Hope in the Face of Disappointment
By Peter Amsterdam
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In one of ancient Israel’s most difficult and discouraging times, God said to them, “The plans I have for you [are] to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”1
The nation of Israel whom God had given the Promised Land to, and whom He said were His people, and for whom He set up His temple in which He dwelt and where they were able to worship Him, were all defeated by the kingdom of Babylon. The land was taken away, the temple was destroyed, and the majority of the people were forced to relocate to Babylon. The promises of God seemed to be rescinded due to their sins. They no longer possessed the Promised Land. They were without a temple, and they didn’t know how to worship and how to find forgiveness of sins without the temple. They struggled with the question of whether God still loved them. Were they still His people? Their dreams and their faith and their hope were all totally shattered.
During this defeat and disappointment, the prophet Jeremiah wrote them a letter and sent it to Babylon, and he told them what God had to say to them at this time when their faith was in crisis. He told them to carry on with life, to build houses, plant gardens, get married, have children, and that in His time God would deliver them from their situation, that He would bring a change for the better. He didn’t promise that it would happen today, but He did promise that it would happen. He said, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. You will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”2
Shattered hopes and dreams are not final destinations. God says He has plans for you, plans for good and not for evil. One Bible version translates it as, “For I know the thoughts I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”3
God doesn’t desert us in our times of disappointment. Instead, He’s there. He’s thinking good thoughts of us. He has plans for our future. He wants us to carry on with life and not give up, to have hope for what’s ahead, even if things seem so awful today. The key is to look to Him, to know that He loves and cares for us, that He will carry us into the future. We aren’t meant to stop living, to give up hope, but rather to carry on in faith and trust. He will heal. Things will change. Life will continue on, and there is hope ahead.
It’s good to remember that there are times when something looks like a great defeat, a terrible and permanent loss, which makes you feel you can’t possibly recover it, but often there’s more to the situation than meets the eye. Sometimes God works very mysteriously, in ways that we can’t comprehend.
A lot depends on how we respond to disappointments. Do we rise to the occasion and fight?—Trusting to see good and blessings from a God who loves us? Or do we wallow in pity and whine? As Rick Warren talked about in The Purpose Driven Life, during times of tribulation, we should “pray fewer ‘Comfort me’ prayers”—you know, the kind, “Lord, help me to feel good” type prayers—“and more ‘Conform me’ prayers.” In other words, “Use this to make me more like You, Jesus.”
Billy Graham said, “The Christian life is not a constant high. I have my moments of deep discouragement. I have to go to God in prayer with tears in my eyes, and say, ‘O God, forgive me,’ or ‘O God, help me.’”
Also, let’s not forget that God might even have some surprises up His sleeves. He may very well be working behind the scenes in ways that you don’t see or understand. So we simply have to trust Him, to know that He knows what He’s doing, even if we don’t.
We don’t always see all that God sees. He may very well be answering our prayers in ways that we don’t yet comprehend. Don’t lose faith. God will not fail; He will keep His word. His plan might be different than what we expect, but He does all things well.4 You may not see your answer for some time, but nevertheless we should keep our faith and trust in God and not give up. His plans for those who love and follow Him are plans of good and not evil.
God loves you.
He’s on your side. He has your best interests at heart.
He will comfort you and draw you close to Him.
He’s working for you, and you can trust Him no matter what, in good times and in bad times.
No one’s more powerful than God, and no one loves you more than God does.
You can fail, I can fail, the whole world can fail, but God never fails.
Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” even in the face of disappointment.5
(Prays:) Lord, we all face disappointment in our lives, often more than once, and it can feel so defeating, so difficult, so discouraging. It can lead us to despair and lack of hope. But, Lord, whenever we face this disappointment, when we find that our lives aren’t on the path that we planned, or that different things have come up that have changed everything and will change our future, help us not to despair, help us not to be disappointed, but rather to look to You, to know that You are there, that You love us, that You care for us, that You have our best interests at heart.
We may not understand and we may be angry and disappointed and feeling terrible and even questioning You, but Jesus, help us to trust, to know that You are always there. You are present in our darkest times, not just when everything is going well, but when things are deeply difficult. Help us to put our trust in You, Jesus. Help us to put our love in Your hands, and our hearts in Your hands, and to know that You will carry us, You will take us through, that You will bring us through this dark time, that the valley of the shadow of death has an entrance but it also has an exit; it’s not forever. And if we can hold on to You, we may very well see some beautiful things come out of the things that we think are so ugly and awful today.
Give us faith to trust You, Jesus. We love You. We need You, and I pray for anyone who is facing these difficult times right now, that You speak to their hearts, that You cause them to look to You, and to realize that You are with them, that You’re holding them in Your arms, that You care for them, that Your thoughts toward them and Your plans toward them are for good and not for evil, that You will bless them and that You will bring them through. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen. Thank You, Lord.
Originally published June 2013. Excerpted and republished October 2016.
Read by Gabriel Garcia Valdivieso.
1 Jeremiah 29:11 NIV.
2 Jeremiah 29:11–13 ESV.
3 Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV.
4 See Mark 7:37.
5 John 14:27 ESV.