Chances are good that Covid has caused you significant disappointment this year. I went through several stages of lockdown in New Zealand where I serve as a missionary. Locking down with my husband in my comfortable home was not terribly difficult. In fact we enjoyed our time together. We did eight jigsaw puzzles in a couple of months and I was able to work extensively on a book I’m writing. New Zealand locked down quickly and extensively, with good result. As far as Covid is concerned, I find myself in one of the safest places in the world. New Zealand’s closed borders, however, made the June-to-November furlough to the States we’d been planning impossible. We had found a couple from the States who were willing to fill in for my husband and me in our church planting ministry, but Covid meant they couldn’t get into New Zealand.
As time went on we began to see that a regular furlough might not be possible for quite some time ahead. As people who travel from state to state and meet with big groups of people, missionaries pose a significant health risk to churches. Also many of our supporting churches were not functioning as usual. Most probably only had virtual services for an extended time.
When a regular furlough wouldn’t work for the foreseeable future, we began to consider a quick trip to the States for Christmas to visit our family. The first obstacle was finding someone who could fill in for us for a number of weeks. The fill-in couple pretty much had to come from New Zealand since our borders remain closed. In August we found a couple who would consider the idea, but couldn’t let us know right away. In October, just when we had begun to get excited about seeing our family for Christmas, the couple said they couldn’t come. Then within a week, it seemed like a miracle had happened. We found a well-qualified couple who were New Zealand residents who were happy and eager to fill in for us during the time needed. We decided the Lord was leading us forward, the time was right for a number of reasons, and we would go back. We started looking for airline tickets and planning a schedule. Within a week, however, some feedback we got from trusted sources made us feel that it would be significantly safer if we waited until the middle of 2021 or so. Our daughters and their family had started to plan for a family Christmas and we were all excited about it until this new development made us feel like we had to reverse our decision.
But we’re missionaries so we don’t get disappointed, right? Wrong. So wrong. For a number of reasons, we had decided we really needed to go back at this time. It seemed the Lord had answered our prayers and provided a couple to fill in so we could go. Yet in the end, it didn’t feel right to go when waiting another half year or so would make it significantly safer for us and the people we want to visit.
What have you lost during 2020 that left you feeling disappointed? You may have lost a loved one or your health or your job. We missed a hundredth anniversary celebration for our mission and a seventy-fifth anniversary of our sending church that we had planned to attend. Almost everyone has had plans changed and church attendance curtailed. We’ve just experienced a national election in New Zealand and will experience another in America in the coming week. Both involved critical moral issues. Racial unrest, wildfires, hurricanes. What a year!
What do you do with your disappointment? You know God is in control, that he’s working out his best for you, but you’re still disappointed.
Here are some things that helped me:
This song sung by Ben Everson spoke to me right away. We have the CD of this so the words were so familiar that they were the first song that came to mind after our second decision.
The chorus goes, “You know better than I. You know the way. I’ve let go the need to know why for you know better than I.” I admit that I’d like to know why God seems to be saying no to this Christmas trip, but I am still working on letting go of that.
I filled in for a Sunday School teacher this morning in church. The story was about Cain and Abel. The lesson talked about warning signs. Sometimes God gives us a green light to do something. Sometimes a thing is definitely wrong and we get a red light from God. And sometimes he gives us a yellow light, telling us to use caution or to wait and listen to God’s warning. Cain was angry God didn’t accept his sacrifice and that anger was dangerous. God told him sin was crouching at his door like a wild animal, waiting to overpower him. Disappointment, discontent or anger can quickly turn to sin if we listen to it, wade through it or wallow in it.
Then a character in the current novel I’m writing was struggling with a similar issue. Long ago I had plotted out the book, but as I came to the disappointment of missing Christmas with children and grandchildren, I was just working on the part where my character faced a similar issue. I couldn’t expect my fictional character to be more spiritual than I am, could I?
So when disappointment rears its ugly head at me, I need to remember I have some choices.
- Refuse to listen to what God is trying to tell me
- Do what’s asked, but wallow in self-pity
- Conclude that nothing good ever happens in 2020 and expect the worst to happen
- Step forward in faith, knowing God is good and in control, and choosing to trust him
“Just two choices on the self: pleasing God or pleasing self.” (by Ken Collier)