Disappointments Come In All Sizes
Six weeks before the big day, my daughter Laura began searching for the perfect invitations. After making her choice and addressing the envelopes, the invitations were on their way to friends and family, scheduled to arrive the requisite one month ahead.
Then she began planning the details: searching for and finding the just-right plates and napkins; ordering a cake and matching iced cookies from her friend; buying balloons, party favors and other little fun touches.
Baby Emma Cate was about to arrive at her first birthday.
First birthdays are always an important occasion for the parents. But this one was especially so because Emma Cate was a Covid-baby, born during lockdowns and masks and greeted upon her arrival with waves, kisses and tears of joy through hospital room windows—no visitors allowed!
Dennis and I were looking forward to this happy first birthday. We were going a few days early to help with preparations and to enjoy a long weekend with Laura, Josh, Lincoln and Emma Cate. But on Tuesday morning Dennis learned he had tested positive for Covid. Even though he was vaccinated.
We began calculating dates of potential exposure, hoping we still might be able to arrive in time for the party on Saturday.
On Wednesday big brother Lincoln woke up with a fever. Better by afternoon, but worse overnight. On Thursday the pediatrician diagnosed him with the highly contagious hand-foot-mouth disease. And that afternoon the birthday girl started running a fever; on Friday she was miserable. She wouldn’t eat, she cried and whimpered, and she needed to be held all day long.
The cake and cookies arrived as planned but Laura had to cancel the party. It seemed Emma Cate’s first birthday would be reminiscent of her birth day with only drive-by waves and congratulatory wishes by text.
I texted Laura a lot that week. Though I tried to encourage her it was a week of interruptions, disappointments, adjustments, and repeated surrenders to the ways of a sovereign God who cannot be comprehended. All of us were discouraged by the barrage of setbacks to our plans full of hope and excitement.
On Friday I texted: “I’m so sad we can’t come. Another disappointment in God moment for us.”
And then I typed a thought I’d never had before: “I wonder if God gets tired of His children being disappointed in Him all the time when everything He does for us as our Father is in love. I would.”
In the grand scope of the story God is writing with our lives, a cancelled birthday party is a very small thing. But in that moment of our lives, and in the greater context of the life-altering world-wide pandemic, it was not only sad but bewildering and perplexing.
Why was I disappointed?
The root word of disappoint is appoint or appointment. We’d all marked our calendars, appointing this weekend for the celebration of Emma Cate’s first birthday. Disappoint therefore means a cancelled appointment or more fitting for our emotions we were all disinvited by a virus. And we weren’t happy about it.
Being uninvited or cancelled is always disappointing. But it’s much more than that; it’s the God factor that makes hard circumstances sometimes much more painful and it was true with the birthday party.
My Father in heaven loves me and knows me perfectly. He knew how important it was for us to be at the birthday party. I felt I needed a dose of those two little ones who bring so much joy and delight. They are like vitamins for my soul. God loves Laura too and He was fully aware how much she was looking forward to celebrating the life He had given in baby Emma Cate.
As a Christian I have come to know a few things are true about God. First, He is all powerful; as Jeremiah 32:17 tells us: “Nothing is too hard for You.” Even the simple healing of a virus.
Second, He has promised “no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). This birthday celebration seemed a good thing to me, so why withhold it?
Third, I know God leads and guides His children. Isaiah 58:11 says, “And the Lord will guide you continually …” If I were God I would have guided us and my grandchildren away from those germs for the delight of giving Emma Cate’s mom and dad a wonderful celebration of her first year of life.
And yet ... God didn’t act as I wanted Him to.
And often that is the root of my disappointment in God. This has been a theme in much of my life through experiences much more weighty than a missed birthday party. I believe in God and believe in who He says He is, but I am human and can’t comprehend who He is or why He does what He does. So I find myself disappointed when my knowledge of His Scripture indicates that He should or could act a certain way but He doesn’t.
I don’t understand. But neither do I blame Him. I just wish He had intervened.
What about you?
Have you wanted to blame God for things He could have easily prevented or fixed?
Have you lived with long-term disappointment?
Do you want to learn more about why God allows disappointments in our lives?
Last year I spoke to women at my church on this topic, and we recorded the messages. On January 16 we will release a new online video study titled, Cultivating Hope in Times of Hardship and Disappointment. This series, with five video messages and a free downloadable workbook, is a compilation of many of the lessons I’ve learned in my 50 years of following Jesus as His disciple.
I’ve learned that, even in our disappointment, God is there waiting for us. His ways are not our ways, and He has a purpose for everything He allows in our lives. I’m learning to trust Him. This video series compiles many of the lessons I’ve learned and shows you how to cultivate hope even when life seems dark.
I hope you join me in learning more about dealing with disappointment. It will be available on January 16!
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My heart-full thanks for tackling this tender topic. I'm planning on participating in your disappointment study, as I've been praying for something like this to come my way. My Big Disappointment is also my hearts' Biggest Grief - not becoming a mother. Although I'm 56 now, this disappointment fueled grief has continued to overshadow pretty much every part of our lives. The Lord has lovingly and graciously carried my husband and I through so much grief, but I've been the one still holding Him at a distance. He's tenderly shown me it's time for a deeper level of healing, and time to stop letting disappointment and grief define who I am, and the untrue lens through which I view Him.
I've been looking for a Biblestudy for years now, for women who have gone through the grief of infertility and failed adoption attempts, and never were able to have children. Every study I've seen is about and for and written by women who suffered these things, but - praise God - were finally able to become mothers. Well, I did find a few, but unfortunately, they were not from a Christian viewpoint.
Barbara, if you know of or hear of any books or Biblestudies that address the disappointment and grief of motherhood unfulfilled, and how to move on in one's walk with God and life in general - I'd be so grateful if you could recommend them to me.
Thank you so much, my sister in Christ!