A few weeks ago I sat in a local coffee shop with my running coach as we discussed a plan for my next race, the Ottawa Marathon held at the end of May. We talked through some of the previous races I had, some of the health struggles I faced going into the race, and how my body would handle 42.2 km of running, after a very hectic ministry travel schedule.
My goal for two years has been to qualify for the Boston Marathon, the oldest and most sought-after running experience in the world. On three previous attempts, I tried to run a marathon with a finish time of 3:08:00 and not had any success. Many of my attempts had finished with a feeling of great disappointment and defeat, which I didn’t want to experience again in Ottawa.
My coach discussed the importance of having more than one goal to strive for to have success. I set my three goals: a) 3:10:00
b) 3:15:00 and c) run a personal best marathon, faster than any of my previous races. Taking on this plan going into Ottawa was a rewarding experience. While I didn’t qualify for Boston, I did accomplish goal c), which was a personal best.
I’ve thought about my Ottawa experience the last few weeks and found great joy in the midst of not accomplishing my goal to run in Boston (yet). In life we experience many disappointments—times where things just don’t go the way we envisioned, planned, or hoped. As Christians, I think when we experience disappointment we really feel the pain, because we sought the Lord and prayed diligently to seek His will. And when we believe God has answered our prayer and move forward only to find a closed door, we then have so many questions: “Am I losing my sanity?”, “Does God not care?”, or the worst question in my mind, “Why?”. I find the “why” to be the hardest, because for every answer to the “why”, you can have ten more “why” questions. Have you experienced this in your life?
The ministry and our team experienced our first major disappointment in my two years of leadership. When we had to cancel our Recharge National Conference, we asked a lot of questions, tried to come up with a number of conclusions and solutions, and tried to answer way too many “why” questions. Although a number of people tried to give suggestions and solutions and while some were very helpful, the wound was still too fresh for the team.
After a few weeks of prayer and study, I want to share a few practical steps that I found for how to deal with disappointment. Maybe you can relate to being dealt some major disappointments in your own life. I pray these suggestions will help you:
1. Remember Your Calling and Purpose
Paul writes in Romans 8:28: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Charles Spurgeon wrote in one of his sermons, “It was a pretty remark I read, the other day, of a Christian man who said ‘I used to have many disappointments, until I changed one letter of the word, and chopped it into two, so that instead of disappointments, I read his appointments.’ That was a wonderful change, for ‘disappointments’ break your heart, but ‘his appointments’ you accept right cheerily.”
We need to know that regardless what disappointment we face, we are children of God. Romans 8:29 speaks of being foreknown and predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son. Peter in his letter speaks of being chosen, having hope in Christ, and the imperishable and undefiled inheritance that will never fade away. This promise and reminder, if we keep it in the forefront of our minds, will far outweigh any disappointment we could ever face. Why? Because God cares for His children, and He works everything together for good. The good here has nothing to do with our earthly comfort, but has everything to do with being in fellowship with God.
Our main purpose is not what we do, but who we are in Christ Jesus. As long as this is our focus, we can turn from disappointment to knowing that all we encounter is His appointment and purpose.
2. Go Back to His Word Again and Again
When we struggle with disappointment, we can be led through so many different emotions. We can feel rejection, failure, sadness, anger, hurt, and probably many others, which will eventually lead down a path nobody wants to go. In my ministry career, I’ve seen people struggle as their mind wanders away from the promises and character of God. I think the devil loves it when a door closes because in our weak moments he pounces on it and fills our mind with rubbish. Paul exhorts us to exult or boast in our tribulations rather than give in to our initial reactions (Rom. 5:3-5).
In dealing with disappointment we must keep our mind on God.
We can memorize Scripture and carry small cards with God’s promises on them to ensure that when our mind begins to wander, we can quickly be reminded of who God is and what He has done for us. Personally in dealing with disappointment, I simply remember two words: “but God” (Eph. 2:4). In those two words I am quickly led right back to my calling and purpose.
When we go back to His word, we can look into the Psalms and see over and over how David cried out to God and He delivered him. We also see Abraham and Sarah and the birth of Isaac after many years of waiting on God’s promise. We can study and memorize the names of God and recall them when we need to be reminded of the One who called us for His purpose.
>>Take a moment and read Psalm 104, wonderful truths that realign our focus.
3. Pray and Rejoice
Prayer is a vital part of overcoming disappointment. First it’s important to come before the Lord and thank God for the closed door. Huh? Yes, you read that right. We thank God for closing the door that we thought was open. If we know God is truly sovereign and in control, then we must believe that there’s something even greater on the horizon.
Does this mean that there will be a better conference, a better race? I can’t answer that, but what I can tell you is that the “better” that is coming is imperishable. It’s mine because I’m a child of God. It’s reserved in heaven for me and it will not fade away. This knowledge realigns my focus, my prayer life, and causes me to rejoice in the fact that I am saved by grace and my focus must be sanctification. My calling is to first be a disciple of Jesus Christ, grow to be more like Him, and through my growing devotion I’m propelled into service for the Lord. It’s in this service that we must remain faithful to the Lord and His calling, praying and thanking God that we have a tremendous opportunity to be Kingdom representatives.
Our team is so thankful for the opportunity we have been given to serve the people of Canada. We start our morning in prayer, and thanking Him for every opportunity we have to serve— every closed door as well as the hope of opening new doors (1 Thess. 5:18). Know that we are praying daily for all of our students and leaders, for those experiencing tremendous growth, as well as those experiencing great disappointment.
Remember your calling, remember your purpose, and remember His Word. This will turn your sorrow into joy.
It is through your prayers and God's faithfulness that we are on the verge of expanding the work of Precept like never before in the history of the Ministry. God gave us a vision to reach 30,000 new Canadians with Inductive Bible study. And we can see that it is truly His vision.
Have we met our goal? Not yet. But we are well on our way, and I know God will continue to be faithful as we follow His leading. Thank you for hearing God's call and partnering with us in this incredible opportunity.
Blessed by your partnership,
Mark Sheldrake, National Director