A Better Way to Look at Disappointment

A Better Way to Look at Disappointment

May 16, 2017

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered.” John 21:4-5 (NIV)

Devotion Graphic

Everywhere I look, people are celebrating their successes. Their beautiful children, their awesome husbands and the coolest DIY projects. I’m happy for them … for the most part. But there’s a part of me I prefer to hide that whispers, “Why not me, Lord?”

It’s not that I don’t have much to be thankful for; I do. But there are these other disappointing realities I live with daily. Areas of my life that aren’t stellar, noteworthy or successful. Areas where no matter how hard I try, I just don’t experience success.

My go-to response for many years was to work harder in those areas … all the while beating myself up internally for not being disciplined, creative or smart enough.

And yet, God has been showing me something in these disappointing areas: They aren’t all due to my weakness. Sometimes God holds back success with the divine purpose of teaching me something.

I think that’s what happened to the disciples. There’s a story told in John 21, after Jesus’ death. The disciples had seen Jesus alive and had gone to Galilee to wait for His return.

One night, a few of the disciples went fishing. These guys were born to fish. But that night, after hours floating in the silent dark, they caught nothing.

The story takes an interesting turn as the sun starts to rise. Jesus stood on the edge of the lake (although they didn’t recognize Him at first). I’m sure He’d been watching them for hours … maybe even all night.

And I suspect He commanded the fish to stay back from the boat for a while. After all, He’d directed the wind and waves, and cast out demons, so surely He could direct some fish.

Jesus needed to teach His disciples an important lesson. And in order to learn it well, they had to experience some failure. Jesus spoke to the weary fishermen, as we read in John 21:5b-6a:

Friends, haven’t you any fish?”

“No,” they answered.

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” (NIV)

Scripture doesn’t record the disciples’ thoughts, but I can imagine they were a bit annoyed at this piece of advice. After all, they were professional fishermen, doing everything they knew to do. The fish obviously weren’t there!

Have you ever felt that way about your life? You’ve done everything you know to do, but nothing changes?

The disciples were about to learn an important lesson about success and failure. They obeyed Jesus’ directive, shifted the nets to the other side of the boat, and Scripture records: “When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.” (John 21:6b, NIV)

At that moment they recognized the Lord, and the disciples headed to shore, towing the fish behind. The disciples didn’t just have success, they had great success.

Jesus needed the disciples to see the difference between self-directed effort and Jesus-directed effort. And in order to show them, He let them fail on their own first.

Oh, how I need to learn this lesson myself. I wonder if Jesus has watched me try on my own and held back success while I do. Is He just waiting for me to listen for His voice? To watch for His plan?

For those of us “can-do” women, this is a lesson to let soak deep in our spirits. Yes, we can do many things on our own, but that doesn’t mean we should. Why would we choose to ignore the greatest source of wisdom and power ever known, in exchange for our paltry efforts in comparison?

When we operate in our power, we see what we can do. When we operate under Jesus’ direction and with the power of the Holy Spirit, we see what God can do.

As I look back on my life, the times I’ve seen God work in the greatest ways are when I admit my natural strength isn’t enough. That’s when His supernatural strength is evident. Viewed from this perspective, it reminds me sometimes failure is an opportunity to see God work miracles.

God is always up to something for my good. And that’s a much better way to look at disappointment.

Lord, thank You for working in my life, even in ways that look like failure. Help me keep my eyes on You and not on my situation. Help me trust You more, especially when I face what looks like a disappointment. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Proverbs 2:7-8, “He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.” (NIV)

Psalm 127:1, “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” (NIV)

Transition can be scary … especially when the future seems so uncertain.

If you have any special graduates in your life, or you yourself just walked across that stage, this Be Still Cuff is a lovely gift and reminder that He is always in control — even in times of constant change.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). Shop now.

If you feel like failure is a constant companion, you’ll appreciate Glynnis Whitwer’s book, Taming the To-Do List. In it, she helps you identify your priorities and make room for them in your busy life.

Join Glynnis today on her blog for exciting news about her next book, Doing Busy Better, releasing in a few months.

Identify an area of disappointment in your life. How has God used it to teach you or change you in some way?

© 2017 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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  2. Wow!! What an awesome way to look at things! I love this!

  3. Early in the morning….can’t sleep….God whispers to me, you haven’t failed, you’ve just been working on your own….now, see what I can do!!

  4. Suniho vihoto chishi says:

    I am really blessed and encouraged.Thank you so much.

  5. This is exactly what I needed to hear this morning as I’ve been trying to figure some things out on my own with my business. Thank YOU!

  6. I love the message. Gong throuhg a disappointment as we speak… Hoping to see the miracle of God in the middle of this situation..l

  7. Life had been disappointing so much in the last few years. I loved this devotion and it warms my heart to be reminded that God is up to something good. Blessings.

