Posts Tagged ‘Disappointment’



March 9, 2014

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…”  Philippians 3:8

Angry Gopher

Angry Gopher (Photo credit: *~Dawn~*)

I walked my nine acres of unproductive farm-ground in hunt for the only thing my property produces in abundance – gophers.  The rains of March have cleared my land of snow and sapped the frost out of the ground.  As green sprouts begin to push out toward the surface, other monuments to spring have been appearing across my acreage – the miserable gopher mounds.  I have a gopher problem substantiated by last year’s trap total of 126 gophers.  I have written about my hate of gophers before (Trapped Like a Miserable Gopher).

In response, I have picked up my ritual of gopher trapping.  I walk across the fields carrying a five gallon metal bucket filled with traps and flags that creates a rhythmic beat as trap chains beat against the bucket’s metal side with each step.  My shovel acts as a walking stick, keeping time with each step across uneven ground as I scan the surfaces ahead for any irregularities.

glaukos / Foter / CC BY-NC

While I hate gophers, I enjoy gopher trapping.  The menial nature of trapping allows me to pray and think as I haphazardly meander from one suspicious dirt mound to another.  On this day, the beating of the chains against my metal bucket drew my mind to the song “It is Well with my Soul” and thoughts of this last week.

My week contained a very unexpected discouragement.  It was another notable discouragement in a series of discouragements that have spanned the last several years.  Therefore, the lyrics of this song became more of a question than a statement.

Is it well with my soul? 

Foter / Public Domain Mark 1.0

“When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot”…have I been taught to say, “It is well with my soul”?  I consider what has transpired over these last several years and contemplate much of what I have been taught.  I have not experienced anything even remotely close to the tragedy of Horatio Spafford, author of “It is Well with my Soul”.  I know how materially and relationally blessed I am.

Yet,I think that years from now when I look back on this decade of my life, I will recognize it as a time of sustained pruning.  I have been taught such important lessons through all these discouragements.  I have been taught that there is only one thing upon which we can place our hope.  My lessons have come by the loss of many things that I unknowingly held dear.  It was only through the curtailment of these treasures that I discovered just how much I overvalued them.  I have lost my health to cancer, wealth to business failures, respect to employee intrigues, service to a Church plant closing, and friendships to disregard.

As I cleared dirt from the gopher hole I had just dug up, I mentally tried to clear away the debris of feelings in my search for an answer to the question of whether it truly was well with my soul.  I look back at what I have learned from each of these experiences. Upon each loss, I have chosen Christ.  There has not been anything that I have lost that has made me question the love of Jesus Christ for me.  In fact, my disappointments have drawn me closer to him.  When I have been stripped of what I value, I have come to recognize that it is not precious in comparison to Christ.  I stood in an empty field as pockmarked with gopher mounds as my life with disappointments and I sang:

“Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

It truly is well with my soul.  I know that my losses are insignificant in comparison to some but I am learning to cherish each loss because of what I have come to deeply know through them.  It has only been through disappointment that I have learned to rest in the blest assurance of Christ.  I had not realized how blind I have been to my pride and discontentment.

Foter / CC BY-SA

I gazed at my house in the distance and know that I have so much more that can be lost.  I mentally imagined losing it all – would it still be well with my soul?  Can I count all that lay before me as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord?  I cringe at the thought of walking the same path as Horatio Spafford.  I immediately know that I could not endure that on my own but I also know that I would not have to.  Today’s troubles are sufficient for today, there is no need to fret about the losses of tomorrow.  My Lord’s hand is strong and he will provide the strength needed at the precise time of need.  Therefore, I sang:

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”

I know that my days of trouble are not over.  I have many disappointments in my future that will teach me many lessons that I have yet to learn.  My hope is that I will learn from these previous disappointments in order to handle future losses in a more God glorifying manner.

This recent loss has revealed another blind spot in my life.  I thought that I was living joyfully.  I thought that I was showing to the world that I cherished Christ more than the treasures of this world.  However, I have learned that the imperfect manner in which I let go of those things that I highly valued, had more of an effect on people that I care for than I had realized.

I have grumbled about unfairness.  I have moped over what should have been.  I have withdrawn in sadness and defense.  I know that I have walked joylessly for significant periods.  I guess I had hoped it had not shown.  I have learned that my sinful response to loss has been a discouragement to others with considerable ramifications.  I unknowingly allowed loss to become a repelling stench to some rather than a God glorifying aroma that draws others to my Lord and Savior.

Foter / CC BY-SA

I have learned the importance of being a shining light in this world particularly in times of personal loss.  I am prone to selfish navel gazing.  However, God is most glorified when others can see us counting everything as loss in the mist of the loss.  There are consequences to wallowing in our despair.  Others are encouraged in their faith when they observe us holding firmly to Christ and allowing the cares of this world to easily slip from a loose grasp.  It is our losses where we can show others the great hope that we have.  I cannot change the past but I can plan for the future.  Therefore, I hope to learn from my past and embrace future losses with an eye to glorifying God in all circumstances.  May the Lord grant us all the strength to look beyond our loss, and demonstrate to the world watching where our true hope resides.

But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for all the losses that you have allowed in my life.  Thank you for revealing to me what I have been esteeming more than you.  Forgive me for holding on too tightly to the things of this world.  Forgive me of my pride.  Forgive my of my lack of contentment in you and you alone.  Father, forgive me for missing the opportunity of glorifying you in my losses and showing the world around me how wonderful you are.  Protect and encourage those who I have let down and discouraged.  Lord, I praise your name (It is Well ~ Kutless).  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

How to Count it All as Loss

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January 1, 2013

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things. Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!” Psalm 72:18-19

This morning I have read many optimistic declarations for the coming year.  I think that it is wonderful that people are looking forward to a “great and amazing” 2013.  However, my sense is that many of these declarations are made in an almost mystical, power of positive thinking, type of manner.

