The sermon this past Sunday came from the “Road to Emmaus” story in Luke’s gospel. Walking toward Emmaus on the day of the resurrection, two disciples were still grieving Jesus’ death and his body being moved. They were still not convinced that he has risen from the dead. Even when Jesus appeared to them, they continued by explaining to him all that had happened to cause their despair. Jesus called their attention to the Scripture and helped them see that this was God’s will, written in the Scriptures. It wasn’t until he broke bread with them that they recognized that this was Jesus, turning their attention from their woes and disappointment to the One who makes all things new.
Disappointment is an expected part of life, often because of misinterpretation and short-sightedness. Even Jesus said , “[God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45b). And if there is one thing I have learned in these short 53 years, it is that God’s purposes and possibilities are often lost on us, especially when we are not using that spiritual vision in our service to God.
Disappointment comes for several reasons, the first of which is when we set our hearts on circumstances. The plethora of wedding shows on TV demonstrates this truth. Every bride hopes for a beautiful, sunny day for her celebration, but when the rain and clouds arrive, it dampens her spirits. Then, already frustrated, she bites off the heads of those around her, as if they caused the rain.
Whether it rains one day or the next , or if it rains every day for a few weeks and floods the Mississippi, God still has a plan for each of our lives. What that plan is and how it can be lived out, however, is not as clear. You see, we are part of a very complex plan that, at any moment, is being fulfilled and/or frustrated around us. Our losses and/or gains are only a small part of that plan.
Consider the example of Job: A wealthy man, a giving man, a family man, but more than all of that, a spiritual man. Job served God and loved Him, and it was because of his serving God that his afflictions materialized. He was literally persecuted for his faith, losing everything, including his health. The circumstances of Job’s fall from earthly success included losing his children, his herds, and his possessions. Yet, in his pain and affliction, he kept his faith in God. Job’s wife challenged him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” However, Job did not curse God, but chose to “take the bitter with the sweet,” or recognize that in the fulfillment of God’s plan we will experience ups and downs, good and bad, rain and sunshine. The only constant is that God is faithful through it all.
A second reason for disappointment comes when we set our hearts on individuals instead of God. I have a friend who was very unhappily married. Every time we spoke she related how frustrated she was with her husband. He didn’t talk to her the right way. He didn’t give her the right gifts. He didn’t even show her affection the right way. She was miserable because she was expecting her Prince Charming to fulfill her emotional “holes,” a task that no human can fulfill on his or her own. Day by day she became more and more frustrated, until finally she decided that she had married out of God’s will and that this was not the right spouse for her, just because he didn’t do things her way.
The Bible repeatedly tells us to put our hope in God, not in people or circumstances. The psalmist prayed, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5). Again he declared, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him” (62:5).
The apostle Paul illustrates this truth in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” He doesn’t pray that your spouse or your parents will fill you with joy and peace, but the God of hope. He doesn’t even insinuate that your life circumstances give you these feelings of satisfaction, but that God would do so.
People and circumstances will disappoint us. They will bring challenges we don’t want to face, must less even know about. In the long run of God’s plan for each of us, we will find challenges to our faith and to our feelings of peace.
An old saying that is still around today says, “Just roll with it!” I think we can find some instruction from that phrase. First of all, a shape with hard corners and flat sides cannot roll. It will find its place and stay there. A sphere or circle, however, can roll because the hard corners are missing. When trials and frustrations come, God is shaving off those hard corners, so that we can “just roll with it,” no longer manipulated by the ups and downs of this life, but stabilized by the presence and strength of the God of hope.
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”
Mary Kay Glunt, Pastor