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Dealing with Disappointment


In A Christmas Story, young Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB gun, but his parents’ only response is, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” All the adults in Ralphie’s life seem united in keeping him from this dream.

Even his teacher at school seems intent on dashing his hopes for a Red Ryder BB gun.

Have you ever not gotten what you really wanted?

I asked some people on Facebook to share the most disappointing gift they’ve ever received on Christmas as a child or an adult.

Jani B.—A hockey jersey that was 10 sizes too big #fail #didimentionidontlikehockey

Gary C.—A Christmas Card reminding me how much I owed someone.

Mark S.—Senior in high school… luggage.

Larry M.—I bought my wife an electric razor. Helpful tip: don’t do that.

Megan B.—Every year… my Grandma would wrap up and give us the freebies she received in the mail from TBN. I mean, I had all the free southern gospel music I could handle. Along with key chains, books, note pads & calendars….I should add… one year my sisters and I wrapped them all up and gave them back. I’ve never seen Grandma laugh harder. It was a grand Christmas

Steve L.—My aunt packed a sweater in a box that had contained a really cool truck (evidently given to someone else). My excitement upon unwrapping it quickly turned to utter hopeless disappointment. I am still not over it.

Donna R.—My Grandma would crochet these socks every year. They were pretty and warm but they hurt the bottom of your feet to walk in. Try walking on rocks while smiling at Grandma so you wouldn’t hurt her feelings

Aaron W.—True story. My aunt (moms sister) got my brother a cool star wars toy. She forgot me, so she sent my cousin eric out to the car. She wrapped and gave me…wait for it…a used, faded, cracked gloria estefan cassette tape from her car. I died a little inside.

Austin J.—A block of wood.

Stephany (my assistant and Austin’s mom) said Austin repeated himself all Christmas, “I got wood.”

Tammy D.—My mom made me a Christmas sweater with an appliqué of a cat on it decked out with a bow and bell. I am deathly allergic to cats and Christmas sweaters.

Tammy can relate to Ralphie in this scene.

Who hasn’t found themselves holding a bunny suit when you wanted to hold a Red Ryder BB Gun?

Who hasn’t been disappointed at some point in life?

So, I’m reading Luke from a copy of The Message and I read this:

1 1-4 So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught.

5-7 During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old.

Zachariah and Elizabeth didn’t deserve this.

They lived honorable lives.
They kept the commands of God.
They enjoyed a clear conscience before God.

Yet, they were old and childless.
Anyone here discouraged about getting older?
Anyone here ever dealt with infertility?

Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

What do you do in the midst of disappointment?

Pity party?
Stay in bed?
Unfriend people?

Zachariah gives us a good example of how to deal with disappointment.

Zachariah went to work.

8-12 It so happened that as Zachariah was carrying out his priestly duties before God, working the shift assigned to his regiment, it came his one turn in life to enter the sanctuary of God and burn incense. The congregation was gathered and praying outside the Temple at the hour of the incense offering.

This is a good example of what we can do when we are facing disappointment.

Keep serving.
He was a priest, so he went to work, serving God.
Do you serve God to be blessed by God or do you serve God because you’ve been blessed by God?

Keep seeking.
Here’s what the temple looked like in the time of Jesus:

The High Priest would go into the Holy of Holies only one day a year—the Day of Atonement.

The Holy Place (where Zachariah entered) was on this side of the curtain and it contained the lamp stand, the table of shewbread, and the altar of incense.

Zachariah was disappointed, yet he still went into the Lord’s presence.

What keeps you from seeking the Lord?
Hurt feelings?

Nothing was going to keep Zachariah from seeking the Lord and nothing was going to keep the Lord from seeking Zachariah!

Unannounced, an angel of God appeared just to the right of the altar of incense. Zachariah was paralyzed in fear.

4 things:
1) Angels are terrifying beings, not sweet little Precious Moments Baby-Like beings.

