We all have something in common. We all have experienced disappointments.
They come to us in many ways. Sometimes disappointment comes through an email, or a text message. When they come, you can’t believe what you’re reading. It can be a phone call from your doctor – you went in for a simple test, but now he wants to see you the following day. Oh my! — that will mess up my sleep the night before. Recently, a national election just passed. The results have caused much disappointment to half of the population.
Disappointment comes to everyone. It can be an injury, an illness, an accident, a broken relationship, being laid off from work and if it’s allowed to stay it robs us of our joy and peace.
Big time prophets are not exempted. Look at Elijah – the man who called fire from heaven – that amazing man who was carried away from earth in a flaming chariot. He had lots of amazing big moments in his life. Yet, he was also no stranger to disappointment.
In 1 Kings 19, we find Elijah facing a colossal challenge. After defeating a group of false prophets he receives a memo from someone revealing that this evil witch of the East, Queen Jezebel is arranging to kill him. So what does this big time prophet do? – he flees. Yes, he runs and hides.
This man who experienced all kinds of miracles in life fled in terror. He was extremely disappointed that God would allow such a terrible thing to happen to him. Notice what he did next:
“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 answer Elijah’s prayer and kill him?
No. Instead, God showed him the way out of disappointment.
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. Elijah over exaggerated. We overreact when 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. Their focus is on themselves and lose sight of WHO really matters.
When disappointment comes, it’s easy to get caught up in a single moment. But God doesn’t do moments – He does lifetimes. He does eternity. One moment of disappointment doesn’t mean our lives are finished. When we take time to gain God’s perspective, we keep disappointment from robbing us of our destiny. When our eyes are on God, we get a better perspective of life. We come out of the moment and dwell in his eternal possibilities.
When Elijah ran to the wilderness he holed himself up in a cave.
Pity the self. Have you ever done that? You withdraw and focus on how hard life is, and how unfair. You focus on you – and only you. The molehill becomes a mountain.
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 God wants the same for all of us.
How do we get out of isolation? It doesn’t have to be complicated! Get out of self-pity. 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.
But most important in the lesson is to 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. Someone lies. But where the true problem lies is when we get disappointed in God.
Life is not always what we expect. 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. Worse, we start to focus our disappointment on God. We start to blame Him. 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.
But there’s the other way. Self-pity is not the solution. Listening to our own voice complaining and feeling disappointed will get us nowhere but the cave and alone.
Instead, what matters is trusting God, hearing his voice and understanding that He is with us always. Coming out of disappointment is learning to trust God again. Like Elijah we go with God and do what He has called us to do.