Tuesday, January 16, 2018

When Snow Doesn't Fall: Six Ways to Deal with the Disappointment of Unmet Expectations

Last night, the local TV station reported a winter weather advisory with a band of  snow approaching Northeast Mississippi. My home is sandwiched between the areas expected to get 1/2 - 2 inches of snow and 1-3 inches. It would start, the forecast said, around 2 am. Snow would hamper our morning travel.

I, along with snow-loving children of all ages, went to bed expecting a scene of fluffy white this morning. I awakened before 5 am and thought, "SNOW!!!" What a disappointment it was to look outside and see the usual brown winterscape and patchy remnants of ice.

My dogs were both miserable during the recent ice storm. They hated walking on the cold, slick layer. Mamie stopped after only a few steps and refused to go even an inch further.

Snow, however, is a different story. Maggie's experienced a big snowfall before. She loved bounding through soft, powdery snow. I think Mamie would love it, too. 

There isn't any snow, though, and I'm surprisingly disappointed. It's moving slower than expected, the morning forecaster said, and it'll be here in a couple of hours. 

Snow's coming, or so they say.

I've been disappointed about snowfall before. I don't know whether to hope or not, so I'm proceeding with my morning routine, doubtful it will be disrupted.

Expectations bring excitement and energy. They're fun, until they're not. Unmet expectations break our heart, fuel anger, and breed bitterness, don't they? We've all had them: 

- the job offer we expected but didn't receive
- the cancer that wasn't cured
- the raise we hoped for that wasn't given
- the child who strayed
- the pregnancy that never happened
- the spouse who wouldn't go the distance
- the death that came too soon
- the health that didn't last

What we expect isn't always what we receive. When the unexpected and unwanted arrives, we can greet it one of two ways. Accept its arrival with anticipation that God will use it in a positive way in our lives or allow anger and disappointment to direct our responses. It's all too easy to become bitter and push away those who would comfort us and help us through.

How, then, can we deal with disappointment in a more productive way?

1. Start by giving thanks for the positive blessings we've already received: A roof over our heads, warmth in cold weather, food on our tables, friends or family who love us, a God who never leaves us nor forsakes us. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

2. Release anger quickly. According to an article cited by Webmd.com, people with unresolved anger issues are 19% more likely to have a heart attack. Seething anger is accompanied by a cascade of consequences that can be worse than the disappointment we've experienced. Choose to let go of anger and replace it with peace. (Ephesians 4:26) 

3. Look for the lesson in the disappointment. Is our health issue due to poor choices? What can we learn? How can we make better choices going forward? Was our raise denied? Is there something different that might make it a possibility later? (James 1:2-5)

4. Embrace change. It's easy for suddenly-widowed women to be overwhelmed by the increase in responsibilities and physical work that must be done. Choose to learn new skills. Missing a promotion may be an opportunity to start a side-business of your own. Try a new health skill. Walk a little further every day. Maybe God's doing a new thing. It'd be a shame to miss it. (Isaiah 43:19) 

5. Grieve well. If the unmet expectation is a result of loss or death, take time to grieve. Give yourself extra grace. Tears will come at the most unexpected times. Let them fall. Navigating through grief takes time. Don't get in a hurry. (Lamentations 3:31-33) 

6. Choose hope. As believers, our hope is in Christ alone. We look to a future in heaven when we'll be reunited with all those we love. Healing will come. Joy will return. Hang on to hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13) 

We all experience the disappointment of unmet expectations. How we respond to the hard times determines, in large measure, how life will look on the other side of hurt, sorrow, or loss. We can allow our faith to sustain us. We can demonstrate the power of the light of Christ to a dark and lonely world. We can, if we will. 

"Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert." Isaiah 43:19 esv
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: MLK Day: On Making a Difference By Taking a Stand

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