What Do We Do With Disappointment?


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The dictionary definition reads, “the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.”


 One of the challenges we face in life is the reality of how disappointment haunts us.


Though we may try to control or limit our exposure to it, it is not truly preventable and it goes beyond feelings. Our feelings are connected with the neurotransmitters (neurochemicals) in our brains so disappointment is also physiological. Many of us know the neurotransmitters often mentioned in news or health reports: serotonin and dopamine. These and many others not only influence how we feel, they react to what we are experiencing and try to determine what we will need and want.


IMG_2709When we experience something  we love, something that gives us pleasure, our brains (with the help of the neurochemicals) start to anticipate and predict it will (or we hope it will) happen again in the future. We start to have expectations based on that and as a result the dopamine levels in our brains start to go up.


Jonathan Merritt notes in his latest book (Learning to Speak God from Scratch) that we actually get a “double shot of dopamine.”


Jonathan goes on to add:


“Here’s the rub. Life doesn’t always give us what we expect. People fail us. People hurt us. People lay us on the altars of their own selfishness. When you don’t get the desired result – you experience what researchers call a ‘reward-prediction error’ – not only do your dopamine levels fall, they plummet from the heightened level generated by your expectations.


Now, instead of receiving a double shot of dopamine, you receive none. You crash doubly hard.”


Looking at that scientific research helps explain why it takes us so long to recover from some disappointments, especially major ones.


We also sometimes fail to realize how our hopes turn into expectations and assumptions. Those occur not only about things and people, but God as well. When our knowledge of IMG_2717the Word is spotty or skewed by looking only at selective verses, we ignore the greater context or the whole counsel of scripture.


Sometimes we are also impacted by our earliest religious experiences that may not have been wholly accurate at best.  They may be very biased based on our age, how mature we were in our faith, and who exposed us to them and their significance to us.


We can be tempted to create a picture or sense of who we believe or hope God is. Then we may find verses to support that and soon you have strong convictions this is who God is and how He should respond or act. As long as He is operating within that framework, we are okay. But what happens when we are disappointed? We can begin to not only be disappointed in God, but distrust Him and feel as if our world is falling apart.


C.S. Lewis wrote a great deal and some of his profound works included the pain of loss in A Grief Observed and the issue of suffering in The Problem of Pain.  What he says about pain is not an easy truth to hear:


“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”


 Disappointment brings with it the possibility of doubt.


The enemy knows well that doubt has worked well as a device ever since the Garden of Eden when Eve tells him she will die if she or Adam eats of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The enemy creates doubt with these few words, “You will not surely die.”  I wonder if in that moment Eve considered all she knew about God and his love and agreed that certainly they would not die given God’s love for them. So she yields and the rest is history for the human race.


Doubt can be deadly.


What do we do with disappointment and doubt?


The Lord desires us to have a conversation about it rather than behaving as a child who goes to his or her room and slams the door shut on dialogue.


Jonathan Merritt gives clarity to what truth we need to grapple with:


“…in times of difficulty, God offers us presence, not a parachute.


What we experience as disappointment is an invitation to give up holding tight to what we hope is true. To stop trying to cast God in our image. To let God be who God is, not who we wish God would be.”

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24 thoughts on “What Do We Do With Disappointment?

  1. I think that is interesting, the science behind it. It’s not all just in your mind, I hate for doctors to dismiss things as depression, thankfully some are on board as believers. And it confirms what I have known for a long time, and not just being funny but it is true, some people make you sick.

    1. I hear you Rebecca! The work of Dr. Daniel Amen is also phenomenal and he is a committed believer that learns and shares more about the brain every day! Have a blessed day!😊

  2. Jonathan Merritt’s book looks like one I will add to my want-to-read list! And I love the C.S. Lewis quote. Your post is just the perfect encouragement needed for this life on earth. Thank you for sharing God’s truths that bring mending and healing to hurting hearts. Satan can so easily blind us to God’s love for us! There are so many opportuunities for conversations with God that are missed in our stubborn child-like rebellion. Another great post! Thank you!

    1. Thanks so much, Cheryl! I keep having this sense that despite the chaos happening everywhere and the continuing encroaching darkness that becomes clearer every day, we (His children) need to be coming alongside one another more than ever before to strengthen and uphold and keep our eyes on the prize! Maranatha!! 💕

  3. Pam, I appreciate how you connected the physical and emotional. We are complex creatures and our experiences and expectations can distort our theology and leave us disappointed and discouraged. Great post!

  4. Pam – Thank you for your post. The following brought tears to the brim and truth to my heart. “What we experience as disappointment is an invitation to give up holding tight to what we hope is true. To stop trying to cast God in our image. To let God be who God is, not who we wish God would be.”

    I am disappointed and I need to let loose my grip on what I wanted.

    Thank you for sharing with Grace & Truth Christian Link-Up.


    1. You’re welcome, Maree. Jonathan Merritt’s book stirred a great deal in me with quotes such as this. I trust the Lord will show you his goodness in the midst of your disappointment and bring you joy! Have a deal wrapped in His love and comfort.💜

  5. What a thoughtful and enlightening discussion of disappointment. I love the information about “a double shot of dopamine”. And this: “The Lord desires us to have a conversation about it rather than behaving as a child who goes to his or her room and slams the door shut on dialogue.” Beautiful!

    1. I thought that was fascinating as well, Laurie. So much about how God made us shows the genius and intricate connections He has created. Thanks for your encouraging words here!❤️

  6. Fascinating! I love how the brain’s function translates to our experience with God. Reminds me so much of what Paul wrote in Romans 8:23-25 about our hope not being in what we see. With eyes of faith we hope for what we do not see, but rather what has been promised by our ever-faithful God! Blessings!

    1. I found that information fascinating as well. The things I read about the physical continue to confirm so much about God’s intricate design of creation. Great passage you cite here. Have a beautiful day!🌹

  7. How interesting regarding the chemical reactions that happen within us when we are disappointed. I know I can self-protect from disappointment and feel quite disheartened when I let down the shield and disappointment occurs. God doesn’t want us to live that way though! The last quotes you share sum it up all so well—“give up holding tight…” !

    1. I thought it was fascinating too, Lynn! Disappointments left untended and checked can erode so many good things. So glad you liked that quote. I loved it as well!💕

  8. Hi Pam, I had no idea regarding the chemical reaction that occur in the brain with anticipation and then what happens when disappointment comes. I can say from experience, that I have had crushing disappointments that literally felt like a physical pain.

    I seem to be in a season of disappointment after disappointment. I appreciated the words of encouragement you shared which helps to put a God-centered perspective on disappointment and to keep my eyes solely on Him.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Karen! I thought that was fascinating. I have read a great deal of the work of Dr. Daniel Amen about the brain and this information came alongside that aligned perfectly.

      May this season of disappointment end soon and result in stronger trust and deeper levels of intimacy and a certainty that God is good, even when the pain of disappointment upends us.

      Blessings on you and your tender heart.❤️

  9. This is so comforting, Pam, as I’ve been hit with a disappointment this morning. I’m taking your words to heart, my friend! Thanks for the encouragement you always offer!

    1. I love it when God sets his plan to bring the words we need to hear at the time they are most needed. He uses so many to accomplish his heart for us! Thanks for your encouraging words to me as I seek to hear the Lord’s voice about each post I write.❤️

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