Is there Deliverance from Disappointment? A review of the first LIFE event
On Wednesday evening, we (Grace Church Wakefield) hosted our first LIFE event called “Is there Deliverance from Disappointment?”. It was held at Marmalade on the Square, a café in the centre of town where the cake and drinks are excellent and staff exceptionally friendly! Not only were the drinks and cakes from the café a great treat, but we were also treated to some fantastic live music throughout the evening from Dan Holden (from Christchurch Xscape). A good number of people came along so there was a great atmosphere and, all in all, it was a very enjoyable time!
Early on in the evening, Ian and Lydia Goodson shared some of their personal experiences of disappointment and how being Christians has helped them with those disappointments in big ways.
Shortly after, Dr. Dan Strange, the director of Crosslands Forum (a centre for cultural engagement and missional innovation), spoke and gave a Christian answer on the topic of disappointment. Through this talk, and throughout the evening, we really wanted to show all those there how the Bible engages with real life and that true Christianity can give us genuine hope in the face of immense struggles and difficulties.
We really believe the Bible can give us answers to our deepest needs - that’s why I’ve written a small summary of Dan’s talk below.
Two ways our culture responds to disappointment.
Dan started off by saying that society responds to disappointment in two different ways. He called the first way ‘overreach’ and the second ‘resignation’.
The first way our society reacts to disappointment has a lot to do with the idea that humanity is always improving; that we are getting better and better is given a lot of weight these days. Lots of people think that we are gradually fulfilling and even increasing our potential. But this has perhaps become so all-encompassing that our expectations of people are now unrealistically high.
Therefore, whether we are thinking of people as individuals or as part of a collective, we expect almost perfect behaviour from them.
Sadly then, when we meet real life people they don’t meet the expectations we have. We don’t even meet our own expectations for ourselves!
And so what is the response to this disappointment? The response is often to be left angry and frustrated, leading so easily to today's 'cancel culture'.
In furthering this point, Dan referenced the following quote from author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
“We have a generation of young people on social media so terrified of having the wrong opinions that they have robbed themselves of the opportunity to think and to learn and to grow,[…]I have spoken to young people who tell me they are terrified to tweet anything, that they read and reread their tweets because they fear they will be attacked by their own. The assumption of good faith is dead. What matters is not goodness but the appearance of goodness. We are no longer human beings. We are now angels jostling to out-angel one another. God help us. It is obscene.”
(The Guardian, June 2021)
When our sky high expectations meet the stark reality that people are really a bit of a mess we ignore, push aside and side-line the people we do not agree with. We deal with our disappointment by turning off the voices who would disagree with us or hold us to account.
Dan pointed out that the second way society reacts to disappointment is almost the complete opposite of this - it’s to ‘set the bar’ on humanity a great deal lower.
This comes from the thinking that assumes human life is essentially a temporary blip in the universe. A mistake that came about by chance and, because of that, nothing in life means anything. I.e. disappointments will come along but what does it matter, since nothing really matters anyway?
This helps to shield us from disappointments. We get less hurt by others and when we inevitably get let down or experience real grief as we can simply shrug our shoulders and carry on.
Dan pointed out that the problem with this view is that we instinctively think life does actually mean something and that that feeling is almost impossible to shake off. Therefore, we can’t really come to terms with or accept that life means nothing.
For example, the pandemic - we’ve created vaccines, we’ve put in place drastic measures to reduce people's contact with each other, people have made immense sacrifices. Why? To try and save lives because they mean something, especially our own loved ones.
Both of these views are currently quite common in our society. But I hope you can see that both of these approaches to dealing with disappointment are, well, pretty disappointing!
Is there a better way? The Christian response:
Christians can deal with disappointment differently.
First of all, Christians believe that all people are here as a result of God making everything. Therefore, they have dignity, respect and worth. In fact, they are made in the ‘image of God’ which means they reflect elements of what he is like.
So we can’t set the bar too low on people. We are responsible beings and we can (and should!) be held accountable for what we do.
But, we are made in the ‘image of God’ which means we are not God. We are not perfect. In fact, something has gone terribly wrong with humanity.
In a 2011 speech, The Queen said this:
‘Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves - from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person - neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.’
Christians believe that when Jesus came into this world, he came on a mission to bring forgiveness to people. Anyone who has let someone down or let themselves down (which is everyone!) can know this forgiveness.
Dan said, ‘The Christian faith says there is a standard to live by, there are expectations on human beings, justice is important when things go wrong, life is meaningful and yet, when we disappoint ourselves and others, it says there is a way back.’ We can therefore be liberated completely from our failures and disappointments.
In fact, it’s more than just that. Christians have the power to forgive others because they know they have been forgiven so much by God.
Sometimes, forgiveness is said to be a weakness. But that could not be more wrong. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing, a powerful thing. It is something that redeems people and causes them to live life fully once more. Christians have experienced that for themselves.
Jesus says that if we are weary, burdened and feeling guilty and weighed down by disappointments we can go to him and find peace. He will never let us down. He will never disappoint. His promises have and will come true.
Perhaps something there has intrigued you and you want to know more. The first thing to do would be to listen to Dan's talk yourself - you can do that on Grace Church Wakefield’s Facebook page.
The second thing to do would be to come along to Marmalade on the Square on Wednesday 6th April at 7.30pm where we'll be hosting our second event there. There will be music, plenty of chances to talk to others and a similar talk answering, ‘Am I Directing my own Destiny’. Why not pop down and join us?