We don’t get very far down the road of life without hitting disappointments. Some are like a bug on the windshield, some like potholes, some like a bridge out, and some like being blind-sided.

As children we may first suspect our disappointment is our parents’ fault when we can’t have that sleepover at Jimmy’s. Or, it’s our sister’s fault that we felt such disappointment when “she ate all the Captain Crunch. ” Maybe there was a time when we felt like Santa was the source of our biggest disappointment. To many children, of course, for these to be their only disappointments would be a dream come true.

As we move out of childhood, we are faced with proms, interviews, tryouts, auditions. We have little, everyday hopes about green traffic lights, details working out in our favor, work and school assignments, weather. We have secret hopes about relationships, acceptance, recognition. We have private hopes about marriage, pregnancy, finances, job changes. We have public hopes about recovery, healing, success in ministry or business, college admission. We even have some hopes that are so large and close to the heart that we have never had the courage to say them to ourselves.

We hear of overwhelmingly tragic events like the earthquake in Haiti and we recalibrate our disappointments somewhat, for a while.

We are not little children. We know life has disappointments.

But, the really big ones still take us by surprise, even when, or especially when, we have had one or two already. We can accept that God is at work in the smaller ones, or even the medium ones, teaching us patience and faith. But what about the ones that are life changing, the really important ones that we have been praying about for so long? God knows how important those are, right? We’ve talked about how that hope fits into the whole picture of our lives. We’ve talked with God about that picture. This is the death of an entire path. He knows, right?

But it still hits us, sometimes slowly sinking in, sometimes slapping us in the face.

Disappointment is a close cousin to grief. We grieve the loss of something not just because it is gone but because of its value. Disappointment, like grief, tells us what we value, what we love, what is good, what we want. The message of the emotion is not, “Now you know that what was lost is not important!” The message of the emotion is, “There is something of great value there! The good, beautiful, and valuable exists. You cannot deny it. I won’t let you deny it!” I do not believe, as some do, that the only reason we get disappointed is because we are mistaken in our desires.

We are created with an ability to recognize the good, beautiful and valuable, even the possible good, the possible beautiful, the possible valuable. I believe it is one part of an array of systems wired into us to help us recognize God, the ultimate good, beautiful, and valuable.

It would be a mistake to think in these times that God does not know. It would also be a mistake to say, “There was nothing good here after all. I was wrong. My desire was for something worthless.”

There are some who would tell us that the drive down the road of life is where we discover the ugly truth about what is wrong with the world. That does happen, but it is far from the central purpose. What if the purpose is to discover and recognize more and more, the good, beautiful, and valuable… and that this ability, this recognition, has been inherited from the One who is Good and Beautiful, and Valuable? That sounds like a much better reason to get behind the wheel.

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