Dealing with disappointment

Sometimes, every so often, I find myself in the sunniest of spots. Have you felt this way? It’s quite glorious, really, walking along the road of life humming a happy tune, strolling down a pretty path. Blue skies. Cool breeze. All is right in the world… good stuff is happening in our homes, in our careers, in our relationships. Our loved ones are happy and healthy. It’s as if we’ve called out to the universe with our heart’s desires and the universe replies with a bright, wide grin. 

Most of the time though, if we’re honest, things aren’t quite so grand. Our days come and go in a more mediocre manner as we amble along. A pretty regular routine, really. We get up, we do our thing, we go to bed. The weather is fair. The path is decent. Things are fine.

There is, however, one other option we face on this road called life. Periodically, our path takes a disheartening turn. Gray skies threaten a downpour. Thunderclaps suddenly roar overhead. Lightning flashes eerily close. We run for cover, but rushing water nips at our heels and starts to rise. The road is murky, strenuous and unclear. 

Three years ago I was hit by this kind of storm with an unexpected phone call from the head of radiology at a nearby hospital.  “Your results are in,” the grandfatherly voice with a slow drawl said on the other end of the line, “I’m sorry to say you are positive for cancer.” As the walls closed in and the room started to spin, I knew that my walk through breast cancer, and subsequent double mastectomy, was definitely going to be an uphill climb over a fairly high mountain. I’m elated to say that trek is now behind me. 

But you don’t have to hear the word cancer to feel gale force winds. There are a million other things that can bring dark skies… a door closes, a dream fades, a vision is thwarted. We hear the word no when we desperately wanted a yes. Bitter disappointment. Painful setbacks in our career or a relationship. It’s puzzling. It’s discouraging. We want to yell and scream and stamp our feet. 

But there is another way. In the seventh chapter of 2 Samuel we find David, who has revealed the true desire of his heart: He deeply desires to build the temple of the Lord. It’s his life ambition, his ultimate prayer request. Seems like a good thing, right? Great purpose. Pure motives. Godly aspirations. Even Nathan the prophet tells him to move forward.

But, there’s a problem. God says no. “And the Lord said to David, “You did well to have it in your heart to build a temple in my name. Nevertheless, you are not the one.” (1 Kings 8:18-19)

Ouch. What do you mean I’m not the one? In this very moment, we might expect to see a bit of gloom from David, maybe even annoyance. At least a bit of sulking. Instead, he asks one simple question: Who am I? “Who am I, Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?” (2 Samuel 7:18) And with these three small words David reveals the greatest form of praise to our King: complete surrender. In immediate trust of God’s goodness and complete submission to His wisdom, David humbly accepts the news. Instead of grumbling, we see gratitude. In place of fretting, there is faith. Where there could be anger, David shows appreciation. When faced with profound disappointment, instead of crying out in defeat, David’s faith whispers thank you. I trust you. You have been so good to me.

Lord, when I receive news I don’t want to hear, when I’m told no instead of yes, when I’m confused or hurt by a sudden storm, a rocky path, or a difficult detour, let my heart respond as David’s did. Allow me to whisper thank you, no matter where I am and what I face on the road of life. 


Kathryn O'Brien


An educator by trade, Kathryn O'Brien writes books for kids and has a heart for moms. She's published five children's picture books, including her latest series (Sit for a Bit, Tyndale). Kathryn enjoys being on the writing team for HomeFront Magazine and has recent pieces in Today's Christian Woman, Focus on the Family and The Tyndale Blog. When she's not writing, Kathryn will most likely be found texting her kids, hanging on the front porch with her husband or hiking the canyons near her home in Southern California.