What to Do With Disappointment and Frustration

A friend of mine, who serves in university campus ministry, recently told me he sometimes wrestles with the feeling that he is wasting his life. He knows the reasons why this is not true with his head, but he was at a low point. This conversation was a moment of brutal transparency.

How_To_Manage_Disappointment

If I’m honest, I’ve felt this way before myself during moments of intense frustration or deep disappointment. (In case you’re wondering, that’s not where I’m at right now, and this blog isn’t a subtle cry for help!) Regardless of what your job or where you serve, I’m guessing you may have felt the sting of disappointment yourself.

While I can’t make all our frustrations disappear, here are a few strategies that help me to manage disappointment, maintain a healthy perspective in ministry, and keep going in what God has called me to do.

Resolve to Focus on the Good

When faced with disappointment we need to focus on areas where things are going well.

Paul gives this advice to the first century church at Philippi. He writes,

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).

Notice that the “peace” (v. 9) follows thinking about things “admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy” (v. 8). Whatever may be going wrong, there are surely some things going right. Focus on those things.

God Hasn’t Lost Control

In moments of disappointment it’s important to remember that God is still in control. While we would like to think that His plans always involve us looking, feeling, and just being awesome, that’s not how it works. He uses even our failures to accomplish His good purposes (Psalm 100:5, Acts 17:26).

When we’re feeling the sting of disappointment, we need to remind our hearts as well as our heads that “all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). We need to remember that feelings, while not to be ignored, aren’t the ultimate measure of truth.

You’re Engaged in a Spiritual Battle

You’re engaged in a spiritual battle (Ephesians 6).

You know this. You’ve probably heard it a thousand times, but you need this reminder: not everything that you feel is just a natural reaction to your circumstances. Spiritual attacks can intensify the natural effect of the circumstances on our emotional state.

Would the devil, described as a prowling lion (I Peter 5:8), like to add pressure to the disappointment we feel in our souls? I’m thinking that’s a “yes.”

Be alert and be aware. Don’t roll over. Don’t give in. Fight.

Lean Into Community

We don’t always feel the need for real friendships. Sometimes it’s just easier and faster to go without real community. But we weren’t meant to walk alone in life and ministry, and this need is most felt during low moments.

Too many of us Christians allow the shame of failure to drive us into isolation. This is the wrong move. We need friends who will help us regain perspective when we’re stuck.

Biblical accountability isn’t just having someone there to tell you what you’re doing wrong and where you need to grow. It’s having someone there who can save you from yourself when you can’t even see straight.

In times of deep disappointment we need to run to trusted friendships. We need to pursue those who will help “bear our burdens” in love (Galatians 6:2). We need to lean into community.

Let Your Pain Fuel Your Prayer

One benefit to feeling deep disappointment is that it can bring us to our knees. As a Christian, this is the most powerful place to be. By meeting with God in prayer we have a productive outlet for what could be destructive disappointment.

John Bunyan said, “Prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan.”Earnest prayers help us to protect our souls. It’s the vehicle for us to lift up our hearts to God.We can give Him all our anxiety because He cares for us (I Peter. 5:7).Through prayer we can prevent our disappointment from turning into discouragement.

Question: Do you find these strategies helpful in your own life? How do you overcome frustrations and disappointments in your life or work? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

A version of this article first appeared on CampusMinistry.org 

God on Trial

What C.S. Lewis Said about Our View of God and Sin

Who does God think he is? What right does he have to tell you and me what to do, or to send us to hell if we break his rules? — Such is the thinking, or at least the attitude, of many people in our time. We act as if God is on trial.

God_On_Trial

One of the things that I enjoy most about the holiday season is that I have more time for reading than I do the rest of the year. In addition, when my family exchanges gifts as part of our Christmas tradition, I am usually given some interesting books as Christmas presents. This year, one of the books I was happy to receive was God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics by C.S. Lewis.

God in the Dock

In the essay which bears the same title as the book, “God in the Dock,” Lewis speaks to the mindset and attitude that I referenced above.  He makes some keen observations about modern people’s view of God and sin and Christian preaching.