2) I wonder how many times we’ve missed an unannounced visit of the Lord because we chose not to seek Him?

3) God is not unaware of our suffering.

4) God hears our prayers.

13-15 But the angel reassured him, “Don’t fear, Zachariah. Your prayer has been heard. Elizabeth, your wife, will bear a son by you. You are to name him John. You’re going to leap like a gazelle for joy, and not only you—many will delight in his birth. He’ll achieve great stature with God.

15-17 “He’ll drink neither wine nor beer. He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit from the moment he leaves his mother’s womb. He will turn many sons and daughters of Israel back to their God. He will herald God’s arrival in the style and strength of Elijah, soften the hearts of parents to children, and kindle devout understanding among hardened skeptics—he’ll get the people ready for God.”

This promise is very specific.
A son.
Named John.
Zachariah will leap (he’s an old man).
Many will delight in his birth.
John will do great things for God.
He’ll not drink wine or beer (like the Nazirites).
He’ll be filled with the Holy Spirit as he leaves the womb.
He will prepare the way for Christ’s ministry.

What do we learn from this?
God is powerful.
God is purposeful.
God is passionate about lost people.

And remember…this all came out of the prayers of disappointed people.

They also had doubts.

18 Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.”

You’re going to see that God’s answer to that question is: Yes!

God expects us to believe that He can do what He says He can do.

Jesus teaches the same thing when He confronts the disciples for having “little faith.”

Remember when Jesus and the disciples were on a boat at night. Jesus was sleeping and a storm came up and the disciples started freaking out.

Matthew 8:23-27
23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

“What sort of man is this?”
He’s the Son of God and He can do unbelievable things!

Do you know that God can do unbelievable things?

Are you asking God to do unbelievable things in your life?
Do you need help? Ask God.
Do you need healing? Ask God.
Do you need direction? Ask God.
Do you need financial help? Ask God.

Let’s have big faith not little faith.

I heard Matt Chandler say this is a sermon recently, “God may say ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or ‘wait,’ but He will never say, ‘I can’t.'”

When God intends to make something wonderful, He begins with something difficult. When He wants to make something miraculous, He begins with something impossible.—Lord Coggin, Archbishop of Canterbury

Does God expect us to believe this? Yes!

19-20 But the angel said, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time.”

Well, God was a bit annoyed with Zachariah’s little faith so he made it so he couldn’t talk.

Side note: I don’t want you wives praying for God to silence your husbands! 🙂

Side note: If you do, don’t get mad when your husband prays that you’ll get pregnant at an old age.

Silence seems to be so rare these days.
Silence is a great spiritual discipline.

Do you have any time when you are silent?

When we are silent before the Lord it helps us to…

Hear more clearly
I’ve found that when I’m disappointed, I hear a lot of things that aren’t helpful.

I hear my own crying.
I hear my own justifications and rationalizations.
I hear horrible advice from well-meaning friends.

Jesus knew the importance of being silent so He could hear His Father more clearly.

Luke 5:16
Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Speak more effectively
When we’ve been silent before the Lord, we learn more about the Lord so we have more to say that is meaningful.

Psalm 46:10
Be still and know that I am God.

But, if we’ve not been silent before the Lord and heard Him, what do we know?
Only what we see.
Only what we feel.
Only what we know…which isn’t really that much compared to God’s perspective.

Zachariah had more influence over the people because they knew that he had been in the presence of the Lord.

21-22 Meanwhile, the congregation waiting for Zachariah was getting restless, wondering what was keeping him so long in the sanctuary. When he came out and couldn’t speak, they knew he had seen a vision. He continued speechless and had to use sign language with the people.

23-25 When the course of his priestly assignment was completed, he went back home. It wasn’t long before his wife, Elizabeth, conceived. She went off by herself for five months, relishing her pregnancy. “So, this is how God acts to remedy my unfortunate condition!” she said.

26-28 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary.

We’ll all be focused on that part of the story for the next few weeks, but–for now–back to this story.

