Even good, beautiful, inspiring life events come with disappointments.
In life, you may have entered into an event with an open mind and heart, with firm resolutions and a dedicated will, entrusting all your intentions to your good God.
A marriage or relationship.
The Church Community or Church ministry.
A job or career path.
The excitement and potentials flood your mind – there’s a sort of “honeymoon period” and then reality hits.
We find that not all is a bed of roses.
We aren’t as strong as we thought we were.
We get hurt,
we get disappointed.
I will share some of my life disappointments,
how God reached out to me amidst the pit of my disappointments,
and hopefully shed light on how to virtuously move forward with disappointments,
First, What is Disappointment?
A disappointment is a “sadness or displeasure
caused by a
of one’s hopes and expectations.”
(as defined by google)
If we want to delve into some saintly wisdom,
St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us that, and I’m paraphrasing a bit here,
when we are “pleased” our appetite has a “good” that “suits” us.
When we are “displeased” (he uses the word “sorrow”), our appetite has not been given that good that “suits” us or, I’ll add, that we expected.
(If I’ve totally lost you: Read for yourself in the Summa Theologica I-II 23:4)
A Major Disappointment
I discerned out of missionary religious life after 7 years of what I thought would be a forever path of serving others in a unique capacity.
Yes, I was a religious sister under temporary vows.
Nuns are the proper terms for contemplatives. Sisters are more ‘active’.
Entering into something that’s even GOOD can come with disappointments.
For me, entering into this life presented many goods, even sufferings, that outweighed the potential risks.
To be honest, it still does, but it took a few years to get here.
I understood what I was sacrificing, maybe not completely what could have happened, but by golly, I only have one life to live and I do not want to be haunted with thinking ‘what if…’
At 21, I left it “all.”
Lived on the move in inner cities on the east and west coasts doing community outreach and sacramental preparations in mostly struggling parishes in pretty rough neighborhoods.
By God’s grace, I experienced somewhat of what it was like to be the minority in many situations living outside my culture and cultural norms.
I learned what it was like not having all the resources you want and need at your beck and call.
Oh I learned oh.so.much.
I am thankful for everything – crosses included- and love many of the sisters dearly.
There were ‘disappointments’ or unfulfilled hopes and expectations as there are in every family.
Every life journey.
There is no perfect family neither a perfect religious family.
Saints are sinners who kept trying.
Everyone has their ‘junk’ and those details are not the point of this article.
After I came home, there was quite a bit of ‘finding myself’ – which can happen after ANY disappointment or loss.
Finding the next step,
the reason behind it all,
what could have happened differently can become
Why, Lord, Why?
Dealing With Disappointment
“You will have trouble in this world, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
Essentially, LOOK UP, help is on the way.
After sifting through some major ‘sorrow’ from unmet ‘expectations’
– which can have added weight if your faith community is related to it –
I found 3 helpful ways to deal with disappointment.
1. Fight Bitterness with PRAYER
The closest thing I could take this disappointment as was a sort of divorce.
When all was cloudy, I could only muster somewhat of a prayer. More like clouded pleas.
It seemed God was silent, but I don’t think I was ready for the answer.
In the silence, temptations of bitterness flooded my mind.
“Why wasn’t it just like…” “Why didn’t THIS happen…” “Where was help when…”
Being bitter does nothing but rob you of opportunities of potential joy or seeking solutions.
The devil is bitter and forever bitter and he wants to pull you down into that bitterness.
Walk away from that lie.
Talk to the One who is never Bitter, God.
Seek supports. Seek solutions.
In time, they come.
2. Look at the supports God places in front of you
For me, the supports came through venues that I thought I didn’t need.
I was going to figure this out on my own.
I was so focused on hiding my wounds and figuring things out on my own that the last thing I wanted to invest in was friendship or pour myself out into my community.
Yet, God kept putting people in my path
to pull me out of my self pity
and providing opportunities
In fact, a good friend of mine and I laugh because when I first met her, my thought was:
“She just wants to be friends. I do NOT need a friend right now. There’s no WAY she knows what I’ve been through.”
That may be true – but wallowing wasn’t helping either.
I didn’t know what I needed.
He worked through others to help me
Or to just listen.
Now, He’s working through me to help others.
He also opened doors for me to share my gifts with my community.
3. Move Forward towards Positive Solutions and New Opportunities
Frequently, if we are ‘suffering’ from something – loneliness, depression, disappointment –
we avoid solutions that we have to WORK TOWARDS.
This means, doing the opposite of what’s dragging us down –
‘agere contra’ mentions St. Ignatius – ‘work against’ that THING that’s not helping you.
Seeking solutions involves finding what helps you overcome the disappointment,
Even if that means walking away from something.
Sometimes walking away from something presents new opportunities.
I can not imagine my life without the formation and lessons that came from living the rigors of religious life
and I cannot imagine my life without the lessons and coming to know the people that I know today.
God’s Providence never stops.
I would not have made connections with the beautiful community that has been built around me,
shared laughter with those in my path
or been able to help those who have reached out to me.
Everything is full circle.
I have fallen, yes, and am still learning, but that is part of my journey.
It’s a part of all our journeys.
I am still learning
and you can too.
Keep looking upwards and onward.
Christ has already won.
Christ has overcome the world.