When Disappointment Strikes

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 2 Cor 5:14-15

Life never works out the way we think it will. People let us down, tragedy strikes when we least expect it. Circumstances are often outside our control, and we all have limitations that keep us from realizing our dreams. It's difficult to avoid disappointment, especially when we have visions of success painted for us by popular culture. We believe we need to reach some pinnacle of success or affluence to be happy, and when we don’t, we search for a way out of our pain. The cycle can repeat for us, again and again, if we continue to believe that happiness comes from gaining the things we want.

When disappointment strikes, the best advice the world can offer is to pick yourself up and develop a new plan. Or to reframe your loss in alternate terms, so that bitterness and despair don’t keep you from the things you want so badly. But these suggestions aren’t a solution for disappointment; they are a recipe for trapping yourself in it. No one is immune to tragedy, no matter how much material success they possess. Wealth and physical attractiveness can insulate you from certain kinds of difficulties but not all of them. Simply reframing our losses with positive “self-talk” doesn’t give us what we need. The solution is not a new approach to the same goals or a clever way of reframing our circumstances, but a different approach to life. We need values that direct us to goals that cannot fail.

The way to break free of the cycle is the exchanged life. We achieve joy and peace when we live out goals that cannot fail. We can’t invent goals like that, but we can be directed to them. It was one of the secrets that Paul discovered—that he could find victory no matter what the circumstances of life because his values weren’t based on things that could be taken from him. He didn’t see his life as his own, and he didn’t place his trust in the temporary comforts that drive most of us. His motivation wasn’t a plan he concocted but the love he received from Jesus Christ. As he wrote in 2 Cor. 5:14, that love compelled him. It gave him purpose and direction. It led him to a different series of goals than what he’d pursued in his former life.

If you are compelled by wealth, pleasure, and comfort, you approach life as something to be lived for yourself. When you do, you’re going to reach your limits and be disappointed. No matter how much success you achieve in the world’s eyes, it’s only a question of time until the things you desire the most are taken from you. The failures of celebrities and politicians in recent times expose the emptiness of living for oneself. They didn’t just go too far; they were headed in the wrong direction from the beginning.

When you are compelled by love, you approach life as an opportunity to do something that matters. You are humbled and forced to turn your eyes to the Lord as you take each step on your journey.  You can face difficulties and know that your life has a purpose that cannot be taken away. Your purpose is his purpose. As Paul wrote, Jesus died for all so that we should live for him. His life becomes ours. It was why Paul was in Corinth in the first place, and it’s why we are here, in whatever circumstances we face. We are here to live for Jesus Christ. When we do, we receive the power and direction to accomplish his goals, whatever they may be. They’re not something we have to worry about; we simply need to follow him, motivated by his love for us.

I’ve had disappointment in my life; things haven’t always turned out the way I’d hoped and planned. But I have joy in Jesus Christ, and his love compels me along a path that will one day lead me directly to him. Nothing I encounter along the way will compare to the moment I stand face to face with him, and nothing can take it from me. The same is true for you if you have put your trust in him. The life he always meant for you is the one he died to give you. If you are motivated by his love, you will experience the fullness of that life.

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