This is a guest post from our dear friend Ty Kindermann, a Texas Tech alum and enthusiast, fan of all things Star Wars, and Student Life Strategist. You can follow him on Twitter at @ty_kindermann.
Conversations with my mom don’t always stick with me for days afterwards, but when they do I take note.
It was a Wednesday. I remember because on Wednesdays I have margin to take a walk, should the weather permit, and on this particular Wednesday I was enjoying the sun. That fact that it was a Wednesday is also significant because on Wednesdays my mom and dad host a number of international college students at their house. My mom works for a ministry organization that focuses on the international students enrolled at our local colleges. Her Wednesday night meals are weekly bible studies.
My mom said she was cooking for “almost 17…but it’s hard not to be discouraged.” This caught my attention. 17? Discouraging? I pressed for more information. She said, “Well 17 say they’ll come, but maybe 2 or 3 actually do—it’s discouraging.” Without thinking I responded, “Sounds disappointing.” She agreed. Then I continued, “I think there’s a difference between disappointment and discouragement.” “Really?” She said, “What do you mean?” I stopped in my tracks. Ah…now mom, we have a question on our hands.
Human beings are responsive beings. Most everything you do—physically, emotionally, mentally, etc.—is a response to something else. We react. Disappointment is the natural reaction to unmet desires. It can involve elements of grief, sorrow, even pain. Discouragement on the other hand is an acceptance of that disappointment as truth.
Disappointment comes from broken desires or expectations. We are excited for a particular movie to break through and bring new life to the franchise…then we watch it. We hope 17 show up for our dinner, and only 3 do. Now this isn’t a post about the significance or insignificance of numbers—I’ll leave that to the Contrarians—but this is about response.
We become discouraged when we can no longer see the light at the end of the tunnel. When the lamp goes out and we cannot fathom it coming on again. It is here in the dark where discouragement takes root and hope begins to fade. The difference is in the belief—the trust. More accurately, the root of said trust.
Disappointment is not permanent. There are other movies, other Wednesdays, and quite honestly most often, new desires and expectations take root to push the old ones away. Mostly, we see the hope. Next Wednesday, more could show up. Next time, maybe they won’t edit the film on IMovie! (I can dream right?) The heart of disappointment is not rooted in the broken desires; it’s rooted in the recognition that there is a bigger hope yet to be fulfilled.
Discouragement rejects that hope. Discouragement accepts the lie that all is lost and hope is dead. This is where the enemy wants us to live—sulking in our dark corner.
Discouragement is a powerful manipulator; disappointment is an encouraging motivator.
Remember that we are responsive beings; our circumstances and context influence us greatly. Disappointment takes a stick and pokes our broken desires—acknowledging that something is wrong, that something did not go right. This in turn motivates us to find (or turn to) that which can resolve the tension and prevent future disappointment.
On the other hand, discouragement manipulates our reactions towards sorrow and inaction. We lose hope in any possible future preventing of our broken desires, and fully accept the circumstances we find ourselves in—this can lead towards a deep darkness.
If you were to take off my watch, worn on my right hand, you’d find an inscription bored into my skin: Joshua 1:9. Glance just up from that wrist you’d find my middle finger bearing a ring of the same inscription: Joshua 1:9. This is my favorite verse. “Have I not commanded you—be strong and courageous? Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you always.” Powerful words.
Herein lies the redemptive aspect of our post today. In our disappointment we recognize that God is bigger than any desire or expectation we have fabricated. Sure we hoped for it to be fulfilled, we have been blessed to be creative and intuitive beings—of course we have desires. The pivotal point lies; however, when those desires fail. Our natural reactive nature kicks in—we become disappointed—but the ultimate truths, which we have known and are taught through the Holy Spirit, take over. Christ’s promises never fail. Christ is always with us.
Joshua 21:45. Hebrews 10:23. 1 Thessalonians 5:24. God is faithful to fulfill His promises. We need not be discouraged in our walk that this truth might fail. Rather we are commanded by God to not be discouraged, to be strong and courageous!
Discouragement comes in believing the lies of the enemy who tries to manipulate us towards darkness and hopelessness. But remember Hebrews 10:23—“He who promised is faithful.” This doesn’t mean next Wednesday 17 will show up, but it does mean we serve a God who is faithful despite the attendance. It doesn’t mean every desire and expectation will eventually come to fruition, but it does mean God’s word is trust worthy and His actions are true.
Disappointment may come, but it is in how we respond that reveals our root and foundation. Do we trust the Lord Jesus Christ that His promises are true? Do we trust Him in our calling to press on despite the number of guests on a Wednesday? Do we believe God?
We are commanded 10 different times in scripture not to be discouraged, preceded by do not be afraid. Each time a truth about the Lord follows. When discouragement knocks on your door, remember that our Lord is faithful, remember that our Lord is with us, remember that His word remains true. There is hope because Christ is King and death has been defeated. This is what we are to hold to as responsive beings. This is our response. Run towards Christ, His word, and His promise—for they are strong.
Finally, when disappointment calls, remember that this is healthy and natural. We are emotional beings, broken desires and expectations will come. Do not run from disappointment. Welcome it. Embrace the response as it turns you towards one who never fails and is always faithful. In Christ we are never disappointed. In Christ we can stand strong. Turn to Him for in Him is hope.