What Now?

8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.

2 Corinthians 4: 8-9 (NLT)

Disappointment is a powerful feeling that occupies that space between inhalation and exhalation.  It pains deepest when we expire, feeling much like a dull pain somewhere in the region of our solar plexuses.  It causes us to shrink away from ourselves and others.  When combined with other emotions like betrayal, humiliation, shame, and embarrassment, it desires an acceleration of time to a period that is not reminiscent of the associated expectations.  Disappointment can cause a numbing that seems to make everything a blur.  Outwardly we are engaging, inwardly collapsing.  It draws us into an internal dialogue that is so loud and critical that we fear others will hear it.  It creates the illusion of inadequacy and inability from others.  It drives us to seek a hiding place from which we don’t want to emerge until normalcy has returned to our souls.  Of course, the world continues and without external expression others are unaware of the distress, desperation, and angst.  Disappointment unabated becomes anger.  Anger unconstrained becomes frustration, discouragement, and cynical bitterness.  Each one of these progressions is not immediate but definite if disappointment is allowed more time than appropriate.  Disappointment integrated becomes acceptance and growth.  Like anything that is worth achieving, arrival at these ultimate destinations requires intentionality, vulnerability, authenticity, and transparency.

In my life, I have experienced deep disappointment.  Things I had my heart set on, at various points, have not materialized.  All of the experiential descriptions in the above paragraph became real for me.  Each inspired breath seemed to hit an immovable ache within my chest.  This ache radiated to the extremities of my torso.  It felt like a tight hand around a portion of my bronchioles.  Everywhere, I saw reminders of the plans that would not be.  During those moments I would want, desperately, to hide from the questions and inquiries from those who had become aware of my aspirations.  I would avoid the explanations and well-meant platitudes.  Here are the things I have learnt to do when disappointment comes knocking.

  • Rather than hide from the uncomfortable feelings of discouragement, frustration, surprise, inadequacy, and embarrassment, allow yourself the permission to feel them. Express them verbally to those who are close to me.  Express them, respectfully, to owners of the various decisions that have resulted in painful outcomes.
  • Choose to be vulnerable with friends who are willing to listen.
  • Share with trusted counselors. Validation from others without unsolicited meaning making, will allow you to acknowledge your emotional state and be gentle with yourself at you various stages of grief.
  • You have experienced loss, and it will feel heavy. Embrace the loss you are experiencing, that of an envisioned future. As you do that, you will begin to create the possibility of a different future.  You will begin to do the necessary work that is associated with closing identified gaps, the things that will get you even closer to realizing your goal.  You will learn to integrate the experience, without discarding your still plausible envisioned future.
  • “And this too will pass”, was one of my mother’s favorite expressions. This eventually manifests, as you move from reflecting on what you have lost to pondering what you can gain from the experience.

Even as you integrate these experiences into your existence, you will encounter new feelings.  These feelings associate themselves with the uncertainty of outcome with this unimagined path on which you now find yourself.  How will this delay/detour to my plans pan out?  How will I continue to relate to the people in my life?  In these seasons, take comfort in the apostle Paul’s ultimate refrain in the above passage.  “We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.”  Even though uncertainty lies ahead, our experiential strengthening and the assurance of God’s presence and providence assures our preservation.  We are confident of thriving irrespective of the disappointments that dot our traveled past.

Where are you with the disappointments in your life?  What has your progression been?  Have you coped by allowing discouragement and cynicism to protect you?  Have you adjusted your expectations lower to ensure that you never experience the let down of disappointment?  Have you done the difficult work of  integrating your disappointments into your life, while keeping sharply focused on your goals?  Wherever you are, there is hope ahead.  Do as I did and reach out to others.  If you need the help of professional counselors, reach out to us at contact@jesuslifts.com.

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