaken about this person. in other words, I was disappointed in my vote and in the person for whom I voted. Even to this very day, I’m occasionally angry about that vote.
There are few human emotions more common or more discouraging than feelings of disappointment. One movie scene I have watched over and over again in more than one movie has a workaholic parent promise a child that he or she will be at a soccer game or other sports activity. When game time comes, the parent is missing. The camera always focuses on the child’s face—and the look of disappointment. Disappointment is a strong and moving emotion. It can scar us for life if we do not learn how to deal with it.
A Moment of Disappointment.
On the night Jesus was betrayed, three important episodes occurred: First, Jesus met with his disciples for a final Passover dinner, during which Jesus acknowledged that he would be betrayed by Judas (Matt. 26:25). Later, Jesus let the disciples know that they would all desert him (v. 31). When Peter assured Jesus that he would never desert Jesus even if everyone else did (33), Jesus responded that Peter would desert him before the rooster crowed in the dawn (v. 34). Finally, when Jesus stopped to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane. He asked his disciples to pray with him (v. 36). In each of these instances, Jesus might have been disappointed and discouraged by the behavior of others.
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Matthew 26:36-46).
Let us Pray: Faithful God: you are the only one who will not disappoint us, and you are the only one who can teach us how to avoid disappointment. Please share with us your wisdom and your love. Amen
What is Disappointment?
Disappointment is a sadness, anxiety, or displeasure when a person, persons, or situation does not fulfill our expectations, hopes or dreams. I have already given a couple of examples. If a politician does not live up to our expectation of what kind of person he or she will be as a leader, we are disappointed. If a parent does not live up to our expectations, we are disappointed. If a child does not live up to our expectations, we are disappointed. If God does not live up to our expectations, we are disappointed. This last kind of disappointment can be the most devastating kind of disappointment of all, if we do not learn how to deal with it. Philip Yancy, years ago wrote a book called, Disappointment with God. We can actually desert God because God does not do what we expect God to do.
Here is how one psychologist described the feeling of being disappointed:
When sadness is triggered, a heavy emptiness or longing is felt because your brain‘s appraisal system has determined that you have experienced a lasting loss. You may want to have someone or something that is unattainable or to bring back what was lost, even if what caused your sadness has to do with finally recognizing something that you had subsequently denied. Sadness is a painful emotion of disconnection from someone or something that you value or had wanted to value…..Sadness helps you to remember, rather than forget, what it is or was that you desired. … Thus, the emotion of sadness attempts to assist you by giving you an opportunity to consider the impact of your loss and the necessity of revising your objectives and strategies for the future. One study found that sadness tends to decrease one’s confidence in first impressions (Schwartz, 1990). Another found that the experience of sadness leads one to struggle with the painful, existential question of “Who am I?” (Henretty, Levitt, & Mathews, 2008). If sadness can help you to remember and accept reality, achieve insight that can realign your goals, alert you to be cautious before making decisions, and create an opportunity for you to observe yourself, then perhaps its adaptive purpose is evident: like all emotions, sadness, in spite of how it makes you feel, is simply trying to protect you. Disappointment is a profound way in which sadness is experienced. In any case, disappointment is the experience of sadness involving unfulfilled hopes or expectations. When you consider what might have been, in contrast to what exists in the present, you may experience disappointment. 
Not surprisingly, disappointment can impact us for years after our disappointment. One reason for Christians to learn to deal with disappointment and its pain in our lives is that not doing so can actually harm us and those we love.
The Big Requirement.
Not everyone agrees with this, but I think generally disappointment requires that we have a personal relationship that causes our disappointment. Even though an institution or event causes a disappointment, there is normally a person or persons behind that event. In other words, disappointment is a relational emotion. We are disappointed because we are in relationship with other persons who fail to meet our expectations. Once in a while you see on the Internet or on a poster words to the effect of: “If you want to avoid disappointment, don’t expect anything from other people.” The problem with this advice is that only a person without deep relationships can avoid the disappointment that inevitably comes from human relationships. Such a person would not be fully human. If we want to experience the joys of human life, we run the inevitable risk of disappointment.
We do have reasonable expectations of friends, spouses, parents, children, bosses, employees, leaders, followers, neighbors, and fellow church members, even of God. These expectations are part of our relationship with that person. Friends, spouses, parents, children, bosses, employees, followers, neighbors, church members, all have expectations of performance and loyalty of care and concern—we all have many expectations. Sometimes people, even God, can fail to meet our expectations.
The book of Job is one long examination of the Jewish expectation that wisdom and righteousness would be rewarded with blessing. The wise men of Israel knew, of course, that this does not always happen, and Job examines that problem. I have known people to become deeply disappointed with God and lose their faith, I myself have experienced the deep disappointment that comes when we cannot figure out why God permits a situation to exist or continue. In the end, we all expect God to do many things that, in his Divine Wisdom and Love, he does not do. We have to learn to live with this aspect of God’s Divine Personhood.
Two Kinds of Expectations and Disappointments,
At this point, I need to introduce an important distinction: We can have two kinds of expectations and two kinds of disappointments. We can have warranted (justified) expectations, and we can have unwarranted (unjustified) expectations. Therefore, we can have justified and unjustified disappointments!