57-58 When Elizabeth was full-term in her pregnancy, she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives, seeing that God had overwhelmed her with mercy, celebrated with her.

Disappointment can make us self-centered.
If we give into that temptation and throw a pity-party, we miss the opportunity to see God use our pain to bless others.

Her neighbors and relatives were able to party (celebrate) with Elizabeth because she refused to throw a pity-party for one.

59-60 On the eighth day, they came to circumcise the child and were calling him Zachariah after his father. But his mother intervened: “No. He is to be called John.”

I find this scene very funny.

Our relatives and friends just need to stay out of the baby naming process. They’re not that good at naming Our kids. Really Zachariah? You want to call him, “Zachariah”? Very creative!

Mama always wins when it comes to naming the baby. 🙂

God’s will should always win. God already said that the boy’s name was going to be “John.”

61-62 “But,” they said, “no one in your family is named that.” They used sign language to ask Zachariah what he wanted him named.
63-64 Asking for a tablet, Zachariah wrote, “His name is to be John.” That took everyone by surprise. Surprise followed surprise—Zachariah’s mouth was now open, his tongue loose, and he was talking, praising God!

What would have been the first thing you would have done after not being able to talk for over 9 months and it was the Lord who took away your ability to speak and forced you to learn sign language?

Would you pout or praise?

Pout or Praise?

We can pout or we can praise and Zachariah is praising God because He’s experienced the power of God.

65-66 A deep, reverential fear settled over the neighborhood, and in all that Judean hill country people talked about nothing else. Everyone who heard about it took it to heart, wondering, “What will become of this child? Clearly, God has his hand in this.”

When we are disappointed, do people feel pity for us or praise for God?

We’re all going to be disappointed sometime or another.

Do we want to be pitied or do we want God to be praised?

Pity or Praise?

God longs to be praised, so—if we will let Him have control—He will lead us to praise Him.

I love how Zachariah allows God to speak prophesy and praise through him.

Look at what his and Elizabeth’s disappointment what transformed into:

67-79 Then Zachariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied,

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
    he came and set his people free.

Bondage to disappointment is transformed into praise for Freedom.

He set the power of salvation in the center of our lives,

Death at the hand of disappointment is transformed into praise for Salvation.
    and in the very house of David his servant,
Just as he promised long ago
    through the preaching of his holy prophets:
Deliverance from our enemies
    and every hateful hand;

Enslavement to disappointment is transformed into praise for Deliverance.

Mercy to our fathers,
    as he remembers to do what he said he’d do,
What he swore to our father Abraham—
    a clean rescue from the enemy camp,
So we can worship him without a care in the world,
    made holy before him as long as we live.

Doubts about whether disappointment will ever end is transformed into praise for the fact that God keeps His Promises.

RueBea R. shared this with me:
(parents are divorced) one year my dad said he was going to pick me up and take me to see the Christmas lights around town. I waited by the window to see when he pulled into the driveway- ended up waiting all night and fell asleep there because he never came. I didn’t get to see the lights that year either. #disappointment

She is a part of Journey and praises God with us because God is a Father who keeps his promises.

And you, my child, “Prophet of the Highest,”
    will go ahead of the Master to prepare his ways,
Present the offer of salvation to his people,
    the forgiveness of their sins.
Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
    God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
    those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
    down the path of peace.

Disappointment about unfulfilled dreams is transformed into praise to God for a brand new Destiny through an unexpected son.
Back to A Christmas Story….
At the end of the movie, Ralphie is resolved that he’s not getting a Red Ryder BB Gun and then this happens.

Now, I can’t promise you a Red Ryder BB Gun, but I can promise you this:

God hears your prayers.
He knows all about your disappointments.
He loves you.
And, He’ll never give you a block of wood, a cat sweater, or a Bunny Suit, so He’s definitely worthy of our praise this Christmas.

©2016 Arron Chambers

Read more about Eats with Sinners.

Read more about Devoted Discipleship.

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