If there's one thing everyone reading this has experienced, it's disappointment.
Disappointment comes in many forms. Sometimes it's an email, or a text notification, and you can't believe what you're reading. Sometimes it's a phone call from your doctor - you went in for a simple test, but now he wants to see you in person. Sometimes it's your spouse saying you need to talk.
Disappointment comes to everyone, and if it's allowed to stay it robs us all of our destiny.
Heavyweight prophets are no exception. Take Elijah - called fire from heaven. He was carried away from earth in a flaming chariot. He saw plenty of big moments in his life. But he was also no stranger to disappointment.
In 1 Kings 19, we find Elijah facing a huge challenge. After defeating a group of false prophets he receives a message that Queen Jezebel is planning to kill him. So he does the only thing he can - he flees.
If you've just called down fire from heaven, fleeing in terror from tyrannical rulers is certainly a disappointing experience. Elijah's had enough: here's where his head's at:
"Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness. He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 1 Kings 19:3-4
Does God answers Elijah's prayer? Nope. Instead, He showed him the way out of disappointment. We can take the same four steps that Elijah took to shake off what disappoints us and get back to our purpose.
Four Steps to Recovering from Disappointment:
1. Don't Bury Your Emotions: Emotions are important. When God came to Elijah in the wilderness, He asks him "What are you doing here?" This question isn't about geography - it's about Elijah's mindset.
When you face disappointment, the first step to recovering is getting your emotional bearings. Emotions are part of being human. They're part of being made in the image of God. We all have emotions and God wants us to express them.
We have to learn to process the emotions that come from disappointment. If we think we can hold on to them, they're eventually going to come out in other ways. When you're disappointed, take the time to call out to God. He isn't looking for us to be perfect. What He wants is our authenticity.
2. Stop Overreacting: We don't see things as they are. We see things as we are. When disappointment enters our life, we face a decision. Do we see things as they are, or do we adopt a disappointing attitude and overreact.
What are the signs of overreacting? The first is a loss of reality. We lose the ability to assess where our lives are truly at. So many people give up on so much in life - great jobs, great relationships, great marriages - because they've lost sight of what's truly valuable.
The second sign is a tendency to exaggerate. In 1 Kings 19:14, Elijah complains to God that he's the only person undergoing his current struggles. A few verses later God reminds him that there are thousands more fighting the same battle.
When disappointment comes, it's easy to get caught up in a single moment. But God doesn't do moments - he does lifetimes. One moment of disappointment doesn't mean our lives are finished. When we take time to gain perspective, we keep disappointment from robbing us of our destiny.
3. Get Out of Isolation: When he ran to the wilderness and holed himself up in a cave, Elijah was really organizing his own pity party. Have you ever done that? You withdraw and focus on how hard life is, and how unfair. You focus on you - and only you.
So how does God break up Elijah's pity party? With a kick in the pants. In verse 15 He tells Elijah "go back the way you came." He made Elijah face what he was running from. He made him face his fears. And He wants the same for all of us.
How do we get out of isolation? It's doesn't have to be complicated! Just join a group. We need people around us. It's fantastic to go to church every Sunday, but we need more than just that. When we surround ourselves with people who can provide a shoulder to lean on (or a foot to give us a kick in the right direction), it's impossible to give in to self-pity.
4. Learn to Trust Again: We can get disappointed in circumstances. A bus is late. A phone breaks. A car runs out of gas. We can get disappointed in people. Someone doesn't call. Someone doesn't listen. Someone won't show up. But where the true problem lies is when we get disappointed in God.
Life grinds us down. We get disappointed in people, and before we know it we slip out of our group. Then we're going to church every other weekend, then once a month, then holidays, then never. We start to focus our negative energy on God. We start to blame Him for our disappointments. We stop hearing Him.
When God came to Elijah, He didn't come as an earthquake or a mighty wind. He came as a soft whisper. When we stop hearing that whisper, our destiny is at stake. We lose out on the plans and purposes God has for our lives. We get too caught up in planning our pity party to live out our purpose.
But then there's the other way. We can process our disappointment, see the situation clearly, and choose not to give in to isolation. When we do this, we start to hear God's voice. We hear Him reminding us that He's with us, and that a moment of disappointment doesn't define our lives. We learn to trust Him again, and like Elijah we go to fully live out what He's called us here to do.