The Gift of Disappointment


Disappointment is not something any of us want to experience, but it is inevitable. Things do not turn out as we expect or hope. For this we should be truly grateful. Disappointment often come as unwelcome guests but can be unexpected blessings.

I was 9 or 10 one Christmas Eve when I experienced a crushing disappointment. Each Christmas Eve after we returned from church, we were allowed to open one present before going to bed. I had my eye on one particular present. It had a distinct shape, different from all the others. I had imagined that it contained a little pin ball machine that I had seen in the Eaton’s catalogue. I chose it to open, though my mother tried to steer me to others. I ripped off the wrapping paper with enthusiasm and ….. it was a desk lamp. I was more than disappointed, I was devastated.  I had that lamp for some 15 years! I read late into the night and at early hours. Under its glow I visited The Shire, Narnia, the Jungles of Africa, the High Seas, the Purple Sage and thousands of other enchanting locales. What was initially a disappointment blessed me and I became the person I am, at least in part, due to that lamp.

Over the years I have experience the “gift” of disappointment on many more occasions. When our first child died, I thought my dreams of fatherhood were dashed. I did lose a precious gift and in return I was given an empathy for the hurting that was not mine before.

When I was “let go” as principal of Taylor College. I was devastated. I had never failed on this scale before! Through this experience I learned a humility that was absent before, and that loss led me, eventually, to Street Hope.

We had just finished renovations to our Street Hope home and had great dreams for growing the ministry in that facility when we were told the building itself was to be torn down. For many of us this was a difficult time, but we learned to trust God even as we became nomads. The loss of our building certainly stunted our ministry’s growth in some ways but in others we grew. These were ways we might not have otherwise progressed. On the horizon is a new home for Street Hope as we look to move to Threshold House as a base for most of our ministry (We still hope to have our Drop In at Stone Church). We may not have been open to this exciting new venture apart from the painful loss of our previous home.

Disappointment is painful (there is no sugar coating that), but under the management of God disappointment becomes a pathway forward. The Apostles were bitterly disappointed that their Messianic hopes were dashed on Good Friday. It became Good News that their dreams were smashed. Their hopes were too small. God had a better plan.

The great sage, Garth Brooks, was right as he crooned “Some of God’s greatest blessings are unanswered prayers.”

Perhaps you are experiencing some level of disappointment. Our personal Christmases seldom match the Hallmark ideal! Let me assure you, from my own painful experience, that “hope does not disappoint” God is in the redemption business. He can redeem our experience and bring good to and through the most disappointing experiences. We look forward to that Great Day when He will wipe away all our tears and make all things right. Even so come quickly, Lord.