In preparation for dinner Saturday, I turned on the Pandora “Hymns” channel. Soon we were listening to American Idol runner-up David Archuleta singing “Be Still My Soul” (complete with his Mariah Careyesque trill on various long notes). He sings it sincerely. It has been a comforting song since the 1850’s and I was comforted.
Be still, my soul: the hour is hast’ning on
when we shall be forever with the Lord,
when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past,
all safe and blessed we shall meet at last.
David is 26 now. He’s got a little more depth since he’s returned from his Mormon mission in Chile. He’s already had a long career. He started singing since at ten when he was inspired by a recording of Les Miserables (he later sang some of it for soldiers in Afghanistan). He was runner up for American Idol ten years ago — Utah was disappointed he did not win. His father was banned from the Idol backstage, then he was caught in a prostitution sting and then he was divorced. So David has faced some Utah-sized disappointment of his own. Spending most of your life in a Disneyfied atmosphere would be difficult enough.
He’s popular in the Philippines and other Asian countries. An interviewer there says “Helping and inspiring others, particularly those who are undergoing depression, has become a big part of David’s purpose in life. He admits that he himself went through a phase when he was depressed due to being bullied in school.” He told her, “Even when I was little, I’ve always had self-confidence issues. I got bullied and I was known as the quiet kid. I sat by myself during lunch and I would be made fun of. I was socially awkward. I think feeling good enough was something I always wondered.” Sometimes he gets on stage and looks like he is being bullied — most of the time, not so much.
We’re all disappointed sometimes
So even though he can sing like an angel, David Archuleta carries some disappointment with him and fears more of it, just like us. And like Mormons, Buddhists, Muslims, and us he’s looking forward to a time “when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.”
Jesus followers look forward to a time when God
“will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
Some of us were ten-year-olds who become entranced by Les Mis and grew up to become talented optimists — most of us didn’t. We need God to save us from disappointment. We need to find some exultation, like Peter expressed when he wrote,
“In his great mercy [God] has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
One day, the joy we have experienced in flashes will be the light in which we live. But even now we know our hope is not in vain because Jesus has delivered the first fruit of our future by rising from the dead, as we will.
I was inspired by the great hymn, by David, by John and Peter (and a little by Les Mis). So I am reminding us to hope. We have all experienced disappointment. Some of it has been severe, lately. Divorces depress more people than just the partners divorcing. Being cut off by former friends hurts. People have resigned their covenant with the church. Some people refuse to reconcile. We have not succeeded in all our goals. No amount of Disney-like happy talk or Archuleta pop confection will overcome what we feel for long. For the long–haul of difficult lives, we need Jesus.
Feeling better is not all up to you
When I say that we need Jesus, many Christians interpret that to mean, “I need a trust upgrade.” They have been taught that if they feel something or suffer something it denotes a lack of faith. They must want something more than Jesus. The idea is: Jesus is our treasure and if we want something else, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. It is no wonder so many church people are so controlling, they are supposed to control their behavior so they will feel good! They need to get some treasure and protect it! There is something to be said for that strategy, but not much. It is true that if we keep doing dumb stuff, things won’t work out well. If we never get mentally and spiritually healthy, life will be difficult. If we are self centered, we will get ourselves and that’s it. But we’ll never be smart enough or healthy enough to avoid our share of disappointment, failure and grief. Stuff has already happened and more is coming.
If all you want is to be the American Idol and you don’t win you’ll lose hope. (99.99% of singers beware). You might even blame God for not giving you the desires of your heart, as supposedly promised. If you are responsible for making Utah feel better because you win the contest, you might even feel responsible for a great deal of disappointment in the world. In Circle of Hope, this can be translated: people got divorced, people left the church, people were fighting, I/we/God must suck.
