220612disappointment: sadness or displeasure caused by the non-fulfilment of one’s hopes or expectations
(Oxford Dictionary of English)

We work hard. So when we get away, even when we have work to do, we try to squeeze in as much fun as we can. In out last trip to North America, we were delighted to find out that the Eagles were playing in Vancouver when we were going to be there. So we got a friend to book us some tickets. (Yes, we believe that “Hotel California” is not demonic. As the band claims, the song is a metaphor of being trapped in the empty hedonistic life style of Southern California, which is, well, demonic in a different sort of way I guess.) But the concert was cancelled.

On the morning of the concert, the friend who got us the tickets messaged us to tell us that the concert had been cancelled. One of the band members had fallen sick and they had cancelled the show. (I guess we have to expect that bands comprising of ageing baby boomers will be more prone to this.) The show was rescheduled but as we subsequently found out, we would no longer be in Vancouver on the new date. We got a refund.

The friend who got us the tickets, a good friend, a pastor, and a man of faith, said sagely, “One day we will know why the Lord prevented you from seeing this concert.” We didn’t have to wait that long. We met a friend in Vancouver who was going through a tough time financially. Bernice, who listens to the Lord much better than me (to no one’s surprise I am sure) said we should give the bulk of the refund money to him. It made perfect sense. It gave us much joy to be able to pass most of the concert refund money to our friend.

Meanwhile we were unexpectedly treated to a different cultural experience. When we were in Seattle, our new good friends, Al and Nancy, took us to a ball game — the Mariners vs the Padres. The Mariners lost 2-1 even though they had beaten the same team emphatically the night before. Ah, the mysteries of life, and baseball. It was the first time Bernice and I had been to a ball game. We thoroughly enjoyed the experience and left the game with fresh appreciation for baseball and the generous friendship of Al and Nancy.

I hate surprises, especially unpleasant ones. I want my life to be predictable, to go according to plan. And I don’t take disappointments well. But events like the one above remind me that God is in control and that sometimes He lets our plans fall through because He has other things in store. I think of Martha, disappointed that Jesus hadn’t come in time to prevent her brother from dying.

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had been in the tomb four days already. (Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, so many of the Jewish people of the region had come to Martha and Mary to console them over the loss of their brother.) So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:17-21 NET)

“If only . . .” — the disappointment, and frustration with Jesus, is palpable and understandable. At least Martha had enough faith to say: “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will grant you.” (John 11:22 NET)

But we now know how this story ends. Martha and Mary and Lazarus experience a miracle few were privileged to witness. They were witnesses to the glory of God.

The story of Job however, is warning that we may not always see the logic of our disappointments this side of heaven. However the story of Job also teaches us that God is always in control and that He always has a reason. The Word of God calls us to trust Him in the disappointments of our lives.

I started this column early this morning (July 5th 2010). It is evening now and I should be able to finish this piece soon. But late in the afternoon I received very disappointing news, news that opened up a lot of old wounds. Once again I find myself writing for my own heart. Once again I am called to trust the Lord in the face of disappointment. This will not be the last time. A fallen world is full of disappointments. We disappoint people all the time. How many people have I let down? How much of my life promises so much more than I deliver? And people disappoint us. The worst disappointments come from those from whom we expect the most.

I am so grateful that I follow a God who brings the most life out of the worst disappointment, a God who uses Good Friday to renew a creation. It is this God who calls me to trust Him today and everyday, until that day when disappointments will be no more.