The Gift of Disappointment

“Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Romans 5:5

I sped into the gravel parking lot. Tires skidding on the grey rocks. Flinging the door open, I bounded out of my minivan. As I looked across the lot, I stopped. A dull ache began in my chest as my eyes landed on an obviously despondent man standing by his truck. This just-shy-of-six-foot, strapping, strong, handsome husband of mine stood with his head hanging, shaking in disbelief. As I got closer I glimpsed the tears dropping, as he looked up I saw the anguish and pain. He was broken. Crushed. Confused. Angry.

After many moments of holding each other. He finally found the words.

“Things didn’t go like I hoped. I thought this would be the answer. I don’t know what to do next.” Every word tinged with despair and discouragement. Disappointment pic

That day still twinges in my soul. But looking at a distance, I realize that moment, that agonizing, heart wrenching moment, marks a pivotal point in our marriage. It was our “miry pit.” The place where you’re sunk so deep in the dredges of disappointment your mind is clouded and you see no way out. You’re stuck. All your failures and shortcomings and foolish choices playing on repeat. And there’s no one who can hit the rewind button; no possibility of a do over. Stuck.

In the days and months and years after I stood in front of my anguished husband, I slowly began to realize the Lord was giving us a gift. The gift of stripping away everything we thought we knew. The gift of realizing our lack. The gift of desperation. He gave us the gift of disappointment. We certainly didn’t understand or appreciate the gift. In fact, we’re still trying to grasp what a precious gift we were given. It took us years to unpack all the lessons we’ve learned. And maybe, well, likely, we’ll be unpacking those lessons for a lifetime. But here are the most vital gifts we opened because of that awful, wonderful day.

sun-heart-autumn-leaf-39379Set Your Heart on Things Above. Disappointment is the result of unmet expectations. We set our hopes on things that are seen instead of things that are unseen. We crave and we desire and want. We are selfish, stubborn creatures. We think if things would just work out the way we think they should. We live in a world of our own making. Always looking to what we wish we had, what is just around the corner that will make us happy or fulfilled. For my husband, it was a failed business venture. His heart was set on what he thought would be the answer to his questions about provision and purpose. When that venture failed, those dreams were lost. His heart was crushed.

We put our hopes in the temporal stuff all the time. If I could just get this position or this degree or this house or this car, or if I could get the relationship I dreamed of, or even if I could just find deep friendships, or if my kids would just obey, then everything will be better. Then I will be happy and fulfilled.

But anytime, every time, we put our hope in anything but in the love of God in Christ, we will be disappointed. Even the best job comes with the tedious and mundane. Stuff breaks and wears. And anytime two sinners are in relationship, whether it’s husband and wife, mother and daughter, or close friendship, you’ve got a sure recipe for disappointment and discouragement. Jesus Christ is the only One whose love will NEVER disappoint you. His love brings truth and confrontation and conviction, so it might not look like the weak, fickle, emotion-focused love our culture has falsely fashioned. But His love is patient, not jealous, not rude, not selfish, not irritable, not resentful, rejoices with truth, bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things. HIS LOVE NEVER FAILS. His love gave you the greatest gift of all. LIFE. Not the fragile, fallen life of this temporary place, but the forgiven, forever love of God in Christ. The love that came at the greatest cost.

people-2604165_1280.jpgSet Your Mind on Things Above. When my husband and I fell into that foreboding pit, the only thing we could do was look up. As our heads turned to the light, we saw one beautiful, nail scarred hand reaching down to us. Jesus was the only One who was strong enough to not only drag us out of our pit, but set our feet upon a rock and make our steps secure. (Psalm 40:2)

While Jesus snatched us out of the black hole of disappointment, we found marking our steps on that firm foundation required daily workouts. We realized our most vital weapon was the Word of God. So we’ve made sure, sometimes not so perfectly, that we daily dig deep in the truth. Filling up our pit with truth was the only way we could avoid falling into the dregs again. We learned, and are still learning, how to take every thought captive and bring it into obedience in Christ. From that truth we learned the secret to contentment was depending on Christ for everything. (Philippians 4: 12-13). We learned that admitting our weakness meant depending on Christ and His strength and power. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10) We learned that hardships and trials are meant to grow us up in Christ so we lack nothing, and we can find joy in the struggle if we keep an eternal perspective. (James 1:2-4)

That powerful, painful moment in that gravel parking lot. That moment we were thrown into the pit of despair. That moment was truly one of the greatest gifts God has ever given us. The gift of disappointment transformed our relationship with Christ, which transformed our relationship with each other. It is transforming how we view the world (temporary and transient) and how we view God (eternal and essential). It is a discipline to turn our hearts and minds heavenward. But oh how beautiful, how magnificent is the love of God. A God who loves us enough to let us walk through earthly disappointment so we can rest in eternal hope.