I believe what he says is as relevant today as it was when he first said it, which is why I want to share it with you. He write,

“The early Christian preachers could assume in their hearers, whether Jews, Metuentes or Pagans, a sense of guilt. . . . Thus the Christian message was in those days unmistakably the Evangelium, The Good News. It promised healing to those who knew they were sick. We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy.”

This statement resonates as true with me. It seems to me that there needs to be a different starting place for Christian witness now, in this generation, than there did with early Christian preachers.

Bringing an ‘Unwelcome Diagnosis’

What jumps out at me as most relevant is that last sentence: “We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy.”

Lewis continues to say,

“The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: If God should have a reasonable defence for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man is on the Bench and God is in the Dock.”

For many living in our time, including many young adults and university students, this is still the case. Man has put himself in the position of judge and God is on trial.

This is backwards thinking. In reality, God is the judge and we are the ones who will be judged (Hebrews 9:27, Isaiah 33:22, James 4:12). Yet, understanding the thinking of those in the culture, no matter how faulty it is, will serve to orient us as we seek to engage in Gospel conversations.

Question: How do you go about bringing the ‘unwelcome diagnosis’ to this generation, in a way that leads to understanding and hunger for the solution? How can we help others care about cure for sin that we offer in Christ? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Why You Should Plan Your Summer

For many people, summer brings changes in schedules along with warmer weather. This is particularly true for students and those who work with students, such as teachers, professors, and campus ministry leaders. This change of schedule is usually met with rejoicing by all, but summer goes quickly. To make the most of it, you should plan your summer.

Plan Your Summer

When I was in elementary school the summertime felt like an eternity. To be honest, there were days when I actually felt bored. (I know, that sounds shocking, right?!) That was a long time ago! I don’t think I’ve experienced the sensation of boredom in at least twenty years—in the summertime or at any other time. Of course, I have much more responsibility now than I did then, which actually brings me to my point. More responsibility, in combination with less structure, necessitates greater individual planning and responsibility.

Why You Should Plan Your Summer

Though the summertime may be, for many, a change of pace and a change of schedule, it will go by faster than you think. In order to get the most out of it (not just work, but relaxation too) you should plan your summer. Some people balk at this kind of suggestion, as if planning will kill any opportunity for real relaxation, or as if planning will somehow quench a Spirit-led lifestyle, but I believe it does just the opposite. By thoughtful planning, we can be freed, both from anxiety that we should be working when we are resting and from the bondage of overworking when we should be resting.

Include Both Work and Rest in Your Summer Plan

I know, “summer work” may sound like an oxymoron to some, but it’s not. Even though it’s summer, let’s face it, there is still work to be done. If you are a student on break from school, you probably need to be looking for a summer job, or studying hard to take a standardized test for grad school. If you are a campus minister, you probably have a lot of planning and preparing for the year ahead, some support to raise, and maybe even a mission trip or a summer project to lead. Plan out when you are going to do these things and stick to the plan! Work hard when it’s time to work (even in the summer).

You would also be wise to plan for some rest. Do some fun things that you can’t do during other times of the year. Grill out, go swimming, walk around your neighborhood. If at all possible, try to take a few days or even a week for a vacation. It doesn’t have to be anything expensive or far away, such as a trip to Walt Disney World, so long as it is refreshing and a break from the regular routine of work. Many studies have shown that if you take time to be refreshed you will be more effective in your work. Rest will help to keep your priorities in alignment and can help you to strengthen important relationships in your life, with family members or close friends.

Be Willing to Adjust Your Plan

As important as it is to plan well, things happen. Sickness can delay plans, work can take longer than anticipated, and bad weather can sidetrack plans to go to the beach. When things happen to throw your plans off track, don’t throw you hands up in defeat and give up. Don’t throw the plan away completely. Revisit the plan and make adjustments. Without some level of real thought and commitment a plan doesn’t really exist, but plans can be changed and adjusted when they need to be. Be willing to adjust your plans to meet your summer goals.

Question: What goals do you have for this summer? You can leave a comment by clicking here.