How do you handle disappointment?

I had a tough mom moment last week. My son, who’s a junior in high school, loves to run track. His main race had always been the 400m open; however, this year during indoor season he made the switch to the 800m open. And he did great.

At the beginning of the season, his time hovered around 2:08. He had a rough start, dealing with a very painful leg injury and missing a few weeks of key training time, but he ran through it. He persevered. And it paid off.

His goal this year was to run it in under 2 minutes. To improve. And maybe next year, State competition. But he did so well this year, State was in his sights.

He made it out of Districts and into Regionals Finals in 3 events, including the 800 m open. Top 4 finishers moved on. He ran tough and held that 4th position right up until…..

….until he didn’t. He met his original goal; he ran a 1:58.6. But right at the end, and I mean by only .3 of a second, someone came up from behind and passed him. Oh….the sting of disappointment. It was heartbreaking. For him. For me. He cried. I cried.

Even the day after…I woke up with a little ache in my heart for him. He wanted it so badly, and I wanted it for him.

That sting hurts. A lot. So what do you do with it?

Three days later, when David and his men arrived home at their town of Ziklag, they found that the Amalekites had made a raid into the Negev and Ziklag; they had crushed Ziklag and burned it to the ground. They had carried off the women and children and everyone else but without killing anyone. When David and his men saw the ruins and realized what had happened to their families, they wept until they could weep no more. David’s two wives, Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal from Carmel, were among those captured. David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the Lord his God. Then he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring me the ephod!” So Abiathar brought it. Then David asked the Lord, “Should I chase after this band of raiders? Will I catch them?” (I Samuel 30:1-8)

Disappointment comes when reality doesn’t meet expectation. And it brings with it a myriad of emotions. Heartbreak. Regret. Depression. Anger. We experienced all of them and then some.

David and his men came back from battle expecting life as usual. Reality was much different. Their camp was burned and their families and possessions were gone.

Imagine the emotions coursing through them. They wept until they could weep no longer. The men were so angry they talked of stoning David. David’s men. David’s loyal, faithful, battle-tested men were ready to turn on him. This was serious.

We have a choice when disappointment comes. We can have a pity party and give up or we can do what David did.

First, he didn’t deny his heartbreak. He felt it. He had a good cry. Emotions aren’t evil. We need to deal with what we feel. But our emotions shouldn’t make our decisions.

Then he found strength in the Lord his God. Another translation says, “David encouraged himself in the Lord.” He praised. He worshipped. He ran into the presence of the Lord. (Psalm 18. Psalm 56.)

It’s not an easy thing to do the opposite of what you feel. To praise when you feel like crying. Press on when you feel like giving up. It’s not easy, but it’s so beneficial.

The tendency is to have a pity party. To put the event on instant replay in our minds, watching it over and over. Wanting a different outcome and reliving the heartbreak again and again.

Then we analyze what we did wrong. With Alex, he scrutinized every split. The 200m. The 600m. “This section was smooth. I was going too fast here. I should have saved more for the last 150m.”

For David it could have been, “Maybe we should have left some men in the camp to guard it. Why didn’t we come back earlier?”

Although we want to learn from it and grow so we can do better next time, we need to guard against living in Shoulda Woulda Coulda Land. It’s so easy to get stuck there and stop moving forward.

What David did was the most fruitful thing to do when trudging through disappointment.

He ran into the presence of the only One who can take our broken heart, remove the sting of defeat, fill the cracks with His goodness, and set our feet back on His path for our life.

It’s more fun to win. It’s awesome when life is smooth and nothing bad is happening. But disaster strikes. Disappointment comes.

What we do when expectation doesn’t meet reality is the true test of character. Of maturity. Of strength.

Are you dealing with disappointment? Run to the Rock. We can’t change our past, but we can refuse to quit. We can go to the Lord for healing and strength and peace, get up and dust ourselves off, and run full force at what He has for us next.

He’s not done with you yet. There’s so much more for you to accomplish. Don’t let disappointment knock you out of the race. Let it fuel your next victory.


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