Close up of woman hands holding red gift box for special event

Unwrap your gift of disappointment.

 

 

 

 

Finding Beauty in the Broken

Kintsugi

How Our Broken Pieces Reveal the Beauty of the Savior

My family will attest to my love of trivia. If it is mundane and generally useless, but intriguing, I probably have it tucked down in the recesses of my brain. If you’re playing Trivial Pursuit, I’m your best friend. If you need anything done that is practical and helpful, unfortunately, I’m probably not your girl.

But sometimes, I’ll come across a bit of knowledge that attaches itself not only to my brain, but to my soul. A fact nugget God uses to remind me of His goodness and grace. You know the King loves a word picture. And most of the time those gems come in the most unexpected places. Like sitting in a required tutor-training session trying to soak up tips about teaching high schoolers Latin and Algebra and Literature. Before one session, my trainer was chatting with us, asking us questions, and somehow she got on the topic of pottery. And she began to tell the story of a ceramic art form called “kintsugi.” It was so fascinating, I didn’t hear anything else that was taught that day. As soon as I got home, I started researching. What I discovered was nothing short of remarkable and, unexpectedly, drove home a truth I’d been struggling with for years. Can God take my broken, mess of a life and make it something useful, even beautiful?

If you’ve been asking yourself that same question, come with me to learn what a centuries-old Japanese art form teaches about redemption. And how it points to a Redeemer.

In Japan, a unique art developed around the 15th century. A shogun broke his favorite tea bowl and sent it to China for repairs. The tea bowl was sent back patched up with unsightly staples. This shogun talked to his artistic friends who set out to develop a more elegant way of repairing broken pottery. What developed was the remarkable ceramic work called “kintsugi.”

a8cabb8b57f87b14206a74ea905dc114-japan-art-kintsugi-diyKintsugi takes broken pieces of pottery and repairs them using a special silver- and gold-dusted lacquer. The practice creates unique pieces of pottery that use the fractures and fissures to tell a story. Instead of attempting to hide or cover the cracks and breaks, kintsugi seeks to focus on the brokenness of the pottery. Kintsugi allows the artist to create an original, useful, extraordinary piece from the shattered shards of what was once deemed unusable. What might’ve been swept out with the garbage is now sitting in a place of prominence, as a representation of the artist’s skill and the beauty of the creation, in museums around the world.

Hey sister, did that picture blow you away? Are you like me, have you asked God if your broken life could ever be used by Him? Have you felt like the shards of your life are meant only for the junk pile, or, even worse, the trash pile? Do you wonder how, or if, anyone can make something beautiful out of your pile of broken pieces? Do you wonder if this mess of your life can be used for anything good? Is there a purpose in the pain and the mistakes and the struggle?

Oh precious friend, let me whisper some truth in your ear. Let me tell you the Greatest Story again, or maybe for the first time. Let me remind you of the Gift. He walked the streets of Israel about 2,000 years ago, but He’s existed since before time began. In fact, He is existence itself. When He came and walked the earth, many people wondered who He was. This man was unique. He had a special purpose; a one-of-a-kind mission. A mission only He could fulfill. When His Father instructed him, He stood up on the Sabbath day in his hometown of Nazareth and announced His purpose. What was his mission? Let’s look at the expanded passage from Isaiah 61 he quoted on that Sabbath day, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to bring good news to the poor, he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning , the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.”

This God. This Savior. This Gift. He specializes in taking broken people and not just putting them back together, but making them BRAND NEW. He doesn’t just fix our broken pieces, HE MAKES US BRAND NEW CREATIONS. But we’re still human, right? We’re still flesh and bone. But when Jesus makes you new, He fills in all those weaknesses, all those fissures and fractures of our humanness, with HIS SPIRIT. In that filling, He develops in us a genuine faith—more precious than GOLD (1 Peter 1:7). And when you allow Jesus to take all those broken pieces and make you new, you will indeed be more beautiful than your original self because you have been revitalized with new life. He makes ALL things NEW, and uses the broken pieces of your life to speak your unique story of redemption and renewal.

So if you’re wondering if He can use the tragedies and unwise choices and disasters of your life for His good. Trust me, He can. If you’ll let Him make you new, He will take the mess of your life and turn it into a message. He will turn a test into a testimony and a tragedy into a triumph. And with each piece that He restores and renews, you will even more beautifully reflect the love of Christ. So as you ponder the rare beauty of kintsugi, remember in Christ, God is working in you to make an incredible masterpiece, a new creation who reflects His glory with your own unique story of transformation.

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For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us]. Ephesians 2:10 AMP