Disappointment, Discouragement and Despair

I will never forget the opening game of baseball season when I was a high school freshman. I was one of those kids who grew fast and was always one of the two tallest kids in school and that meant long legs and long arms. (My elementary school nickname was; Daddy Long Legs) As a pitcher this was a distinct advantage for me as, for my age, my fastball was fast (and I had a wicked curveball too) which had usually afforded me a significant number of strikeouts per game. In my years of pitching in little league and Junior High I had had my off days where my control wasn’t as good as on other days, but to my recollection, in a half dozen years of pitching, no one had ever hit a home run off of me. In my freshman year however, when I took to the mound for the opening game I experienced something I had never experienced and to be honest it shook my confidence for a while. I reached back to throw the opening pitch of opening day and it was a fastball, and it was belt high and it was right down the center of the plate and it had some “heat” on it. It was the perfect pitch! Perfect for the batter that is. It was a fastball all right, because I had never seen a ball go over my head, over second base and then over the center fielder’s head so fast in all my life! Someone had hit a home-run off of me!! It rocked me as I realized that the other guys were catching up with me, I wasn’t head and shoulders taller than most of them anymore. This was not a life altering event like we discussed in the previous chapter but it does introduce our topic for this one; When life’s disappointments lead to discouragement and despair. When the business plans don’t work out, when accomplishments fall short when dreams are not realized and disappointment causes the wounds of discouragement and despair. Some of life’s disappointments are not as easy to overcome as someones first home-run off you as a pitcher. My disappointment ended when I struck the guy out his next two at bats. This makes a point though, this event took place almost 45 years ago yet I remember the guys name, his home run and his next two at bats. Life’s disappointments can travel with us and if they are not dealt with can be compounded with discouragement and despair.

I also remember a time in my adult life where I had lost a love for my job. (This was pre-ministry days as a young man) I had never felt anything like this before, I liked working, I liked being outdoors, I liked that I had been advancing in the company and then one day, I hit the wall. At the time I didn’t know what had happened and I certainly didn’t know what to do, what I did know is that I hated going to work and felt like things were never going to change. It was one of the most disappointed feelings I had ever experienced and I was discouraged and in despair. Despair being the absence of hope.

Maybe that is some of you, dreams are unrealized and now past and you are marching toward middle age or even retirement and feel like your putting in time. This can be a traumatic season in life where things are not turning out the way you wanted or expected or even dreamed. Can you also Dance with the Scars? (You know the answer is yes or I wouldn’t have written this chapter!) There are several keys to this and while it is little consolation the first key is this; You’re not alone, everyone has unrealized dreams. If you remember we noted in chapter one that Life Happens for us all and sadly life in a fallen world includes personal disappointments that lead some to discouragement and despair. We have all read stories of Lottery winners who experienced what many people only dream of, huge and instant wealth. Yet the story that follows is often one of discouragement and despair. I remember an episode of 60 Minutes where Tom Brady, quarterback for the New England Patriots said after his third Superbowl Championship: “There has to more than this.” If a few months after a third Superbowl win something the thrill is already passed then that tells us no one is exempt from disappointment, but again, this is of little comfort to the disappointed. It does make a point though and especially for the Christian, if disappointment is a part of life and Jesus said than in Him our joy can be full (John 15:11) then there must be a way to handle disappointments and not let them get the upper hand on us.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

John 10:10

The word abundant means; super abundant and this is the life the Lord came to bring us and it is here where we introduce our first step to Dancing with the Scars of disappointment. The first step in dealing with dashed hopes and unrealized dreams is to get new ones. I am nearing 60 years old and if I am still day dreaming about pitching in the World Series in the bottom of the ninth with bases loaded and two outs like I did when I was a kid, I am going to live in a constant state of disappointment. If I am still thinking about making that one handed catch in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter to win the Superbowl then I am not living in the real world and am setting myself up for Disappointment, Discouragement and Despair. The key is not living a life without hopes and dreams but rather getting new ones as it becomes apparent that time has passed or your dream is not going to happen. I have lot’s of dreams that never happened and in looking back they have changed time and again. I have hopes and dreams now and they are both spiritual and practical, I do want to please the Lord, I do want His will for my life, I do want to do great things for Him. The truth is most of our disappointments have nothing to do with God’s plans for our lives and everything to do with our own plans for our lives. Don’t take this wrongly, there is nothing wrong with planning and dreaming but as a child of God we need to remember He has plans for us too and it’s pretty likely for most of us a World Series or Super Bowl win is not part of them, but… the are even better than those things. They won’t leave us asking; Is this all there is?

One of the favorite Bible verses for many is Jeremiah 29:11, you hear it shared by many as their “life verse” you see it on placards and calendars, it’s posted on Facebook and Instagram and other social media but the truth is, few even realize the context of their “life verse.” Jeremiah was speaking on behalf of God to an idolatrous and materialistic people He called His chosen people. In this case the Southern Kingdom of Judah. God told them that He was sending them into captivity for seventy years for their ignoring of the Sabbatical year because of their greed and while in captivity they need to remember that;

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

While disobedience to the plan of God may not be the reason for being scarred by disappointment, discouragement and despair the general truth remains the same and that is God has a plan for us that is outside of our own. When the season for your current hopes and dreams has passed, get new ones, spiritual ones, godly ones. Most of our unfulfilled dreams and hopes are like winning three Superbowl’s, it would be great for a moment and then you’d say; This can’t be all there is, and you’d be right. There is more, God has plans for you that may not involve a vice presidency, your own company, personal notoriety or the pro career but I can assure you, His plan is better than fifteen minutes of fame.

Excerpt from “Dancing With the Scars” now available on Amazon.

Barry Stagner