Peace if possible. Truth at all costs. ~ Martin Luther

Dealing With Disappointment

disappointed“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.”  (Proverbs 13:12)

“Hope deferred”. What does that describe?


You were hoping for something, and it hasn’t happened yet. You are disappointed. The Bible says that can make your heart “sick”.

People talk about being “broken hearted” don’t they? They talk about being in “pain”, but they can’t point to the pain in some part of their body because it’s not a physical pain. It’s psychic or emotional pain in their inner person.

They are “heart sick”.  Why? The Bible points to the fact that their hope was deferred.

How many times do you think that people get discouraged, even downright depressed, and you can trace it back to its beginnings in a sense of disappointment.  They were either disappointed with themselves — how they look, something they did, or something they failed to do — or they were disappointed with someone else who let them down.

Perhaps a circumstance conspired against them. They had a plan that was going along famously, but it was thwarted because of an unexpected illness or disease. Something they had no control over. Their hopes and dreams were dashed.  Disappointment.

Defining Disappointment

Disappointment is “the difference between expectations and reality.”

Whenever there exists a shortfall between what we have expected, and set our hopes on, and the reality of what actually eventuates, it creates disappointment.

Disappointment is a staple of the human condition. We live in a fallen world where our hopes are all too often dashed.

Is GOD Ever Disappointed?

By our definition, it would seem obvious that it’s quite impossible for God to be disappointed. In order for God to be disappointed, there would have to be a difference between what He expects to happen and what actually happens. But God knows the end from the beginning. There are no surprises for God.  So, normally speaking, God could be “grieved” by man’s action, but He could surely not be disappointed in the human sense.

But wait. There is something that made it possible for God to experience disappointment. Christmas. When God became man: the mysterious miracle of the incarnation.

In a recent post I talked about Hebrews 4:15 where it says,

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

If Jesus had never experienced disappointment, I’m not sure I could accept that He understands everything I go through, because I experience disappointment on a daily basis! It presents me with constant temptations to sin. Disappointments tempt me to anger, and self-pity, and to take matters into my own hands.

So, if Jesus was “in all points tempted as we are”, I think that has to include Him experiencing what it is to be disappointed.

The incarnation made it possible.  Philippians 2:7 tells us that Jesus

“… made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.”

Jesus clothed Himself with a human form. Without in any way diminishing His divine moral attributes (which He could not do), He yet took on certain human limitations. For instance, He fixed himself to the restraints of that human body being in one place at a time. Prior to His incarnation there is nothing to indicate that He was not omnipresent like the Father and the Holy Spirit. When He took on a human form, however, He took on that limitation.

In the same way He also took on a human limitation with regard to omniscience. He clearly laid aside the use of complete knowledge which He had always had. We know that’s true, because He said on one occasion that He didn’t know the day nor the hour that His Second coming would take place (Mark 13:32). He also asked people questions for information, like one occasion when He asked a father how long his son had been demonized (Mark 9:21).

So, having taken on the human limitation of not having access to divine omniscience, He could be surprised, and so He could very well be disappointed.

If you want an example of “surprise”, Luke 7:9 says that He marveled at the faith of a Centurion.  And perhaps we can even see an example of disappointment in Mark 6:6 when He marveled at the lack of faith in the people of His home town of Nazareth.

So, all that to answer the question: is God ever disappointed? It’s not normal for God, but the miraculous mystery of the incarnation allowed Jesus to experience all that we experience as human beings.

Incidentally, this shows us something else that’s very important. It shows us that it’s not a sin to be disappointed, just as it’s not a sin in itself to be tempted in any way.  It is what we do with the temptation – and likewise what we do in response to disappointment – that matters.  Jesus was tempted in all points like we are, and yet He never gave a sinful response.  If He was disappointed, He did not react in a sinful way.

By the grace of God at work in our lives, it’s possible for us to respond to disappointments in a godly way. Not to spiral into despair. Not to lash out in retaliation.

This Sunday I’m commencing a brand new preaching series called “Down”.  And the very first thing we’ll be talking about is this matter of disappointment, and how we can follow Jesus example and, by His grace at work in us, respond to the disappointments of life in a God-honoring way. And quite astonishingly, we’ll discover that disappointment may actually be a glorious gift.


Click to Enlarge

I’d appreciate your prayers for this series. If you’re in the Danbury area, we’d love you to join us. The messages will also be available on our podcast later in the week.