What Happens After We Don’t Get What We Want?

August 8, 2018

Last week I published my story about God meeting me in such an unexpected way through my disappointment. Since then I have received numerous messages from others who shared their stories with me, ones about disappointment in relationships or with finding their own home or in wondering when their breakthrough will come.

It’s a place we’re all pretty familiar with, isn’t it? We know what it means to live today amid what is not yet, or maybe never, or hopefully someday.

What I’ve become so aware of as I read these messages is that disappointment is sacred work. That’s a funny way of saying it since we consider disappointment this place we will do everything in our power to move ourselves out of as quickly as possible.

But we change and become by that tension, as un-welcomed as we know it to be in the moment. We’re never the same.

If you and I were sitting down for coffee and I asked you to tell me a story about God moving in your life, most of the big ones carry a heavy dose of loss, disappointment, or delay. Because this is where we meet God as both bigger than what we see before us and as doing what is beyond our vision.

I remember the deep disappointment I felt a few years ago when I stepped away from a ministry I loved. Even though I made the choice, it was so clearly by God’s prompting that I felt like somehow my obedience had chartered my way to disappointment. Following God wasn’t supposed to bring me here, so I thought to myself countless times.

There I was smack in the middle of my own disappointment for what wasn’t.

The season that followed, not one of weeks or months but more like years, was full of questions and fears. Disappointment has this surprisingly effective way of pulling stuff out of us that we thought we’d never see or show.

It’s kind of like when my toddler daughter, Eloise, goes rummaging in my closest. I have some ignored nooks in there, from which she will never fail to pull a pair of my shoes from years ago. They were so far in the back, so tucked away under other shoes or hidden in miscellaneous boxes, that I had forgotten all about them — until she dug into those dark caverns and unearthed what was hiding.

In my mind, this is one of the first things disappointment does. Its sudden intrusion into our life pulls out all these emotions, fears, and insecurities that we thought weren’t there (or had happily been keeping dormant).

Before I stepped out of the ministry I was involved with, I considered myself secure in who God was in me and what he had called me to do. But then everything went quiet and the outward expression of it all was gone in an instant. The disappointment of what wasn’t brought with it a flood of fears and insecurities, ones I didn’t even know were there. I wondered if God had forgotten me or if things would ever change or did I even have a purpose.

That place, with all the emotions and disappointment, can feel incredibly overwhelming, even wholly defeating. While I’m certainly not here to try to wrap a pretty bow around a genuinely raw place of life, maybe even yours in this moment, what I know to be truth is this:


There’s always a but and thank God there’s one. Because as one of my favorite verses says,

But God’s not finished.” [Isaiah 30:18]

Thankfully disappointment is never the destination. We don’t stay there. That’s good news for those us of who woke up today with some heavy disappointment.

The journey may not be what we want, of course, because it often comes with unexpected turns, stretching twists, and major detours. But the work of God’s Spirit in us and in our story means we don’t stay there. Though we find ourselves there today (or one day soon), God is moving us even still.

And yet what happens while we are there is the stuff that changes us. Because if you are in the midst of what isn’t today, hear me on this — this is the holy ground of coming face-to-face with God. This is where you and I meet him in the most raw and honest way. This is the place of wrestling and becoming, where perseverance is built and hope becomes real.

This is where God changes the story, our story, and it becomes even better.

Not today necessarily, and maybe not tomorrow either. Maybe not even in the immediate days ahead. But the story of what God is doing in, through, and around us, that moves too — sometimes in the suddenly and sometimes in the slowly. But no matter what, the story gets better. He promises us it gets better.

Because somehow, as only God can do in the way he does, our disappointment upgrades us. It expands our story, our faith, and our future. It elevates us to see from a higher vantage point than what we feel or know right now.

For me, those years of disappointment were painfully quiet in many ways, but they were powerful too. Even now God is still digging out of me things I didn’t know were laying dormant. He is changing me through the absence, the quiet, the hiddenness. This is where I am finding him and where I am becoming in him.

Disappointment is sacred work, because it’s where God changes, moves, and expands us for what is ahead. We’re never the same after walking through a season of coming face-to-face with him in the middle of what is not. Our experience of who he is and what he is like is never the same either.

So no matter where you are today, but especially if you find yourself in that holy pit of good and ugly disappointment, how I pray you know what powerful work God is doing in and through you even still.

God’s not finished.

The story gets better.

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1 Comment

  • Reply Jane Waterhouse August 9, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    It is amazing how when God says wait and later brings the answer, it is so much sweeter than it would have been if He answered yes right away. It helps us be more appreciative of His blessing. I never knew that story about the house, which was interesting to read about how God met the need down the road.
    Love, Mom

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