close up photo of sad child leaning on a wooden chair

Coaching Your Kids (and yourself) Through Disappointment

When I was a kid, I loved baseball and collecting all things baseball. Like many boys, I dreamed about what it would be like to play in the big leagues. I wasn’t a great player myself, but I worked hard and became a decent hitter. But one of the great disappointments in my young life was the moment I didn’t make the high school team. Calling it a disappointment may be an understatement; I was crushed. Baseball was the only sport I really enjoyed and had any measure of success and coming to the realization that my baseball “career” was over was a bitter pill to swallow. I wish I could tell you that was my only disappointment growing up, but there were many others to follow. 

Life will bring many disappointments, mostly small ones, but some big ones as well. Our job as parents is to coach our kids on how to navigate these disappointments without falling into cynicism, bitterness or even despair. How exactly do we do that? Here’s some important truths to remember: 

  1. God is sovereign over our disappointments. 

    Some of our disappointments are self-inflicted, and some our disappointments are unfair.  Other disappointments expose the limits of our natural abilities. But God is sovereign over all of them.  In other words, he’s in control. God could have stopped us from making that choice (and I believe he often does!). God could have could have prevented us being taken advantage of, and he could have given us different and greater abilities.   

    There’s certainly a mystery to God’s sovereignty from our perspective. There’s so much in this life that’s perplexing, but we can trust God with what we don’t understand because of what we do understand. We understand Christ crucified and risen from the dead.  If God would spare not even his own Son, how much more will he bless us in the age to come?  (see Romans 8:32) The cross shows us once and for all that God is for us. 

    2. Every disappointment is a learning opportunity 

    Whenever we face a disappointment, we’re quick to think that God is punishing us. But if you have trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and the promise of eternal life, you’re no longer under judgment. Your punishment is removed. But as dearly loved children, God does discipline us. Look at what the Scripture says:

    It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  Hebrews 12:7-11

    God is disciplining us in every hardship. Every disappointment is an opportunity to learn, and to grow. Next time you face disappointment, instead of asking “Lord, why me?” how about we ask “Lord, what do you want me to learn?”

    3. Some disappointments are blessings in disguise. 

    I look back at some of the disappointments in my life and I see clearly that God was protecting me. In other disappointments, he was setting me up for a much greater blessing. There are blessings I couldn’t enjoy now if I hadn’t experienced some level of disappointment back then. We don’t look back at every disappointment with such clarity, and there will be some things we experience that will always be a mystery this side of heaven, but we can trust that God is always plodding and planning for our blessing, even if those blessings aren’t realized until the age to come. 

    4. Be faithful while you wait. 

    When things don’t turn out the way we want, or things don’t happen on our timeline, we must protect ourselves against grumbling. Out of an ungrateful heart, there’s a temptation to cease control of our lives, and take things into our hands. In other words, we’re going to make our own blessings, regardless of what God’s word prohibits. 

    As a teenager I really strived to be faithful to the Lord, even at a great cost to me socially.  But when I thought God wasn’t keeping his end of the bargain, I grew impatient and ungrateful.  I decided to take control of my own blessings. But it didn’t work, and I spiritually drifted and became more frustrated. I had to learn to wait on the Lord. While you wait, don’t grow weary in faithfulness, and in due time God will bless you on his terms (Galatians 6:9)

    In the Gospel of Luke chapter 2, the baby Jesus, who is 40 days old at this point, is taken to the temple to be dedicated. While Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are at the temple they encounter a prophetess named Anna. She is described as:

    “Advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Luke 2: 36-38

    This woman no doubt experienced great heartache and disappointment, but notice her faithfulness, and her faithfulness was rewarded when she saw the Messiah for herself. 

    There was a time in my mid-twenties when I was starting to wonder if I would ever get married. It seemed that everyone around me was getting married but me. It the midst of my heartache and disappointment I concluded that I would be faithful and pursue obedience no matter what. I will go wherever and whenever the Lord will send me. I’ve now been married for 13 years (I’m 41) and I have three children. I look back and wonder why I ever doubted God’s goodness. 

    God may not give you what you’re longing for, but he does promise to satisfy those who wait faithfully. 

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