Recently Stephen and I spoke at one of our supporting churches in Winter Park, Colorado. Clearly it is one of the most beautiful places to connect and minister ;-) It makes me miss living in Colorado so much!
The Pastor asked us to share a little bit from our experiences in this season and on the topic of how to overcome disappointment. We have faced a lot of trials, mainly in physical health in the short time we’ve been married. We’ve walked through a lot of disappointment in this season in plain view of others, but some of the darkest moments we’ve been alone and have learned a lot to help others through their challenges. We want you to know that you’re not alone!
Here’s the main passage that we used in Luke Chapter 24 to illustrate a few points on how one can overcome disappointment.
Read for reference LUKE 24:13-35
13 Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven mile from Jerusalem. 14 They were talking with each other about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16 but they were kept from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast. 18 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
19 “What things?” he asked.
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place.22 In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning23 but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. 24 Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.”
25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.
28 As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. 29 But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
30 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
This is one of the most powerful chapters in the whole New Testament. It was the resurrection, the premise of the Christian faith! It should have been an exciting day.
Jesus has been preparing his disciples: “And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” Luke 18:31-34 ESV
It was almost like these two men had their fingers in their ears saying “la la la… I can’t hear you.”
They don’t understand what Jesus is saying. They had their own ideas of how things are supposed to happen. Not too unlike any of us, they wanted God to do things in a certain way at a certain time.
Their expectations of what they thought Jesus meant were disappointed by what actually transpired.
“But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.”Luke 24:21
Maybe they thought that He was setting up a kingdom, that He was going to drive out the romans, eliminate the heavy taxes, and that Jesus would be the president of a new empire and they would all have cabinet positions. It would be payback time!
That’s not what Jesus did. He hung on a cross for the redemption of sin.
Was Jesus the one to redeem? Yes, but there are two different definitions of what “redemption” looks like.
When their experience didn’t match their expectation, they experienced disappointment and extreme disillusionment. When we experience disappointment, we can fall into the same mindset.
Here’s a look at a 3 things we’ve learned to do to overcome the ongoing residual effect of disappointment.
1- We must overcome the tendency towards cynicism and unbelief:
Faith is the central premise of Christianity.
“…the just shall live by FAITH”
Romans 1, Galatians 3, Hebrews 11, Habakkuk 2 are all clear teachings on faith.
We often look at faith in the primary area of acceptance and adherence to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet there needs to be an ongoing continual walk in our daily lives.
The two towns, Jerusalem and Emmaus are only 7 miles apart. This shows us they’re walking not by faith, but by sight.
They had lost faith in what Jesus had said.
It was Resurrection day. The women had found a rolled away stone. Jesus’ body wasn’t in the tomb. They had a vision of angels with a message that he was alive. It’s the third day. Peter only found the grave-clothes.
These two men would’ve known these things, yet they were walking AWAY from Jerusalem because they didn’t believe.
There was a lingering effect from being wounded by disappointment. God didn’t live up to their expectations of what they thought He would do or HOW they thought He would do things.
Recently I (Bailey) cut my tendon on my right index finger while scooping out coconut milk from a can. I had surgery to permanently stitch the tendon and the scar on the surface has healed really well. The surgeon and my therapists aren’t as concerned about the tendon rupturing again or the finger being permanently damaged. They’re concerned that the scar tissue would form too much and entrap the tendon and nerves around the repair causing a greater injury than the initial cut.
I thought about how wounds in our lives can be like this. Maybe we are removed from the situation that caused the initial hurt, but the residual effects of the wound can keep growing.
Scar tissue is a great reminder that you can’t always see someone’s pain. On the surface you or someone else might look alright, but you never know what’s going on in someone’s heart.
God wants us to come to Him with our questions and our pain. He is not your problem, He is your provision for healing.
“Come, and let us return to the LORD; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up.”- Hosea 6:1
“For I will restore health to you And heal you of your wounds,’ says the LORD.”-Jeremiah 30:17
2-We must overcome a tendency to isolate ourselves from healthy relationships and from God:
When people get wounded and hurt the tendency is to pull back and retreat.
We see this with these two guys left the larger body of believers that they were connected to. We know from the book of Acts, that there were 120 gathered together on the day of Pentecost. That means that there were at least 118 other disciples that could have encouraged them and ministered to them. Yet we read that they are by themselves on a road to Emmaus and apparently lonely enough to talk with a stranger about their woes.
With every step they’re walking further and further away from people who could encourage their faith.
The problem with isolation is that you make yourself more vulnerable to the enemy.
Instead of isolating ourselves, we need to stay connected to the body of Christ.
Luke 5:17-26 tells the story of the paralytic man being lowered to the ground.
There were 4 friends who did whatever it took to get their friend to Jesus’ feet.
The weight of carrying another person is not easy.
That stretcher required 4 people.
We need to be willing to go beyond our own comforts to help people in their trials.
Set in place some healthy relationships in your life now so that when storms come there are some people strong enough around you who will carry you back to Jesus.
We need to ask ourselves: what kind of friend are we to others?
Are we the kind who when people are isolating themselves that we pursue them anyway?
Are we moved in compassion to help those hurting around us?
Are we willing to tear through roofs and do whatever it takes to get them to the feet of Jesus?
It’s a lot easier to point our fingers and start blabbing our mouths instead of carrying someone’s weight as they face disappointment and isolation. We can speak words of life and encouragement to prevent them from discrediting Jesus’ love for them.