What if you are not optimistic? Will your lack of positive thinking doom you?

What if 2012 has not been a “good” year as most would define it.  Last Sunday, my Church provided an opportunity for people to give testimonies of praise for what God has done for them throughout the year.  All of the praises were for God responding in  “good” ways.  There were no praises for the God’s peace in tragic loss of a child.  There were no praises for God’s strength while a spouse has to work away from home. There were no praises for God’s provision while being unemployed. There were no praises for God’s purpose when health is not restored. There were no praises for the “bad” things of unknown purpose and I know that there were some.  I almost gave a testimony to the “bad” things but fear of extemporaneous speaking in a new Church held me back.

I look back at 2012 and I am glad that it is gone.   I don’t look at this last year with fondness even though God has been so faithful to me and my family. My year feels like a period of grinding endurance.  I think it is a testimony that many may share.

I have not had to endure anything in comparison to some in 2012.  I have not experienced any deaths in my family; I have not been subjected to any violence; I have not been separated from my loved ones; I still have a home; I still have a job; I still have good relations with my family.  God has bestowed so many blessing upon me that I cannot even count them all.  Yet, I do feel like an Eeyore about 2012.  When I look at 2013, I feel like I am leaning into a harness preparing for a long pull.

What are we to do when we are not optimistic?

What is our response to struggles and disappointments when we lack understanding of their purpose?

When we don’t have answers, we must go back to what we do know.  We remind ourselves of the faithfulness of God; we remind ourselves of the goodness of the God; we remind ourselves that our treasures are not in this world; we remind ourselves that our Father knows how to give us good gifts; we remind ourselves that we are clay in the potter’s hands; we remind ourselves that God is still on His throne.

I don’t have answers for all the hurts in the world.  I don’t have an elixir of optimism. I only have my testimony.

This is what I wish I would have said on Sunday:

“My 2012 was bad. It was bad from an economic perspective. It was bad from a ministry perspective. I don’t know the reason I am walking through difficult and unstable economic conditions. I don’t know why the Church plant that I was part of for five years did not prosper and survive.  However, I praise God for these situations because of what they are revealing within me.

Cover of "Dark Night of the Soul"

Cover of Dark Night of the Soul

I believe that struggles and disappointments are part of a process that God uses to wean us from this world and ourselves. In the book Dark Night of the Soul by John of the Cross, a metaphor is used that I have returned to many times.  It is a metaphor of a mother weaning a child. I have yet to see a child enjoy the process of being weaned from milk to solid food. Yet, we all know that it is a process that is vital to the maturity of a child.  Consider the process that God uses to cause us to mature in our faith. When we are “young” in our faith, we drink spiritual milk and have spiritual forms of security blankets, binkies, sippy cups, etc.  These crutches of our spiritual immaturity are habits and mindsets that support us when the roots of our faith are not deep.  We can linger just below the surface in this immature, supported state.  However, there is a danger to immaturity. Those with shallow roots of faith are in danger of falling away when real trouble comes. (Matt. 13:20-21)

God loves us too much to leave us with shallow roots even though growing roots can hurt.

I know that the reason 2012 was difficult and disturbing is not because God was absent or inactive in my life. It was not because He does not love me or want to use me. The reason that the 2012 was distressing is precisely because God is working – in a powerful, deep, and transformative way.

I am being liberated from seeking my security in my paycheck.

I am being liberated from seeking my identity in my job title.

I am being liberated from dictating how God can use me.

I am being liberated from my appetite for the praise and respect of men.

I am being liberated from my attaching of joy to circumstances.

I am being liberated from my pride.

This process of liberating my soul from my crutches of immaturity is a totally loving, healing, and compassionate act of my Father.  It would be an unloving Father, who would leave His son in perpetual immaturity and danger of falling away. God loves me too much to let my physical comfort get in the way of His Spirit maturing my soul.

I know that the process is not complete. I still don’t really understand what God is doing.  Most of His work is being done in hidden ways that I am not even aware of. I am not enjoying this process.  It is uncomfortable and I like to be comfortable.

The Lord knows how often I pray for a little break from being weaned.  He knows how many times I have cried out due to my discomfort. Yet, I have faith that he knows what is best for me; after all He is my Father and He is so very good.

Therefore, I praise God for 2012 and what is to come in 2013.  I praise God for the “good” things that He has given me. I also praise Him for loving me enough to give me “bad” things; “bad” things that in His wonderful hands are freeing me from attachments and compulsions that I struggle with or don’t even realized are holding me back.  I praise Him for loving me enough to disrupt my comfort and cause the roots of my faith to grow deep.  I praise Him for teaching me that my true freedom and comfort resides only in Him.

It is a wondrous thing that only He can do. Blessed be his glorious name for 2012 and 2013; may the whole earth be filled with his glory! Amen and Amen!”

PRAYER: Father, thank you for being so good to me.  Thank you for providing for me; thank you for taking care of my family and keeping us safe throughout this last year.  Thank you for all the blessings that you have given me.  Lord, forgive me for dwelling on the negatives and allowing the cynicism of my mind to condemn the good work that you are doing in me.  Forgive me for wanting to have control of my life and not trusting you as I should. Father, complete your work in me. Liberate me from my flesh so that I might be free to love you as I long to do. Lord, continue your work in me; don’t leave me as I am.  Amen

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