Disappointment, Rejection and Betrayal, and Reasonable Expectations
February 28, 2019
by Andrè Van Mol, MD
My senior pastor instructs that successful Christian living—I would add “or any successful life”—requires being prepared for the inevitability of disappointment, rejection and betrayal. Expectation is not fixation but preparation. The aim is not to sour you on life, but to bullet proof you a bit from its down side and to recognize the prize God provides through it.
Expectations can clear the way for discouragement or motivation depending on their balance and squaring with reality. Anticipating little but the negative from people, relationships and the work place tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. As that negativity leads to unforgiveness and bitterness, we can become the nay-saying, snarling jerks that invite what we then self-servingly consider persecution. Silly, right? Why go there? To the other extreme, expecting nothing but success, victory, acceptance and credit is another formula for crash and burn. Life is messy at times, usually at inconvenient ones, and if you know and expect that, it’s a big help.
Disappointment occurs whenever things don’t work out as well as we had hoped. Simple enough. It can occur on any day and is more likely as we attempt things, particularly new ones. Learning curves involve an element of disappointment. Maxims abound to address this: when you fall down, get up, shake off the dirt, and keep going; the skier who is falling is the one improving; never give up, never surrender; and so forth. Disappointment is not that tough to overcome.
Rejection stings more, as it always involves relationships, often with people who matter much. My pastor emphasizes that rejection is the stepping stone to spiritual advancement. There is divine purpose in difficulty, aka the back door to the promotion. But before honor is humility (Proverbs 15:33, NKJV), and rejection is assuredly humbling. We don’t have to like it, but we need to prepare for it. The temptation is to cut corners and compromise, but if a person, group or culture rejects us as Christians for upholding godly standards, they won’t suddenly respect us for scuttling them either.
Joseph, Moses, David and Paul are cases in point. The first three are grand Old Testament (Tanakh) examples of the favor of God, but that same favor looked different early on than when in full bloom. Joseph was blessed with jealous brothers, a brief stay in a pit, being traded into slavery and an extended incarceration in a charming Egyptian prison on the false charge of attempted rape before being the second-in-command of Egypt. Moses got a bit of desert R&R and lots of bad face time with Pharaoh prior to leading the children of Israel out of slavery. Even then he met rejection from his own before bringing down the Ten Commandments and directing the Hebrew people to the Promised Land. David was rejected by Saul (who liked to hurl things when feeling testy), rejected by the Philistines and rejected by his own band of rejects before becoming the great king. Paul in the book of Acts alone was expelled from regions (13:50); stoned, dragged and left for dead (14:19); beaten with rods of the sort that break things (16:22); and imprisoned (16:23). A Roman holiday or Club Med of a different kind.
Betrayal hurts the worst. Jesus said, “You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:16-19, NKJV). He is thought to have been speaking of the End of the Age, but many have experienced this over the millennia. The example of betrayal here is rather big league, but if such can be par for the course, lesser interpersonal examples of a kiss from Judas are assured. In Matthew 10:24, Jesus taught, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (NKJV).
Betrayals are gut punches one and all. For some they are not just showstoppers but career enders, even where their walk with God and belief in Him aborts—and this is needless. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. It is rare to see treachery coming, but it is incapacitating to preoccupy yourself by thinking it lurks around every corner. Simple awareness of its possibility and that one is not alone in the experience is strengthening.
Disappointment, rejection and betrayal happen along the way of life, particularly the Christian one. God puts them to good use in preparing us for spiritual advancement and promotion in His kingdom. Be prepared for them without obsessing over them. When you experience them, remember you are not alone. Do confide in trusted siblings in Christ and also cast your cares upon the Lord who already cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). To focus on what we perceive God is not doing—“How could a loving God let this happen?!”—is faith impairing. To meditate on what God is actually doing makes each day a feast, even in the midst of downturns.