My niece will be turning 2, in 2months. As I watch her spunky and vivacious energetic spirit propel her to adventurously take risks only a toddler would (I’m talking trying to get off a 2 ½ foot breakfast stool unassisted), I’m hit with a sudden realisation. She is the embodiment of her parent’s hopes, dreams, ideas and prayers. Not only that; she is the embodiment of all society will tell her to be. She is the embodiment of her church family’s dreams for who she is to become. From infanthood the world; our family; the church; our schools; the government; pretty much everybody has an idea of how a fully functioning productive adult should turn out. Somehow these ideals go on to shape the hopes and dreams that we have for our lives.
Most of us can identify with some manner of an unfulfilled hope, milestone or dream that we’ve held onto for so long. Perhaps from the age of 15 you always knew you wanted to be a missionary, you shared your hopes and dreams with your family, church and anyone who would listen. You prayed and fasted about it. You even spurned the attentions of many because you were certain your life was going a different direction as a missionary. Yet you’ve come to the startling realisation that at 40 it’s time to let go of the dream that became your identity.
Perhaps at 30 you’re still struggling to get the dream Job, you prayed and trusted God for. You were always certain he placed the desire in your heart. He opened doors for you to get that degree or masters yet your reality has not even come close to what you prayed for.
In the UK statistics showing that it will take 17 years for a single person to save enough for a mortgage deposit have just been published. Perhaps that is your reality; at 35 you realise that all that you thought was possible and achievable for your life now feels like a pipe dream.
When Disillusionment Strikes
One thing that often strikes me is how disillusionment has been working its way in the life of the church, particularly in young adults- the 20s and 30s still somehow on the path to establishing themselves. Yet very few ever stop to wonder at its cause. In fact very few know how to respond and support those drowning with the weight of disillusionment. Particularly when it’s the 30 year old prayer ministry worker who seemed to have an unshakable faith or your home group leader who prayed for, stood with and encouraged so many. Unless we can understand its root we can never find the adequate words to support those in such a season- and no, inadequate faith is not the cause. The answer is to the contrary.
What then is disillusionment, its root and solution? In the life of a Christian disillusionment usually manifests itself when we wake up to the crushing, gut wrenching realisation that our lives are unlikely to look like what we had hoped and imagined from infanthood. It’s in those moments when God’s promises no longer taste like honey to our lips (Psalm 119 v103). It’s in the moments when we ponder how we could have missed God’s word when it had seemed so clear. It’s in the moments when we try to pray, yet the enemy whispers the lie that it’s futile and unlikely to yield to anything positive. It’s in the moments when tear soaked we cry out, Lord I know you are good and able to; but maybe you don’t want to come through for me.” Disillusionment is in the times you realise that you’ve always been told and believed that when you delight yourself in the lord he will give you the desires of your heart- yet at 55 you’re starting to believe that maybe it doesn’t apply to you.
The Disconnect that creates Discontent
The root of our disillusionment is not an uncaring God nor is it a lack of adequate faith that’s resulted in unanswered prayer. The root is a disconnection between all that we have been led to believe about our lives and what God says he created us for. This does not mean that we give up on the desires of our hearts or on all that we believe he has placed in us. It means that we believe and trust in his sovereignty over whatever vision we have for our lives (Isaiah 46:10). Hope is good, Godly hope is even better but our hope should always be laid upon a sovereign and loving God, whom we trust even with our disappointments (Romans 5:5). Disappointment itself when laid at the feet of Jesus is not a bad thing because in those moments we realise that our Sovereign God rules, loves and redeems us even when life does not make sense (Psalm 34:18).
The God of Present and future grace is the embodiment of dreams
We find freedom in knowing that however our lives turn out; God is the embodiment of all our hopes and dreams. In him we find forgiveness and redemption. In him we find a love that will never let go (Deuteronomy 31:6). In him we find a hope and peace that the world can neither understand nor take away (Phillipians4:7). In him through Christ we find acceptance as he clothes us in his righteousness. Every good thing we could ever need is eternally found in him. So when the sting of disappointment strikes; we remember that he is sovereign; that though our earthly imperfect lives may be difficult; he walks with us and he loves us dearly through it. We remember his immeasurable past, present and future grace a balm of hope to our hurting hearts (2 Corinthians 9:8). Most of all we remember that he has a plan for our lives and in the tears we remember, though unanswered prayers prevail; we are not forgotten.