How can you overcome the disappointments of life?
Everybody at some point in their life faces great disappointment. We pray in the middle of these times of great disappointment, but even that disappoints because so many times we do not get the resolution we want. Often this disappointment leads to grumbling and complaining. This is total disappointment. We all face it.
We can learn much from the Jews. They had spent some 400 years in Egypt. Suddenly, God appointed Moses to bring them out of Egypt to their promised land. They saw God work through an incredible miracle. With their backs to Red Sea, they were frightened and of course grumbling. But, through Moses, God parted the sea and delivered the people to freedom.
Just think of the great excitement this mustered through the people. They praised God and sang songs as they continued on their journey. They were rejoicing in the goodness of God. They were now perfectly set up for a great crash.
Often, following a time of overwhelming excitement, we fall into our deepest pits. When we are in the pit, we think that somehow we have fallen out of God’s grace—we are no longer within His will. But that is not necessarily true. Often God allows us to fall into the pit so that He can mold us into the people He wants us to be. This is the case with the Jews after their spiritual high.
We read in Exodus 15:20:
So Moses brought Israel from the Red Sea; then they went out into the Wilderness of Shur. And they went three days in the wilderness and found no water. Now when they came to Marah, they could not drink the waters of Marah, for they were bitter. Therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people complained against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet. There He made a statute and an ordinance for them. And there He tested them, and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”
Disappointment! Anger! Frustration!
They had gone three days into the scorching heat of the desert. They ran out of water. The men, women, and children had nothing to drink. They suffered total dehydration. Have you ever been so thirsty that your tongue became thick and your lips blistered? This is where they were.
Then they say it—an oasis in the distance. What a relief! We only need to go a short distance and we will have all the water we want; all that we need. Hopes again grow. Perhaps some even run to the water. But what is this? The water is too bitter to drink.
Now what? Sometimes these situations happen right in the middle of God’s will. This one did. God intended to teach a great lesson; a lesson that would span time and become important even to us today.
God’s ways are not our ways!
God raised their hopes. Then He dashed them to the ground. Finally, He tested them. This story is important to us because it shows three ways that God uses disappointed to strengthen our relationship with Him.
- God was testing their affections. Through this experience, God was showing the Jews that the things of the earth are not dependable. The people had put their hope in the water hole out in the middle of the desert, but it turned out bitter. Then they put their hope in Moses and he also came up short and was a disappointment. Men are not dependable. Often we become “hero worshippers” instead of God worshippers. We may think that people (perhaps even pastors) will save the day. But they disappoint. And then we grumble. We must all ask, “Where are my affections?” Are they with the circumstances of life and in people? If so, we will be disappointed.
- God was testing their submission. God showed Moses a tree and had him throw it into the bitter water. What a silly request. But when Moses did that, the water became sweet. God expects us to do what He commands without grumbling and complaining. We are to submit to Him in obedience. Complaining is actually against God. We may direct it at our circumstances or other people, but it is really toward God. Grumbling occurs because we don’t like the way God is running His universe. When we don’t accept our circumstances we are complaining against God; rather, we are to be in submission before God. In this case, the people accepted the disappointment and then God acted by providing sweet water.
- God was testing their faith. Can believe God would have Moses take a tree and throw it into the water? Yes, I can because God was really saying, “Take the tree and see what I can do with it.” God is able to take the bitter experiences of life and make them sweet. Of course this is an object lesson—a lesson we would do well to heed.
The tree in this case is symbolic of the cross on which Jesus, the Messiah was hung. We know of that tree that anyone who hangs on a cross is cursed. But God is able to take the bitterness of Christ’s experience and make it sweet. From this tree of bitterness sweet blessings flow. Our faith in Christ is a statement that we have the faith to believe that He is able to bring sweetness from the bitterness of life.
How can God remove our bitterness through the cross to make it sweet?
We all know that Christ died for our sins (we are now justified before God—Rom 5:1) and for our bodies (we will have resurrection bodies—1 Cor 15:42). But Jesus also carried our negative emotions to the cross so we could have emotional fullness. Consider Isaiah 53:4 which says, “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” He carried our griefs—He carried our sorrows—He carried our bitterness.
Don’t ever underestimate God’s ability to take bitter waters and make them sweet. Only He can make bitterness and make it sweet.