My heart pounded and felt like it was pumping acid through my veins. My legs screamed for me to stop, but I couldn’t. There was still another mile to go in the 5k and I knew I had to finish strong. I had my goal pace in mind and had trained diligently over the past year to achieve it.
However, as I crossed the finish line, I looked at the clock with disappointment as I didn’t make my time. I had set two goals for the race and accomplished neither of them. What was the point of all those early morning runs? Why did I work so hard in the hot, humid summer if it wasn’t going to help? Disappointment is a powerful emotion that can easily lead to despair.
Such disappointment over a race by a recreational runner is a small thing that has little effect on my day-to-day life. However small, it was another piece of straw on the camel’s back that ushered in a well of disappointing memories. Perhaps we can all relate to disappointments experienced not just in our lifetime, but in the past year alone.
Looking to the Unseen
If we focus solely on what we can see, it’s hard not to wonder how the Lord is working. Why does evil seem to prevail and the wicked seem to prosper? Lies seem victorious over honesty, and humility is overlooked while the prideful are lifted up. Where is God’s justice and vengeance? How long, O Lord?
Disappointment is the result of unmet expectation. We hope for something, but we don’t see it happen the way we want or when we want. We are looking at situations based on what we see and basing reality on our perception. However, Hebrews 11 reminds us that faith is a conviction of things unseen.
To walk by faith, then, means we are walking with an absolute conviction that something is true even if it can’t be perceived. So, perception might tell me that evil is winning, but Scripture teaches that God is in control, evil will not prevail, and justice will be enacted. If I’m convinced this is true, then I’ll believe it even when my perception tells me otherwise. Instead of being disappointed in an unmet expectation of God’s promises, I’ll recognize that God’s promises are true, but they may not be visually apparent right now.
Hebrews 11 provides examples of saints who walked with such faith in unseen realities, such as Noah: “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household” (v. 7). I’m sure it was hard for Noah to continue to build the ark even though he wasn’t seeing the torrential downpour yet. He continued year after year, even while others likely mocked him for it. He was a “herald of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5) even when nobody would listen. Eventually, the unseen realities Noah believed became visible.
The Substance of Our Hope
We must know what God has and hasn’t promised, for such truths provide the “substance of things hoped for” (Heb. 11:1). Having “faith” in something God hasn’t promised will only lead to more disappointment. Knowing what God has said provides the content of our faith and healthy expectations. Faith means being absolutely convinced of such realities, even when they are imperceivable, and living our lives accordingly.
When it seems life is unraveling and your expectations of how things should be are not met, instead of being driven to despair and disappointment, let that drive you to God and his word. Soak in his promises that are true even when they can’t be perceived. Live your life and set your expectations on his word instead of your own understanding. This may not change disappointments over small things like racing goals, but it will be a sword to fight disappointments in deeper, truer and more lasting issues.