On March 14, actress Jennifer Garner extended a social-media invitation to “preschoolers to professionals” whose games, meets, recitals, and productions had been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She urged them to share what they’d been working on (using the hashtag #heyjenlookatme) so that she could share it “with the world,” adding tenderly, “because I want to see.”
I enjoyed following along as she shared dance routines and monologues, but I’ve also grieved as I’ve considered the tangential losses that the coronavirus has caused all over the world: massive denominations with canceled meetings, brides with canceled weddings, seniors who won’t get to walk across the stage in cap and gown, athletes who have lost the chance to compete, students who have lost one-eighth of their college experience, families whose vacations have been canceled, fans who don’t get to see their favorite artists, children who won’t be able to share cupcakes with friends on their birthdays. Some of these things can be rescheduled, but some cannot.
It can be hard to know how to deal with personal disappointments, how to feel about our own feels in response to loss. But life in a fallen world is marked by suffering, great and small, and pandemics only highlight what has always been true.
Here are four places the Bible invites you to look as you suffer disappointment.
1. Look Upward
Rather than dismiss our own sufferings compared to those of others, or distance ourselves from God in frustration, we can draw near to our Savior, who suffered greatly so that we can pour out our hearts before God (Heb. 4:16). We can be honest in prayer. God knows our thoughts before they’re formed, our words before they’re on our tongues (Ps. 139:2–4). His knowledge of us and of how this pandemic uniquely affects us is perfect and complete.
God also knows by experience the sorrow of this world through the life of his Son, Jesus (Isa. 53:3). Our great high priest both sympathizes with us and intercedes for us (Heb. 4:15). When we look to Jesus, we’re reminded that God loves us and is working for our good (Rom 8:28; 1 John 4:10).
The cross of Christ is the powerful declaration that God not only sees you—he is with you.
Better than a celebrity’s expressed desire to see our video clips, the cross of Christ is the powerful declaration that God not only sees you—he is with you. Take your feelings of disappointment and loneliness straight to him, and learn afresh his comfort, care, and concern for you.
2. Look Inward
Desire and anticipation are not wrong, and neither are disappointment and grief. But the disappointment we feel in response to what we’ve lost to the COVID-19 pandemic can tell us a great deal about our hearts.
The object of our disappointment tells us what we love (e.g., fun, family, events or experiences, competition, learning, memory-making, and so on). But the magnitude of that disappointment can sometimes reveal an inordinate desire or disordered love, unmasking something we love or desire more than God himself.
As we pray about our disappointments, God often tenderly reveals our sin to us. Thanks be to God that in Christ we are offered both forgiveness for disordered loves and the help of the Spirit to reorder them (1 John 1:9). And by his grace, through this reorientation of our hearts, we, like the apostle Paul, learn the secret to being content in all circumstances (Phil. 4:11–13).
3. Look Around
In Scripture, one of God’s clearly expressed purposes for our pain is that through it, he makes us able to comfort others. As you draw near and receive the comfort of the Lord in your place of disappointment, you become better able to minister to others in their grief (1 Cor. 3:1–7). As he reorders your affections, helping you obey the greatest commandment, you become better able to fulfill the second: to love your neighbor as yourself (Matt. 22:36–40).
And so, a third place to look in the midst of disappointment is at the people around you. Consider how you might be a blessing. A friend whose wedding was canceled by her venue donated her flowers to nursing homes where residents were lonely without visits from their loved ones. Artist Andrew Peterson’s tour was postponed, but he is reading aloud to homebound fans via the internet.
Who is your neighbor? Who do you know who might be sick, or lonely, or afraid? Do they know the truth of the gospel? Consider the disappointments of others, and ask God what good works he may have for you to walk in during this strange time (Eph. 2:10). Show them that you see, so that they will know that he sees.
4. Look Ahead
Any disappointment we experience in this life is a reminder that this world is not as it should be. Though hope deferred makes the heart sick, a promise fulfilled is a tree of life, and all of God’s promises in Jesus Christ are Yes and Amen (Prov. 13:12; 2 Cor. 1:20).
Though we need not borrow trouble from tomorrow, and though we’re wise to rest in the knowledge that we’re held and kept in this present moment, we do well to look far, far ahead—through the disappointment we now feel so acutely, into eternity, where there will be no more reason for sorrow, no more cause for disappointment, and no more sickness threatening our loved ones or livelihood.
The marriage supper of the lamb is a feast that cannot be delayed and will not be canceled.
This is cause for rejoicing even, and perhaps especially, amid griefs great and small. This hope provides an anchor for the soul in uncertain times (Heb. 6:19). This hope will not disappoint or put us to shame (Rom. 5:5).
As we draw near to our faithful Savior in disappointment, he wipes away our tears, cures us of blindness to our sin, helps us to see the hurts and needs of others, and lifts our gaze to see how he’s at work in the present to bring about the redemption of all things. The marriage supper of the lamb is a feast that cannot be delayed and will not be canceled. The plans of God, often perplexing and always perfect, can never be thwarted.