We read in Proverbs, “A hope deferred (unrelenting disappointment) makes the heart sick.”1 Langston Hughes, the great African American poet of the Harlem Renaissance, wrote about it. He asks the question, “What happens to a dream deferred?” And concludes, “Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode?”* I concur. Disappointment is a heavy weight and sometimes absolutely devastating. 😢
Jesus knew disappointment. Once as he was enjoying an intimate dinner with his closest friends, he casually announced, “One of you will betray me.”2 😦 This unexpected statement, of course, made everyone “sorrowful.” And as they were digesting (forgive the pun! 😬) that information and wondering who would do such an unthinkable act, Jesus added, “You will all fall away.”3 At that, Peter jumped up and “said emphatically, ‘If I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And they all said the same.”4 But a few hours later when Jesus was arrested, “they all left him and fled.”5
So, to conclude: life disappoints us; friends disappoint us; we disappoint others; and we even disappoint ourselves! 😞
So much of life is about expectations, and one way not to be disappointed is to have no—or very low—expectations! If we do not expect much from people or life itself, we are not disappointed at all when they fail to deliver because we expected as much. And it might come as a surprise to you to discover that this philosophy is quite biblical! Isaiah writes, “Don’t put your trust in mere humans. They are as frail as breath. What good are they?”6 😯 And we cannot forget what John writes about Jesus: “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”7
Hmm. 🤔 This is a bit disconcerting. So, what are we to do? Live this life without expecting any good thing from people? Surely not! The problem is that we have things upside down (as usual)! We expect way too much from people and expect very little from God! We blindly expect other people to be perfect. We arrogantly believe that we are nobler than all others. And we foolishly place our hope in those flawed ideas. We have (to borrow a title from the greatest author of all times, Charles Dickens) great expectations in people!
But it feels right to have great expectations, doesn’t it? To maintain a positive outlook, to desire noble things from honorable people? Didn’t Paul implore us: “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”8 Yes, he did! And, yes, we absolutely need to “think about these things” and “practice these things.”9 And encourage others to do the same! 🙂
However, it is quite naïve of us to not expect that often, things fall apart in this fallen world. People will let us down; therefore, it is quite ludicrous to blame people for being human! So, when we are disappointed by the disappointments of life, we should remember this: “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?”10
When life disappoints, we need to readjust our expectations. We should expect less from humans (including ourselves) and expect more from God. Humans are sometimes faithful; God is always faithful.
When life disappoints, and we find ourselves shaken by it, it is because we have placed our hope on others rather than on the rock. “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.”11
I am thankful that “a hope deferred” is not the end of our story. A “hope deferred” is merely hope delayed, not eliminated. The second part of that verse reads, “but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”1 For our hope is not in this fallen world at all, frankly. Instead, our hope is in Christ, who lives in us! Our hope is in “the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”12 And “we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint.”13
And there is no disappointment in that! 🙂
1Proverbs 13:12 2Mark 14:18 3Mark 14:27 4Mark 14:31 5Mark 14:50 6Isaiah 2:22 NLT 7John 2:23-25 8Philippians 4:8 9Philippians 4:9 10Psalm 56:11 11Psalm 62:5-6 12Colossians 1:27 13Romans 5:2-5 *Hughes, Langston. “Harlem by Langston Hughes.” Poetry Foundation, www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46548/harlem. Accessed 2 July 2023.