In my 30 something years of living I have come across many disappointments in my lifetime. Some were minor, and others major life changers. The minor ones I was able to let go of and move on, the major ones - well not so much. When you have been let down, failed, hurt, crushed, or lost someone or something it hurts - and it hurts deep. Disappointments are a part of life but it is how we choose to handle them that makes all the difference in the world. We can become jaded, bitter, and cold-hearted, loosing sight of what God has for our lives. We can grip it tightly, or we can choose to let it go - and let God deal with it. These choices shape us, and change us - for the better or the worse.
This year I have been hit with an overwhelming amount of disappointments, heartache, and hurt. I can honestly tell you I have struggled with what to do with all the emotions and baggage that comes with that. Whenever I am dealing with something I don't have an answer for I turn to the scriptures. Something my grandparents taught me when I was little - because I had a lot of questions - and they didn't have all the answers, but they knew the ONE who did. So I started searching the scriptures for someone who didn't just have a "bad day" but a series of bad events. Of course there was Job, and I can tell you I understand that book even better now. But it was really the story of Joseph, in Genesis 37-50, that resonated loud and clear in my life.
If ever there was a man who had "permission" to be jaded or bitter it would Joseph. In Genesis 37 we see a boy who was favored by his dad, but not by his brothers - in fact his brothers hated him so much they planned to kill him and throw him in a pit. One brilliant brother decided that selling him as a slave made more sense (go figure) and so in one short afternoon he went from beloved son and brother to a no-named slave for sale to the highest bidder. I can't imagine the thoughts of hurt, loss and disappointment that went through his mind. The questions of "Why?" and "How?" that he asked God over and over. His own family rejected him, sold him out, and on top of that were telling his father a LIE to cover up what they did. His whole life was turned upside down, those he trusted let him down - he was homeless, alone and at the mercy of strangers.
Joseph had all the right in the world to become bitter, angry, and resentful - but he didn't. 20 Years later after being a slave, unjustly accused and imprisoned, promised help and forgotten, he was finally recognized for his faith, and leadership - and placed as the ruler of Egypt by the Pharaoh himself. When Joseph got to see his brothers again after 20 years, he had a choice - and this was what he chose:
But Joseph replied, "Don't be afraid of me. Am I God, that I can punish you? You intended to harm me, but intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people. No, don't be afraid. I will continue to take care of you and your children." So he reassured them by speaking kindly to them. Genesis 50:19-21
I have to be honest and say I'm not sure I would have had the same reaction. How could someone who had been through as much as he had speak "kindly" to his brothers? I don't think Joseph got there quickly, in fact I'm pretty sure the years of serving, and solitude in prison gave him a lot of time to think and pray and pray some more. When the world gets knocked out from under you - you land on your knees.
The bible says that the Lord was with Joseph, He never left him - and He never leaves us either, even in our disappointments. He can handle our questions, our fears and even our anger. And He can take all of that and use it to mold and shape us - but only if we let Him. The choice Joseph made was one of looking outward, instead of inward. We must choose every day of our lives to not be so focused on all we've lost, but on all we have gained. Our purpose here is not just for ourselves but for those around us, and when we walk in that we let go of us and get ahold of HIM.
I am by no means saying that I have achieved this - every day I have to let it go, lay it down, and look around at what I have, and the reason I am here. Grieving what you lost is important, and that does require an inward focus, but healing comes when you can look outside your pain and into others.
Only by His strength!