I clearly remember an incident with one of my boys a few years back. While I waited for him in the school parking lot, I could see from a distance that something was wrong. My heart sank, even before I knew the reasons. I watched his every step towards me, noticing how slumped his shoulders were and the sadness on his face. His steps seem to get slower and slower as he approached me, as if he didn’t want to express his pain aloud. Before he could respond to my greeting, he blurted out that he had been dropped from the rugby team. Between his sobs, I tried to reassure him that it would all be fine and then with a pain in my heart, I put my arms around him and gave him a big fatherly hug.
Every parent at some stage has to guide his or her child through dealing with disappointment. Your child comes home from school to tell you that they have experienced some set back during the day. It could be poor results in a recent exam, being dropped from their sports team, dealing with an issue with their friends or being on the receiving end of nasty gossip. When this happens to your kids, what is your reaction? Rushing off to try and stand up for them may be our gut-reaction, but is this the best for them in the long run? Will this teach them how to handle the next dose of disappointment? So, the question remains, how do we help them navigate a Godly path through disappointment?
Our children only need to look at the earthly life of Jesus to know that a decision to believe will not in some pseudo magical way protect them from disappointment. If one looks at the actions of the disciples, we can clearly see how they let Jesus down. Judas betrayed him, James and John argued about who was the greatest, Thomas doubted his resurrection. Jesus had to deal with pain, hurt and abandonment too. The reality of disappointment though should not give permission for some melancholic take on life and mistrust of people but rather remind them of the “I’ll never let you down” nature of God.
It was Simon Peter who promised to be by his side always, but when Jesus needed him most, Peter ran away and hid. In one of the post-Resurrection encounters (John 21), Jesus comes specifically to Peter and forgives him for turning his back on him. Peter’s betrayal did not stop Jesus from loving him and for believing the best of him. This teaches us that although people and circumstances will disappoint us, we can be reassured that Christ’s love will always remain constant. It’s never easy to try again with people who have disappointed but such is the way of love.
I can’t remember the exact words I spoke to my son the day he was dropped from his team, but I can tell you what I was feeling and thinking. I wanted all of my kids to know that their disappointments will not influence the love we have for them! We love our kids fiercely – no matter the marks in the exam, the team they play for, the friends who let them down or even the unfair gossip we may hear about them. Just as God loves me, despite the disappointments I bring with my faults, so my kids need to know that my love for them is immovable.
This theme reminds me of the words from the Apostle Paul, where he writes “and this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:5). To hope in the constant love of Jesus will never end in disappointment.