Life is filled with disappointments. Sure, there are moments of pure bliss, like going on your first date, walking across the stage at graduation, taking the vacation of a lifetime, or holding your newborn baby in your hands for the first time.
But these fleeting experiences soon leave a wake of discouragement and disappointment. Your boyfriend breaks up with you after two weeks, your diploma earns you little more than a minimum wage job, the lingering images of your trip begin to fade from memory, and your little kid spews a frothy milk-like substance in your lap right as you step out of the car to head into church.
Such is life in a world broken by sin. Even the best things in life are soiled by the Fall and prove, given enough time, to be incapable of satisfying the desires of our hearts. The sooner we all learn this truth, the better we are.
But, for most of us, we continually believe the lie that if we just have the one thing our hearts crave in this life then we will be satisfied. The jilted girlfriend hopes that she will find a man who will love and cherish her like she’s dreamed about for years. The unemployed, middle-aged man hopes that one of thousands of mind-numbing, online applications he’s filled out will result in a career that provides for his family. The barren wife longs to feel the gentle kicks of a baby in her womb.
Sometimes our hopes become reality and we get what we crave.
At first, we are awed by our fortunes and fascinated by our newfound blessing. Soon, however, the luster wears off and we are right back where we started – disappointed and looking for something else to satisfy.
Often, this disappointment is compounded by the shame and guilt we feel for not finding fulfillment in God’s blessings. We are disappointed in our disappointment. Rather than embracing the futility of life, many bounce to the next thing, hoping that it will be the one thing that doesn’t disappoint.
But it does disappoint. Everything does. Every time. Life under the sun is futile, says the wisest man who has ever lived (Ecc 1:14). Every person who has ever lived confirms this reality.
There is one thing that doesn’t disappoint, though. Paul writes to the church in Rome:
Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:3–6).
Suffering did not defeat Paul–it strengthened him because it birthed in him an unshakable hope. He had supreme confidence that God loved him (5:8), brought him into right relationship through Jesus’ work (5:10), declared him righteous and holy in spite of his sin (5:17), and pledged him His eternal faithfulness (5:21). By faith, Paul was sure of these promises, though he would not fully experience these realities until after his life on earth was over. His hope in God was the one thing that did not disappoint.
This hope is future in orientation. It is always looking forward, beyond the present, to a future day that will fully satisfy. We never fully, finally realize the source of our hope this side of eternity, so we keep striving, longing, praying, for that coming day.
That’s the problem with this life. We often get what we hope for.
We may get a job, a spouse, a child, some money, a house, a book deal, a little bit of respect, or some mantle of authority. And, as soon as we have it, we are disappointed.
Even our relationship with God feels disappointing many days. God is not disappointing, but my experience of him often is. The shame of my sin, my half-hearted faith, and my ongoing proclivity for continued disobedience cloud the way I experience God in this life. I’m often disappointed with my prayer life, my time in the word, my flimsy worship, and my experience of his presence.
But, maybe that’s the point. Perhaps God’s intends for us to remain unsatisfied, even of our experience of Him in this life. Maybe the cyclical pattern of disappointment is meant to remind us that nothing in a fallen world can satisfy. Rather putting our hope in things that will continually let us down, perhaps God wants us to be honest in our disappointment.
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This need not mean that we become Eeyore people who mope through life with a perpetual scowl. But, it does mean that we are realists, who have the ability to get our eyes off of our present circumstances, and look forward to the future. We can still treasure our marriages, find joy in our children, look forward to the next vacation, and thank God for his daily provision, without placing our hope in those things.
Our hope is in the Lord, and this hope will never disappoint. We live in hope for the day when God’s promises will be realized and our faith will finally be made sight. We can cry out with John, “Come, Lord Jesus!” and beg him to come quickly (Rev 22:20). And when He does, rest assured, his children will not be disappointed.