For example, I may expect Kathy to always have dinner ready when I get home, despite the fact she has no idea when I will arrive and never arrive at the same time two nights in a row. Furthermore, I may never inform her of my plans. If I expect Kathy to have dinner ready at any moment just in case I arrive home at any given moment, I have an unwarranted expectation! If I expect a child with average athletic abilities to play college football, I have an unwarranted expectation. If I expect God to answer all my selfish prayers, I have an unwarranted expectation.
This leads me to a conclusion we all need to remember: When we are disappointed, the first questions we should ask ourselves are, (i) “Why?” and (ii) “Am I justified in feeling disappointed?” If the answer is that I have an unjustified or unwarranted expectation, then my disappointment is not the other person’s fault. It’s my fault, and I need to do with myself! This is especially true of God, where our human expectations are almost always finite, limited, and self-centered. As Job finally concludes, we human beings are simply too limited to understand or appreciate all that God allows or does in our lives. Sometimes, all we have to rely upon is our faith that God loves us and the hope that comes from that faith. We also have the example of Jesus, who after all, was “A man of suffering, acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).
Jesus and Disappointment.
Every part of the last night of Jesus’s life was disappointing. Judas should have been a loyal to Jesus, but Judas disappointed Jesus. Peter and the other disciples should not have deserted Jesus, but they did. The disciples ought to have stayed awake, waited, and prayed for one hour, but they did not. In the case of Peter, he was the leader of the disciples. He had a responsibility to set a good example. He failed.
In each of these cases, Jesus had a reasonable expectation! He was the Son of God and their leader. He had a right to expect their loyalty, their diligence, and their prayers. Jesus’ expectations were completely reasonable, and any disappointment he felt was fully justified. We can even tell that Jesus was disappointed. The phrase, “Could you not watch with me one hour?” (v. 40), expresses his disappointment.
When we are disappointed, it’s a good thing to remember that Jesus was disappointed too. In Hebrews, there is a phrase that reads, “He was tempted in all ways as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). This phrase is a reminder that Jesus experienced the human condition. He experienced every emotion, every trial, every disappointment, every hardship, and every experience, we will ever experience. He suffered as we suffer. He even suffered the disappointment of human failure and prayers not answered as he desired in his humanity.
If we look closely at how Jesus dealt with his disappointment; we can learn some things.
- First, Jesus understands. He understands Judas. He understands Peter. He understands the disciples. He recognizes the human condition. Often, we base our expectations on a misunderstanding of what human beings are capable of achieving. My mother expected me to make my bed, but sometimes I disappointed her. Children are capable of cleaning up their rooms or making their beds, but they are not capable of doing it every day without error.
- Second, Jesus communicates his expectations and his disappointment. The phrase, “Could you not watch with me for one hour?” expresses exactly what Jesus felt. Often, we do not communicate our disappointment and allow our pain and anger to fester. Early in our marriage, being a good husband, I told Kathy how much I liked boiled chicken. She responded by cooking a lot of broiled chicken. Unfortunately, I was just being nice. I really am not that fond of broiled chicken. She was shocked when I finally told her that I didn’t like boiled chicken all that much. Since that time, we only have one chicken once in a while, and I’ve come to like it. People cannot meet our reasonable expectations if we never communicate to them what they are. Once again, we should be careful about communicating unreasonable expectations.
- Third, Jesus tries to help the disciples meet his expectations. At one point, Jesus looks at Peter and says, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (v. 41). Jesus knew that the disciples had just consumed a large Passover dinner. He knew they had had a glass of wine or two. He knew they were sleepy. Therefore, he understood they needed to exercise self-control. He knew it wouldn’t be easy to stay awake and pray. So he encouraged them, voicing his understanding of their situation to help them.
- Fourth, Jesus did not get angry. He didn’t say, “Okay, I’m dying for the rest of the world but not for you guys. You don’t deserve it.” He doesn’t say, “The soldiers are here, and if you guys had not slept God would save me!” He simply said, “Rise let us go!” (v. 46). Jesus does not play the blame game.
- Finally, Jesus did the right thing. Even though the disciples disappointed him, he continued on his divine mission to save the world and them. When we’re disappointed, it’s important for us to remember that the fact that another person has failed us does not give us the right to fail them. In fact, when another person fails us and we continue to love them and do what is best by them, we are doing exactly what Jesus would do.
Jesus could not avoid being disappointed with others, and neither can we. It is part of the human condition. What we can do is deal with disappointment with the same wisdom and love Jesus did. This means recognizing the fact of human frailty, not having unrealistic expectations, and dealing with disappointment with the same wisdom and love that Jesus did. In the end, this is not possible without the Spirit of God working in our lives to give us that wisdom and love and empower us to move forward.
Copyright 2016, G. Christopher Scruggs, All Rights Reserved
 Mary C. Lamb, PhD, “Expectation, Disappointment, and Sadness” in Psychology Today, www. psychologytoday.com/blog/intense-emotions-and-strong-feelings/201111/expectation-disappointment-and-sadness (Posted November 20, 2011).