7 Pieces of Wisdom for Navigating through the Disappointments of Life

I have the opportunity to sit with many people who are experiencing disappointment in life. Many times, even when we are doing the best we know how, we find ourselves disappointed with where we find ourselves in life at the time.

Life happens. It could be tragedy or a minor set back, but it hurts. Pain is always relative to context. And, if we don’t know how to respond we can have a very hard time recovering.

Having faced disappointment many times in my own life, I’ve learned a few things about navigating through these times. I hope some of my wisdom gleaned through experience can help you.

Here are 7 pieces of wisdom for the disappointments of life:

Keep your heart close to God. That’s important always, but especially during times of disappointment. The Psalmist said, “God is close to the brokenhearted.” God is most likely at work in ways you cannot presently see or understand. Often disappointment ushers in some of the greatest seasons of God for your life. Don’t miss it by not listening to Him.

Wait for your emotions to heal before you make major decisions. Recall how the prophet Elijah was ready to die during a difficult period. (1 Kings 19) Yet God still had great plans for his life and ministry. We tend to make irrational decisions immediately following times of disappointment. Let some time pass and make sure you are thinking rational again before you implement major changes in your life.

Don’t quit doing what you know to do. While you shouldn’t make major changes, an equally dangerous tendency to give up or stall until the next opportunity arrives or life gets “easier”. You may need a resting period, but keep your mind and hands busy doing what there is to do today. It will help protect your heart and mind from the attack of fears and doubts. And, do things that keep you alive and healthy. Eat, sleep, exercise.

Don’t allow a disappointment to determine your sense of self-worth. Read many of David’s Psalms. (22, 69, and 121 are a few of my favorites.) You can read his despair — then as He reminds himself of God’s love and faithfulness — he is restored. Be restored who you are as a child of God. Beloved. Let God and the people who know you best help determine your worth. It’s monumental worth. Yes, even today! You don’t have to be defined by your disappointment. 

(And, be on the lookout for signs of severe depression. Things like withdrawal, constant feelings of despair, severe worry, not eating, dark fears or thoughts, etc. Don’t resist professional help.)

Remember, you are not alone. Even though it may feel that way. Back to the story of Elijah, he couldn’t see it at the time, but God had reserved an army of supporters for him. Disappointments are a part of everyone’s experience. There is likely someone who has experienced the same type disappointment. Don’t be afraid to find them and let them walk through this period with you. (This is not a time to remove yourself from the church community — this is a time to find real, life-giving community.)

Learn everything you can from this period. No one welcomes disappointment, yet most who have experienced them learn some of life’s best lessons during those times. Even failure can be a great teacher. Don’t miss the value of experience.

Move forward when opportunity presents itself. Too many people become paralyzed after a period of disappointment, refusing to ever move forward again. Living an abundant life requires risk-taking. Dreaming again. Loving again. Ultimately, to be obedient to God’s call on your life, you will have to walk by faith again. If you ever hope to escape the moment of disappointment — when the time is right — and you’ve grieved your loss or disappointment sufficiently — get on with life.

Learning how to handle disappointments will make your life better. Eventually, God will — if you allow Him to — grant you the privilege of helping others who experience disappointment.

What wisdom have you gleaned from times of disappointment?

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25 thoughts on “7 Pieces of Wisdom for Navigating through the Disappointments of Life

  1. Great distilation of wisdom related to these times. I also am along side folks during these times. The one that stood out to me during this read was "Wait for your emotions to heal before you make major decisions." Sometimes this is a hard message to pass on to someone who is already struggling but is a serious need from their more objective friends. Thanks for sharing.

  2. "Though He slay me, yet I will hope in Him…" In "Plan B", Pete Wilson tells the story of a woman whose world came crashing down on her, but that Sunday found her in church, her hands held high in worship of the One who allowed the pain to touch her life. When I'm feeling the way I feel today, I "force" myself worship God for who He is. It doesn't always make me feel better, but it protects my heart and puts the focus on Him instead of me and my pain. But I suppose this is just an example of your first point…

  3. I agree, Michael – by nature I'm pretty good at being my own worst critic, especially after something goes South. Thanks, Ron, for the encouragement!

  4. Don’t allow a disappointment to determine your sense of self-worth.

    I loved that point. It is so easy to beat yourself up after something goes the opposite that we had figured. Me personally this has resulted of running the situation over and over in my head to the point that I get sick.

    This is very encouraging.

  5. Ron,

    The link you mentioned on Point #6 (Learn all you can…) didn't come through. I'd love to read your thoughts on this.

    • Amen. And when that hits begin to exercise no matter how you feel. It can be as simple as walking 100 yards each day. But get out and move. (can you tell I know this from experience,ha)

    • After the most heart breaking disappointment in church leadership almost four years ago I have been blessed to miss being majorly depressed. I took counseling offered from the local clinic on the approach to leaving the church. It helped but what has helped most is understanding the grace of God. I am blessed in so many ways and the impact of the loss of direction, although affecting me spiritually and emotionally, hasn't brought on the deep seated depression that can sadly affect some. I put this down to learning, growing, and knowing who I am in Christ. This has not meant that my feelings of inadequacy, frustration, and hurt have been any less. What it does mean is that it is all in the perspective of God's amazing grace. I look forward with hope in the most irrational way imaginable to mankind because I still believe that through it all God is faithful.