Overcoming Spiritual Disappointments, Part 1

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During his earthly life, Jesus had no intention of destroying the Roman Empire. When his friend and disciple Peter finally realized that, I'm sure he felt a sting of disappointment. Jesus' vision had sounded so good. But deep inside, Peter had his own agenda. At that critical point, I wonder if Peter questioned God—if he thought, “What have I been doing wasting my time with this guy?”

One thing we know for sure: the Roman Empire was small potatoes in God's big picture. Peter grew to understand this. When the new Kingdom arrived, Peter was there to help usher it in. We're no different than Simon Peter. We feel disappointment so keenly, and it can come from all directions. People and circumstances disappoint us. Sometimes we disappoint ourselves. Particularly painful are the times when our cherished visions and goals don't work out . . . when we felt we were trusting God. So we feel abandoned by God. We feel rudderless, becalmed, and completely alone. However, such disappointment is universal. Jesus felt it on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” David wrote about it many times in the Psalms. And he did so honestly and bluntly. So it's important not to single yourself out as the only person in the world ever to experience such feelings. Nor should you feel guilty about such disappointment. Such experiences are inherent in our humanity.

When my own goals don't come to pass in a big way, I question the very vision that inspired those goals. When my plans creep along at a much slower pace than I'd hoped, I'm troubled. But once I process it all, I realize my goals were unrealistic and premature. Like Peter's desire for Jesus to overthrow the Roman Empire, some of my goals are mere fantasies. With other goals, I've miscalculated the scope and timeline of the vision. We're taught from youth to think big . . . but we fail to realize that a true vision is always greater than we are.


A good example of this is my vision of an empowered laity. It took me a while to understand that such a vision is a lot bigger than one man's lifetime. In fact, the vision for the widespread priesthood of all believers—understood and practiced—is something God has been working on for centuries. It was a part of John Wycliffe's vision in the 14th century. It was basic in the Protestant Reformation. John Calvin shared this vision . . . as did the 17th-century Puritans. Today, our emphasis on the laity here at the Foundation is simply plugging into the historic vision of the church. So we should not give up our visions. Rather, we pursue them through prayer and wisdom, knowing that they are all incomplete. This pursuit takes perseverance and endurance. Through prayer, we may realize that parts of our vision are overblown, ballooned by our own pride. Paul calls us to humility in Romans 12:3: “Let no man think more highly of himself than he ought to think. But let him think soberly as God has given to every man a measure of faith.”

The good news is this: In God's timing, godly visions will come true. Peter didn't see clearly what God had in store for him until much later. We too must often deal with spiritual disappointment for a period of time.