I am so taken with the Lord’s vision for the world, I face disappointment every day. I am working with Jesus for transformation and it hasn’t happened just liked I wanted, has it? I keep allowing myself to be flabbergasted by the sin and death at work in the world, even though another load of it will be delivered in the news tomorrow, fake news or not. What do we do when the sorrow hits? When friends desert us? When we are not so smart? When our plans don’t work out?
I don’t think we should get smaller until we think we can keep things under control better. I think we should be as big as we are in the Spirit and start again right now, in resurrection hope. It is an everyday thing.
Six ways to deal with disappointment
Here are some things I collected for my journey after I bumped into David Archuleta on Pandora. If you are disappointed, there are some things you can try.
Singing is a perfect way to pray. It reorients body, mind, heart and soul in a common direction toward our source of hope. Try David’s hymn. Sing along, or just be still and know God is with you.
- Talk to someone.
That’s what David Archuleta tells depressed Malaysian teenagers to do. He’s right. If you are 35-50 and you think you should know better, have lost the friends you used to talk to, are feeling marriage strains, you must not stay alone. Take a risk and talk about how you feel. A psychotherapist could help.
- Visit the Bible again.
You might just be on the endless loop of yourself inside. Just meditating on the two portions of the Bible quoted above might throw a wrench in the works and put you on a different track. If your spiritual disciplines seem to have failed, they might just need some deepening. Try something else. Take a day off and ask some deeper questions than you usually have time for. When you’re done reading this, blank out the screen and turn your face towards God.
- Listen to your suffering.
My experience has taught me that disappointment is a great teacher. If we are going through a seasonal (not chronic) depression, resisting it or anesthetizing it with something won’t get me anywhere. If you are blaming someone (or something, like injustice or Trump) you’d better reel that in and meditate on your own development in the safe place you have with God.
5. Let the past go and start from here.
This is the exciting news Peter was so happy about when he wrote his letter. He has a famous role in the story of the last days of Jesus. He was disappointed and distraught by the Lord’s death. He was disappointing, too, because he did not have the stuff to face his fears. But he got restarted after the resurrection.
We don’t know exactly what is going to happen. The future is always foggy. But we have the risen Savior with us, and that is our security. No matter what we have done, or what has happened to us, today is a beginning with Jesus. It will always feel like things are in the way, but there is no good reason, at least, not to take a first step again.
6. Bless the people who leave you on their way.
As a church, we prize our community and we let people into our love. So we get hurt — a lot. Some people get hurt and solve the problem of feeling bad by restricting or shutting off their love. We try not to do that, even when it is tempting. We hope we can suffer with Jesus and gain a resilient heart that can keep following in his way until the end. Even though our numbers are growing, people are always leaving, and it never feels good. We get connected. It is tempting to shut our doors, so we never have to feel left.
I think Jesus is an open door/open tomb kind of person. He blesses those who curse him. I think we should always keep the back door open to anyone we have loved. They might return. Besides, getting even or cutting off is not what we do. (I’m not talking about unrepentant people who have abused us, or people on whom we are unhealthily dependent). Slamming the door in self-protection is not what Jesus does to us, even though we aren’t the best of friends for Him.
But even more than managing our back door, we should turn toward the front door. There are six million people in the metro, a few of them, no doubt, would love to be invited into your life. We are never just our past, we are always looking with confidence into the future. The past is gone, the new has come, and is coming. Look for the people who are new to you with the wisdom you are carrying now, as the person you have become, and move into the next phase of your life.
Making six points about something makes it look easy or predictable! Our future and our feelings are not going to be easy and they are seldom predictable. But the love of God in Jesus is evident and permanent. And the promise in the old song, sung by a young man, and often heard in our meetings is consistent:
Be quiet and listen for the assurance.
It won’t be long until we receive in full what we know in part.
One day disappointment, grief, and fear will be gone;
the tears will be wiped away and our living hope will be kissed by joy.
Be quiet and listen for the assurance.
Change and sorrow will be part of the journey
but we will arrive home safe and blessed.