By: Helena Heffernan
One afternoon my Dad called the whole family together in our living room for a family meeting. Usually these family meetings consisted of reminders to do our chores, reminders to be more respectful towards Mom or some sort of reprimand after a dramatic fight with a sibling. This time, however, Dad was giving us pretty big news: we were moving overseas. Again.
Growing up I moved overseas twice and moved states a few times too. Most people hear this and exclaim what a blessing that must of been. It was a blessing, but at the time I was not ready to appreciate it. I was a junior in high school and Dad’s job was taking us temporarily to England for a year. I was leaving behind my tight knit group of friends, my women’s group, my parish and the warm Floridian climate. I felt unsettled as I had just begun to feel at home where we were. To put it mildly, I was disappointed.
Sometimes in life we are uprooted due to a move or sudden circumstance that forces us to completely change our life. Perhaps you lost someone you were close to through death. Maybe your best friend betrayed you or you failed the class you thought you were definitely going to pass. Maybe you didn’t have a good audition or you missed the flight. Perhaps your crush was not interested in dating you after all. There are a million and one disappointments in our life that come to us. They come to us accompanied by thousands of unmet expectations and it is even harder when the disappointment comes unexpectedly.
Once we get over the initial shock of some bad news, our human tendency is to get angry. If you are like me, you might even get mad at God, wondering why he would allow this thing to happen to you. Whether it’s big thing or a small thing, disappointment always really hurts.
The question that I always ask myself is, “How will I get over this?” And I realize soon after that on my own I cannot get over it. I need the Lord to rescue me, and to come into my heart and change me. This does not, however, mean that I should dismiss the emotions coming to me. It is good to get those emotions out, to grieve, to tell the Lord how mad I am and to process it with someone; a friend, parent or someone I trust. But we don’t want to stay there. We don’t want to lay in our grief or anger forever.
I have good news about getting over disappointment and some bad news. The bad news is as long as we live on earth disappointments never stop coming. The good news is that if we let God into each disappointment it gets easier to recover from them and often turns them into a huge blessing.
God sometimes allows us to go through more than we can handle. Through the overwhelming circumstances we find ourselves in, God wants us to learn how to completely rely on Him. God wants to show his great power and love while he takes care of us. God never intends to abandon us in a hardship or expects us to figure it out or just “offer it up”. God the all-powerful Creator of the Universe has the power to make something beautiful out of disappointment.
As I get older and as my junior year of high school is further and further away I keep adding to the list of blessings that came out of what seemed like a total upheaval. Yes, it was hard at 16 to begin my life over in a foreign country, but there I had an opportunity to be able to grow closer to my family. I had a huge encounter experience with the Lord that led me to be open to discerning a religious vocation (I have since discerned this is not my calling, but would not have had the chance to do this if I had not moved). And of course the Lord gave extra gifts such as the benefit of new friendships that I still have in my life today almost 17 years later.
God has the whole plan, your whole life plan. He knows where you are going and what is going to happen to you. Will we let God into our disappointments and allow him to grow a blessing in its place? Will we let him in, so he can heal the hurts and the pain? Will we trust that he is powerful enough to sustain us through the worst?
I will leave you with a few helpful tips on how to deal with disappointment:
Let yourself be sad or mad, don’t ignore or stifle the process you need to go through to move on from difficulties and disappointments.
Invite the Lord into the messy parts. There is nothing too big or too small for him.
Be patient with yourself (you are human) and be patient with God. God does not work at our pace, he knows when the time is right for things to unfold for us.
Learn to trust in the Lord. And if you cannot muster the courage to do that, ask him to help you desire to trust.
Jesus has the power to make all things new (Rv. 21:5), so do not be afraid, he is with you through it all.
Helena is the Youth Minister at St. Thomas the Apostle in Ann Arbor. She is the oldest of 5 kids and lived half of her childhood overseas. She discerned a religious vocation for 7 years. Now she hangs out with teens, lives on coffee and is addicted to everything Disney.