Not getting what you’ve rightfully earned through hard work creates a difficult situation for even the most emotionally mature among us. From the small things in life (like investing hours to pick out the perfect gift for a recipient who doesn’t fully appreciate it) to the big things in life (such as spending six months on a project in order to earn a promotion that someone else receives instead of you, ouch!), we have all felt the crushing blow of being completely unrewarded, unfulfilled, and unappreciated for our precious time, labors and conscientious efforts.
The disappointment of experiencing a miserable outcome despite a lot of hard work is fresh on my mind today, so trust me when I tell you that I’m preaching to myself. As I type this, my wrists and back are killing me. Why? Because I spent 90 minutes last night (in the dark) and another 90 minutes this morning (at the crack of dawn) trying to prevent my driveway from becoming an ice skating rink. For those of you reading this in warmer climates, just know that shoveling a combination of snow, sleet and freezing rain means lifting what seems like a ton each time. And yet, for all that hard work and the subsequent pain, I still have a driveway that is not even walkable with safety spikes added to my shoes. As Lucy would say in Peanuts cartoons, “AAAAARRRRRGGGHHHH!”
Of course, this disappointment is minor and temporary compared to being overlooked for a promotion, losing an important relationship, or the many other more serious and hurtful failures and rejections that life throws at us. My driveway fiasco will be a problem for several weeks, but you may be facing a disappointment that has made you never want to work hard for anything or anyone again. And I know how that feels too, but the remedy for dealing with either situation is the same regardless of its scale, longevity or damage level. That’s because we all go through the same emotional stages following a letdown, and our reaction during each stage then determines two things: (1) how quickly we will feel better, and (2) how much our character and maturity will be refined to become better equipped for next time. If our reactions are not healthy, then we get cranky and distracted in the short term. If we hang on to those grievances for the long term, then bitterness eventually settles in and poison seeps into our hearts and eventually our relationships.
While your reactions to certain situations come from a host of complicated factors (too much for this post!), they are significantly influenced by your beliefs, perspectives, and willingness to let go of things you can’t control. And this is where the remedy lies. Let’s look at the ingredients for this prescription:
When your belief is rooted in the truth that “if God is for us, who can be against us,” and your perspective is that “all things work together for the good of those who love Him” (even if it doesn’t look like it), it helps you more easily muster the willingness to let go of control and be more forgiving.
So here’s where I get to tell you some fantastic news. Whatever hard work you put into learning how to deal with disappointments, it will never return void. The better you get at it, the more you’ll be set free to enjoy the precious time you have and not spend any more of it stewing, fretting, pouting, trying to exert control, or overanalyzing. You’ll be happier. You’ll have more time for others, and they’ll want to spend more time with you.
When you do everything as for the Lord, it will always bear fruit. It may not look like what you expected or show up when you thought it would. That promotion you didn’t get might have been the best thing in the end because you spent more time with your kids before they grew up. Whether big or small, any effort you make can be entrusted to God for the best outcome. Case in point, almost a decade ago, I devoted countless volunteer hours to helping a friend launch a non-profit. I’d come home after a long day at the office, only to stay up well into the night to work on presentations, strategy documents, and participate in conference calls. Then after about six months, they didn’t need my expertise any more. I had done all I could do. At first, I was devastated. All that hard work to not be a part of a new organization I helped launch. Thank goodness, I released it to God and trusted that He would put my efforts to good use, even if I never saw the results. If I had become bitter, I also would’ve lost those relationships. Now, all these years later, I work part-time for that very organization. And the timing couldn’t have been more perfect – certainly not according to my plans, but clearly according to God’s. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “I know the plans I have for you … to give you a hope and a future.” That means even when nothing goes according to my plans, I surrender to His plans. Better yet, I seek His plans before I come up with my own. I choose to trust Him that my efforts will be used wisely. His promises then color my perspective for the better. And because I know that someone else works in my favor – the Bible even says He fights for me – I can let go of control. That’s how the remedy works.
As for my driveway, well, that situation just stinks. But God keeps reminding me that my attitude and my perspective don’t have to do the same. In this case, I can’t imagine how my hard work is going to benefit me in any manner, but I don’t have to let it ruin my day or spoil the quality time I can have with my husband this evening. When we get sick, we can choose to take the prescription or not. It’s the same with God’s remedy. We have to choose it. And while it doesn’t come naturally, it will definitely make us feel better a lot faster.
Random musings, heartfelt confessions, and occasionally inspirational thoughts from a hungry soul in pursuit of the One who set the stars in place yet calls me by name.
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