Disappointment Is Never Neutral

“Sin lives in a costume; that’s why it’s so hard to recognize. The fact that sin looks so good is one of the things that make it so bad. In order for it to do its evil work, it must present itself as something that is anything but evil” ~ Paul Tripp[1]

“Recalling and confessing our sin is like taking out the garbage: once is not enough” ~ Cornelius Plantinga[2]

We don’t like having our sin pointed out. It’s not fun. So we try to run away from it. We try not to think about it. We “suppress it” (Rom. 1:18). This is why I find it so odd when I meet Christians who openly confess their sins, who openly admit their failures. It’s not because they’re failing to take their sin seriously. Not at all. Rather, it’s because they’ve been freed from trying to impress people, freed from trying to put on a façade and make everyone else think they’ve got it all together.

I heard the Christian hip hop artist Json do this a while back. As anyone vaguely familiar with Christian hip hop knows, Lecrae is the most famous artist who openly confesses being a Christian. So it’s a pretty big deal to be invited to go on tour with him. However, when Lecrae when on tour a couple of years ago, he didn’t ask his friend JSon to go with him. In an interview with Wade-O, JSon admitted to being disappointed because he wasn’t asked to accompany Lecrae. If I remember correctly, he said it was a blow to his pride.

Why do we get disappointed? Jon Bloom says that disappointment is similar to anger: It’s not necessarily a sin, but it can be.[3] When we fail to get something we want, or when things in our lives don’t work out as we had hoped, we get disappointed. At those moments it’s appropriate to pause and ask ourselves, “Why am I disappointed?” Sad to say, in my own life my disappointment often has its roots in selfishness. I get disappointed if I don’t get the approval of someone; or I get disappointed if someone’s not impressed with something I’ve said or written.

These are sinful reasons to be disappointed because they stem from “selfish ambition,” which, as James tells us is “not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice” (James 3:15-16). My disappointment is rooted in unbelief. I fail to believe that God is for me and not against me. I believe he’s withholding good from me even though his Word says, “no good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11).

I often tell my congregation that one of our most common sins as fallen creatures is trying to satisfy eternal longings with temporal pleasures. One of those “temporal pleasures” is the praise of man. O to what lengths we go to hear others sing our praises! O to what lengths we go to make others think we’re something special! Surely Solomon was right: “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise” (Prov. 27:21).

Such longing for human praise is folly. Medieval writer Bernard of Clairvaux said, “It is folly and extreme madness always to be longing for things that not only can never satisfy but even blunt the appetite; however much you have of such things, you still desire what you have not yet attained; you are always restlessly sighing after what is missing.”[4]

Follow your disappointment to the root cause and fight to believe the promises of God.

[1] Paul Tripp, Whiter than Show: Meditations on Sin and Mercy (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008), 32.

[2] Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be: A Breviary of Sin (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), x.

[3] Jon Bloom, Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith (Wheaton: Crossway, 2013), 50.

[4] Bernard of Clairvaux, “On Loving God,” in Bernard of Clairvaux: Selected Works, ed. Emilie Griffin, tr., G. R. Evans (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1987), 69.

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