Life has a way of throwing us curve balls and catching us unaware. When that happens we sometimes think ‘Whoa! I didn’t sign up for this!’ What we mean of course, is things aren’t turning out like we hoped. The wonderful expectations we had suddenly crash with reality and the result isn’t something we recognize much less something we hoped for.
Sometimes the crash with reality is so jarring that we lose our balance and become confused as to what exactly went wrong and what exactly it was we were trying to do anyway. ‘How’d I get myself in this mess?’ You may be thinking.
This disappointment could be a dead-end job, a poor business venture, the purchase of a money-pit house, a bad investment and other wrong choices. Financial hardship is tough, but it can be overcome with better choices.
I think what really throws us into a dizzying downward spiral is when relationships disappoint us. People that we care about, people we trust, people that matter to us can betray, deceive and generally let us down. When this happens emotions swell and our opinion of self shrinks. After all, ‘What WAS I thinking?’
Self-doubt can be a result of broken relationships, dreams turned into nightmares and disappointment. Before long we may be asking ourselves, ‘What’s the point?’
A struggling or failed marriage is one sure example. No one marries with the intent to divorce. Yet, divorces happen every day. One or both spouses break covenant and the relationship dissolves.
A distressed parent wonders what they did wrong. Guilt weighs them down as they decide they have somehow failed. Shame attempts to bind them until they feel powerless.
An abandoned friend can’t comprehend that the person they trusted wasn’t the person they thought they were after all. They feel foolish for not seeing the truth.
To these examples I want to speak a few words of encouragement. Your situation of disappointment may be slightly or vastly different, but I believe you too can take courage from what I am going to say.
1- We can not control other people and in the end, we are not responsible for the decisions they make. We can love them, pray for them, forgive them, encourage them, attempt to teach them, guide them and advise them. But we can not make their choices for them.
2- People make mistakes and we are people too. We need to forgive others and we need to forgive ourselves. Human beings are notorious for being hasty and not thinking things through. They are sometimes reckless, impulsive, thoughtless and down-right mean. But that’s not all they are; it’s not all we are. A mistake is something we have done. It is not who we are. It is not who they are either.
3- Make every effort to learn to trust again. Forgive, let it go, shake the dust off your sandals, see a counselor, take it to the altar, whatever it takes, find your courage to trust again. If you don’t, life will be lonely, your heart will be bitter, your future will be dismal. You can do it, it won’t be easy and yes, if you trust again, you can be hurt again. There is risk involved in every worthy venture.
4- Find your courage to dream again, new dreams. Believe things can be better and different the next time you try, the next time you give your heart away. Make plans and develop goals and anticipate a better tomorrow. Remind yourself that no matter what is happening right now, it is only one chapter in a book of a lifetime. This isn’t the end of the story.
5- Finally, sometimes you just have to accept things as they are even if you hope this isn’t how it will always be. I have a personal little beatitude that I often say to myself as a reminder when things aren’t going as planned. ‘Blessed are the flexible for they shall not break.’
Look, I don’t know if your marriage has suddenly ended or if your beloved child has landed themself in jail. I don’t know if your friend threw you under the train or your parent has rejected you. I don’t know if a church leader betrayed your trust or if a family member deceived you. I don’t know if your plans and dreams are piled in a heap of brokenness at your feet.
What I do know is there is hope for today and yes, even tomorrow. What I do know is you can try again. What I do know is circumstances can change. What I do know is that different can sometimes be better. Don’t be afraid. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and take one tiny but brave step forward and then one more and then another.