|If you remain very still and quiet and listen very carefully, you will hear this mantra being repeated over and over again, “There is always next year.” Careful observation will note most of those mindlessly repeating those words are wearing blue.
Yes, they did it again. They lost a series they seemed to have in hand. They fail to advance in the playoffs. It is like the Leafs are living in their own version of “Groundhog Day.”
I wonder if I will ever celebrate a Maple Leaf Stanley Cup victory. I was in Kindergarten the last time it happened.
Maybe it is just the grouchy side of my personality, but I have enjoyed reading all the various “experts” theorize how this team - on paper perhaps the best team in the league - managed such a catastrophic implosion. From coaching errors to too much time on the ice for key players to work ethic to psychological issues . . . explaining the “why” will occupy our time until puck drop next year and we go through the cycle again. If you are a Leaf fan, you have learned to live with disappointment.
Words Matter: Disappointment.
It comes from unmet expectations. Sometimes expectations are unmet because they weren’t realistic (like my childhood dream of playing in the NHL - I’m over that now). Sometimes it is because someone else failed to fulfill their commitment/meet our expectations. Sometimes events around us change unexpectedly. Life can be disappointing.
Faith does not make us immune to disappointment. We still have hopes that go unmet, people will still let us down, life happens. However, our faith does help us. First, as we grow in our understanding and knowledge of the Kingdom of God, we will form expectations consistent with its realities. The passions and priorities that drive us will change. We still have expectations. Faith makes them different.
Second, while we experience disappointment, we also have a longer view of patience. We know God is accomplishing His purposes. Like Joseph who suffered setback after setback only to ultimately be used to bring relief to an entire nation, we realize life is not just about the moment in which we live. There is hope. There is a brighter tomorrow.
Knowing these truths - the passions and priorities of the Kingdom, and patience for God to work - doesn’t take the sting out of many of life’s disappointments. Broken relationships, whether by death or rejection or some other cause, rip the heart out of us. The pain is sometimes unbearable.
Failure in any form can haunt us for years. We learn to tell ourselves, “I’m not good enough” or other untrue, damaging self-talk. We not only experience disappointment; we believe ourselves to be a disappointment.
And we all, yes ALL, struggle with this. It is part of the human condition caused by our pursuit of autonomy from God. Since only God, the One who created us, can fulfill our desires and satisfy us, it makes sense that life independent of Him will be disappointing.
Here’s the good news. I had a boss who used to say (especially when I made mistakes at work), “It’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow some good.” In other words, even moments of disappointment can be redeemed by God as part of His overall plan and purpose. The pain and hurt of unmet expectations can help us better understand our dependence on Him. The source of our hope is reassigned to the realities of God’s own nature and character - His compassion, forgiveness, and mercy. Our patience is no longer blind optimism but is sourced in the solid foundation of the Creator God’s eternal purposes (even though we are confused and hurt).
None of this is to suggest that a life of faith is a gleeful walk through the land of unicorns and rainbows. Jesus wept at the death of His friend. Despite our desire to represent Christ well, we will still do and say stupid things that hurt other people. And we will be hurt by them. Our daily reality will be dominated by those who deny the truths of the Kingdom of God. Jesus warned us that following Him would be costly and full of trouble. James told the early church not to be surprised they were experiencing all kinds of problems.
Our disappointment is not without context and perspective. As real as the hurt and pain is the equal reality of a compassionate God who will wipe away all our tears. As real as betrayal is the even greater faithfulness of our Creator God to us as a community of faith and as individuals. As real as the confusion is the clarity of the truths of God’s abiding providence and presence.
We will always have disappointment. We will always have hope. Not just because “there’s always next year,” but because there is a God. He alone created the universe and all that exists. And there is no other.
Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
GOD, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places.
(Hab. 3:17-19 ESV)