How does God want us to deal with the emotion we call disappointment?
Joseph Barsabbas was disappointed by Jesus. Joseph was a candidate to replace Judas Iscariot as one of the Twelve, but when the lot was cast it “fell on Matthias” (Acts 1:26). I’ll bet that was a blow.
The Bible never mentions Joseph again. But tradition says he later became the Bishop of Eleutheropolis (32 miles southwest of Jerusalem) and died a martyr. Assuming that’s accurate, imagine what Joseph may have learned about disappointment and how he might have counseled a disappointed young disciple twenty years later.
Bishop Joseph looked at his sullen disciple. “You’re disappointed.”
“Yes,” replied Primus.
The answer seemed obvious. Primus suspected a teaching moment. “I was just hoping for the appointment to the Antioch church that Asher received.”
“Well, that’s the occasion of your disappointment. My question is why are you disappointed?”
Suspicion confirmed. Primus just wanted to sulk in peace. He hoped downplaying his discontent would shorten the lesson. “Asher’s a good friend. I’m glad for him. I just thought studying at Antioch would be a great opportunity. I’ll get over it.”
“Studying at Antioch is a great opportunity. My question remains: why are you disappointed?”
Primus’ face flushed with impatience. “Well, if Antioch is a great opportunity and I’m missing the opportunity, isn’t it okay to feel disappointed?”
“Oh! You feel disappointed. Being disappointed and feeling disappointed are different issues.”
Primus knew he was taking the bait, but he couldn’t help it. “What do you mean?”
“Primus, what is my favorite quote from the greatest man born of women?”
“A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven” (John 3:27).
“Good! So, if you did not receive the appointment to Antioch, you were dis-appointed. Who disappointed you?”
“I know. I know God reigns over these things. But God also understands our feeling disappointment, doesn’t he?
“Well, let me ask you a question. When the lot fell to Matthias, didn’t you feel disappointed?
“Yes, I felt quite disappointed—and a bit embarrassed.”
“That wasn’t wrong, was it? I mean you were almost one of the Twelve. It seems natural to feel disappointed over something like that.”
“Yes, it was wrong. It was wrong because it was rooted in unbelief in my Savior and my selfish pride. I was doubting the promise that “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). I was doubting that the One who was crucified for my sin and called me out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9) really had my best in mind. And it exposed my selfish ambition. It wasn’t until the lot fell on Matthias that I realized how much I wanted that position for my own reputation. Apostleship is a worthy office to aspire to, but when the Lord appointed another, thereby dis-appointing me, much of my “disappointment” was rooted in a frustrated desire for my own glory. ”
Primus stared thoughtfully at the floor.
“Every disciple is disappointed by Jesus, Primus. Our response of “disappointment” may be natural to our fallen natures, but it is not neutral. It is not vague and detached. It has roots directly connected to something we believe. Jesus wants you to follow the roots. If you find that sin is feeding your disappointment, he is showing you a kindness meant to lead you to repentance.
And, like me, one day you may look back on your disappointment as the best thing that never happened to you.”
A very precious thing Jesus says to you, as a disciple, is this: “You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit . . .” (John 15:16).
But this also implies that Jesus will dis-appoint you many times—meaning, there are some appointments from which Jesus will remove you, and others that he simply will not grant to you.
At these times we must “not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24). In Christ, God is pursuing you only with goodness and mercy (Psalm 23:6). His promise is this: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
When feeling disappointed, follow your emotions to their roots. You will find unbelief that requires the herbicide of God’s promises for you.