When I first started Seminary, I started out as a Masters of Divinity student. After one semester, and an almost nervous breakdown, I realized I was not supposed to go for that degree. One of the classes that led up to this moment was a study on Jurgen Moltmann, a popular German theologian. An entire semester was devoted to this guy and we were asked to laboriously suffer through reading his German-to-English books on his view of God. His thoughts were thick, philosophical, and so deep my brain couldn’t hold even the cliff notes version. I struggled to understand why it had to be so complicated. I cried in the bathroom while my husband assured me that I would get it. Sure, for him, it was like candy- Matt devoured this kind of mumbo-jumbo jargon. When it came exam time, even the three hour exam-prep class wouldn’t help me. I was lost in the sauce, and all I had was one sentence of what Moltmann was trying to say, and I knew a whole exam of questions and essays could not be answered with that one sentence:We can only hope for that which God has already promised us, and that was Jesus.
That sentence cost me about $1500 to learn. At the time, I thought it was the biggest joke and disappointment I had to that point. I was disappointed in Moltmann, my professor for putting me through that mess, but mostly in myself for “not getting it.” Now, some 11 years later, I find myself still struggling with disappointment. It rocks my world every time. I get disappointed in people, the church, life’s uncontrollable events, and mostly me. I am way low in adaptability in my strengths. I freeze when something surprises me, I have no wit or quick come backs for a joke, and most frustrating is when something unjust happens in front of me and I go blank as I wait to figure out what my response will be. As I am learning to embrace my inner workings, I am still met with why disappointment rocks my soul. And that haunting Moltmann sentence comes back to me: We can only hope for that which God has already promised us, and that was Jesus.
I am disappointed because I hoped in something. I hoped in everything that is flawed, that could and will let me down. Of course, I know I am not center of the universe, but somehow I seem to easily put myself there. I hoped that a friend wouldn’t hurt me or let me down, I hoped that I could find consistency this week as I tried to feed my body the nutrition it so deserves, I hoped and trusted that the church people would act like lovers of Jesus, I hoped for stability in the midst of a calling in the military, and even what I thought was most important- that God had my back. We will be disappointed every time. We will be discouraged every time. As much as it pains me to say it, Moltmann was right. The only thing we can put our hope in is what God has already done. There are no new promises from God because His Word introduced his desire for us, revealed a promise of reconciling all things to him, and delivered. And the delivery of His son Jesus answered every disappointment, every fear, every bit of suffering we would ever feel in that Jesus brings us back to God. He has made it so that I cannot even trust my own ability to be consistent, because only He is. He is stable, loving, all knowing, and full of grace for when we slip away to think of ourselves more than Him. Romans 5:2, “And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. … And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love in to our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”
I love that the Holy Spirit is mentioned here. The disappointment that I struggle with is when things don’t go the way I wanted them to go and I fail to give timely grace. Life, though, is full of all kinds of hurt and disappointments. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift of counsel and wisdom. Without a humble, dependent reliance on God, we will not hear the Spirit clearly. It is the Spirit that convicts my pride for thinking that I could do it on my own strength, that reminds me in the middle of my prayerful complaining that my disappointment was because I trusted too much in the imperfection of the world. Yet, it is also the Spirit who counsels in wisdom that humility does not equal living with a victim mentality. On the contrary, it means trusting in the fulfilled promise of Jesus that we are free from strongholds that keep us from intimacy with our Creator. We are freed to mov actively in obedience as we love others, stand up for truth, and sometimes have to walk away from people or things that seek to teach otherwise.
“Forgive me Jesus, for trusting in my own strength instead of relying on yours. Forgive me for pridefully thinking that life was about how happy I am, or what I get to do. Forgive me for being self centered as I beat myself up for thinking I disappoint you instead of fully embracing your grace and mercy and rejoicing in your love and acceptance pouring over my soul, stilling my heart. Forgive me for not accepting how you created me and living it out fully for your glory. Forgive my unforgiving heart as I have held on to past disappointments from others when I should have seen it was my own sin of putting hope and trust into people instead of you and your plan. Thank you for using my disappointments to develop character in me that learns to look to you and develop patience in life. Thank you for “having my back”, but not in the way it will serve me- but glorify you. With authority, given to me by you, Jesus, I rebuke any stronghold that distracts my view of you. I will uphold your truth, seek to humbly rest in your gift of closeness and refuge, and ask for your strength and consistency, so that I can speak of your unfailing love and forgiveness in the midst of my imperfection and sin. Help me to actively walk in your love, and hope in Jesus.”