If you are going to be a pastor, you will face disappointments. Sorry for the buzz kill beginning, but that is the truth. The offerings will sometimes be less than your church expenses; the sermon you planned to preach was a lot better than the one you actually preached. People will leave your congregation for the silliest of reasons. Your kids and spouse will give you “the look” when you arrive home with an empty emotional cup. The list could go on and on, I promise.
But the good news is that God is working at all times on our behalf in the invisible realms, and he is well aware that all of that invisibility will cause us distress from time to time. The job doesn’t pan out. The house doesn’t sell. The marriage doesn’t last. The runaway doesn’t return. The investment doesn’t yield viable returns. Circumstances scatter our dreams and wreck our plans. Or so it seems, anyway. We simply cannot see what God sees. We cannot know what he alone knows.
And so we wrestle. We admit disappointment. We engage in earnest dialogue with our God. But in the end, whether resolution is reached or not, we come around to the same vow: “I will not fall away. I trust you, Father. I really do. And while I don’t understand what you’re doing, I know you are guiding me along righteousness’ path. I’m disappointed but not disheartened, Lord. You’re still God, and you are good.”
I’m learning a couple of things these days about how to let God be God in my life. First, I now realize that I’m most vulnerable to feelings of insecurity and disappointment when I’m walking through a season of significant change. Criticism of any kind is never fun. But it carries a special sting when I’m operating off my normal routine. During a typical week, I have systems in place for staying connected to Christ, my family, my friends, my staff, and my goals regarding finances, health, and growth. But toss a new role, a new city, a new house in the mix, and those systems take a hit. As a result, I’m thrown off-balance. I’m uncertain. I’m self-doubting. I’m tired. This is when Satan loves to strike. Simply knowing when to watch out for my enemy helps me block his predictable blow.
Second, I’m learning that there is safety in numbers. Specifically, the more I can hang around secure, measured, kind people, the more those tendencies rub off on me. Secure people live free from anxiety and fear. They are immovable, unshakeable, firm. And they teach me to live this way too.
I’m married to the most secure person I know. Pam and I have gone through some of the biggest traumas and crises a couple can face, and yet she remains fixed and steady and sound. When I arrive home each afternoon, I know I’ll be walking into an environment marked by peace. There is little drama in the Boyd home, because my bride has done her due diligence on the insecurity front. She has fought the battles she needed to fight in order to prevail secure and strong. As you’d imagine, it’s a huge gift to be married to someone like that.
A third thing I’m learning is that it’s really difficult to stay disappointed at someone or some circumstance that you are praying for regularly. I should clarify here that by “pray for” I don’t mean “ask God to strike them with a bad case of oozing boils.”
There is a country song out right now that starts out as a repentant ballad. A heartbroken guy finds himself sitting in church one Sunday, devastated over his girlfriend walking out on him. For the first time in his life, he’s actually open to advice from a preacher on what to do. “You can’t go on hating others who have done wrong to you,” the preacher says that day at church. “Sometimes we get angry, but we must not condemn. Let the good Lord do his job, and you just pray for them.”
So the guy decides to take the high road and pray for the gal who broke his heart—that her brakes would go out, that a flowerpot would fall from a windowsill and knock her in the head, that her birthday would come and nobody would call, and that her dreams would never come true.
Not exactly the kind of prayers I mean.
And then, a fourth lesson, even if more trivial than the first three: A good night’s sleep works wonders when you’re wrestling with disappointment. Before you reply on Facebook or Twitter or e-mail, or are tempted to pick up the phone and attack, go to sleep.
I mean it.
Get a good night’s rest and re-evaluate things in the light of a brand new day. Have some quiet time. Join hands with your spouse or your kid or your dog and sing “Kumbaya” if you must. Do anything to re-center yourself so that God has the chance to speak to you. Notice how your anger has diminished. Notice how your perspective has shifted. Notice how your passion for writing a nasty note has been replaced by the urge to repair the relationship instead.