You need to know that even if you feel no one is there to “carry” you, that you’re not alone.
What is so beautiful about this story on the road to Emmaus is that even though other friends and disciples aren’t with these two guys, Jesus is. He comes at a critical time and intercepts their unbelief with truth. He reveals Himself to them even when they’ve cut themselves off.
Cleopas’ name is never mentioned anywhere else in the Bible and it’s a unique point that Jesus knows your name and where you’re at with your faith and will always be pursuing you to remind you that He is faithful.
HE IS NOT TURNED OFF BY OUR QUESTIONS OR BY OUR WEAKNESS. He instead meets us in our weakness and reveals Himself to us.
You also have to know who He is and who He says you are in seasons of abundance so that when storms come, you know the truth.
In a season of disappointment, everyone will give their opinion on who God is and what is happening to you. The first person who will knock at your door is the enemy. If we don’t learn to press in and learn the voice of God in seasons where we aren’t encountering as much resistance, we won’t clearly recognize the lies that the enemy throws at us when we’re being shaken. Others will speak to you about who Jesus is from their wounding and from their offenses so you have to know who He says He is and who you are in Him. Don’t allow distractions to keep you from building a firm foundation of hope and truth that keeps you from building upon the lies of self-hatred, condemnation and doubt.
You’ve got to as I like to say “bulk up” in the word during seasons where there aren’t as many storms. As athletes train for their sporting events in off seasons, we must bulk up and study God’s word and listen for His voice so we aren’t shaken when difficulty hits.
3- We must overcome the tendency to rush God’s purpose and timing:
In a day where our microwave can deliver our food to us in a matter of seconds, it is easy to find ourselves resistant to and inpatient with the timing of God.
We can’t impose our time-table over Gods sovereign purposes.
We see with these two guys that they rushed the promise Jesus made.
Jesus has made clear promises that on the third day that he would rise from the dead. It was the third day. They waited as long as they thought prudent. The roads would’ve been dangerous at night. It was 7 miles to Jerusalem to Emmaus. If they walked at a brisk pace of 15 minutes a mile or 4 mph, then it would take 1 hour 45 minutes to complete their journey. Jewish sunset is around 7 pm. So let’s say it was 5:15 pm when they started their journey. It’s clear that these men waited until what was likely the last possible minute that they would’ve waited before walking to Emmaus to arrive before dark.
Jesus is going to appear to the disciples later that night.
In a very real sense these guys were just hours away from their breakthrough!
Instead of waiting and holding onto promises, they forsake it all and walked away right before the moment of breakthrough.
To encourage you, His timing is always perfect.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,”-1 Peter 5:6
“At the proper time…”
When is that?
We may not know, but we can rest assure that He does.
When I (Stephen) was a senior in college, I was walking into the chapel on campus one day and clearly heard God say to me,” you’re going to meet you wife here”. I have honestly only heard something that clear a handful of times in my life. I walked into the chapel service that day thinking I’d “find her”. I looked for the pretty girls raising their hands in worship. I graduated that Spring and there was no wife. I moved back to Kenya and again there was no wife. I ended up moving to Burundi in the middle of a civil war and again, there was no wife. I pastored a church in Tanzania and by this point I’d long forgotten the word God spoke to me some ten years prior. I returned to the United States in the summer of 2010 and the next Spring I was asked to return to my alma mater to share a message with some college mission students. We met in that exact chapel building and there on the front row was this beautiful red-head sobbing while I shared stories of Kenya. I came to find out she has loved Kenya since she was a little girl and God moved on her heart that evening. We hit if off, began dating, and it wasn’t until we were engaged that I even remembered God’s word to me that day 11 years earlier.
His timing is always perfect and when we take the timing into our own hands, we can miss what He has for us.
We can see how we can relate to and learn from these two travelers. But why would Luke choose to conclude his book this way?
Well, here’s the rest of the story: resurrection was just warm up for Pentecost.
In other words Jesus wasn’t setting up a monument to His suffering; He was mobilizing a movement to reach the world.
The message of the resurrection wasn’t for the disciples alone; it was for the world.
That movement was going to be birthed in Jerusalem NOT Emmaus.
The Holy Spirit was going to fall in the upper room NOT in their supper room.
The crucial problem is that they were headed the wrong direction and were about to miss God’s purpose!
They needed to be reconnected to other believers.
They needed the spark of faith to be reignited.
They needed a new awareness of Gods timing and purpose.
In order for that to happen they needed a burning heart.
“They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”-Luke 24:32
Here’s the thought for us to take away from this story:
Our hearts can continually burn even during times of great sorrow and suffering.
The lie of the enemy is this: if you are going through tough times then your heart will invariably go cold or at least lukewarm.
Jesus shows us that’s not the case.
Jesus warns us that in the last days hearts would grow cold.
“And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.”Matthew 24:12
We are seeing it left and right in this hour. This isn’t the hour to be apathetic and slow of heart. This isn’t the hour of fear and indifference with double minded allegiance.
Jesus continually revels Himself to us so that our hearts might burn within even in hardships.
He’s doing this to bring about full healing in our lives so that we can then become His witnesses to the world.
“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”-Revelation 12:11
In order to live this scripture out and overcome disappointment, we must accept Jesus’ full work on the cross, share our testimony with others of what He’s done in us, and have a burning heart so that our lives are not our own.