  8. Pro316Mom says:

    I have been wearing this bracelet as a reminder to lean on the Lord and trust in His way and timing as I transition to a single parent. Quite unexpectedly my husband announced that he was moving on with someone else. I suddenly had to adjust my life dramatically. What peace and guidance I received from our Lord, and what a powerful comfort this bracelet reminds me of. I could never do the things I’ve accomplished in the last few months alone. God’s going before and with me and His blessings marking the way have kept me whole.

  9. That little whisper, “God must love her more than he loves you,” comes from our enemy, that big liar. With God, it’s never a competition. God doesn’t say, “if only you tried harder, I’d have given you what I gave her.” Nope, God has a plan prepared for each of us: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

    • The father of lies tells me ‘you don’t deserve it, if you had done better, had been more perfect, your prayers would have been answered’. I’m so thankful that God loves me, chose me, forgave me, while I was yet a sinner, I deserve nothing, can earn nothing, it’s all by God’s lavish grace! Thank you Lord!!

  10. Thank you Glynnis. I have had a couple transitions over the last 10 years and learned many scriptures because of them. Even though I grew up in church and sang many hymns, I also learned the meaning of the song “Leaning On The Promises Of God”. Philippians 1:6 and Romans 8:28 also comes to mind. ~Lisa~

  11. Danielle washington says:

    I’ve been trying to make changes in my career and despite applying for positions that are exactly what I am doing I cannot get a new job. I’ve also been trying to find a second job to supplement my income and pay for my student loans and I’ve been unsuccessful. I’m disappointed that I have not achieved success in the manner that I thought that I would. But I am trusting that God has something miraculous waiting for me if I continue to trust Him and stand

    • I am 67 yrs old and i can tell you God will let it happen for you. When you least expect it and in His time dear. He has not forgotten you.

      • I am 56-years-old and think I have a few good years left in my work career. I chose, for numerous reasons, not to follow my previous job as they re-located the office to a town even further from my home which would have resulted in a longer commute. So, here I am…..looking for another job at my age. It will be interesting to see where this takes me………..

  12. Love your humble and gracious heart and how you share it to point to God’s truth in Scripture. The movie “Risen” brings this scene to life and is one of my favorite parts of the film- disciples portrayed as real men who are still learning to trust Jesus. Thanks for the encouragement!

  13. Such a timely word as the past couple years of my life have been hard. Thank-you for this reminder to stop trying in my own strength.

  14. Good morning! I signed up yesterday and have made a pact with myself to start Daily Devotions. I believe God sent a friend by yesterday to tell me about your devotions. He knew I needed this time with Him. This devotion could not have come at a better time for me in my life. God truly is in control, if we would just listen and watch.

  15. Tiffany Chrz says:

    THis makes me laugh too 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7nC4H28Sjc

  16. Wanda Lane says:

    Words I desperately needed to hear this morning! Thank you for the encouragement & the PERFECT reminder! Miss the daily Compel contact with you guys…

  17. Gretchen Moran says:

    God’s timing is so incredibly perfect! I am praying right now about a my side business. This story of the disciples is exactly my story. I am surrendering to Him and praying for His leading if I should leave this opportunity, stay and just pull back or quit everything all together. This post gives me great hope to keep trusting in Him and Him lead me where He would have me to go. Now, I need to hear from Him. Waiting. Fasting. And praying.

  18. Kim Wood says:

    Thank you Glynnis. The Lord holding the fish is good.

  19. Thank you for this devotional. I am a woman who takes great pride in my work and recently I was turned down for a raise. I’ve struggled with feeling under valued and over used making me question my need to stay in my current position but nothing else comes available. I’m working on being still and letting God take this. This devotional really struck a chord with me and was much needed this morning. Thank you for your words and sharing your struggles too!

  20. Shelly Garey says:

    Thank you for this reminder that I am not in control over anyone just myself. It is a daily reminder for me that I surrender all that I am to Jesus everyday. When I surrender I let Jesus work because he is the ultimate warrior. Thanks again!

  21. lifehitstoharddisabled says:

    Many people get blessed with a life filled with riches of hope, dreams, and fulfillment. But “some” people never get to experience those hopes, dreams, and desires. Because when life takes you into a drastic about face, with a sudden disability and illness. You wonder when life’s trials of condemned will ever stop. There is no direction like others may experience in hoping, dreams, and fulfillment because it was robbed from the start and many years later still sitting in the mirey clay. Until you walked it you would never understand it.

    • Jodi Hutchison says:

      Have you heard Joni Eareckson Tada’s testimony?

      • Joni has an amazing testimony. I saw a movie about her when I was in high school. An amazing story that stays with me all these years later. God bless.

        • lifehitstoharddisabled says:

          Her fairy tale life is not the same for everyone with disability. Until YOU live it, would you understand it. Life is not the same for everyone.

  22. There have been 2 great disappointments in my life thus far. I was devastated from both. After the bitterness and resentment, I now look at situation and out come as God looking out for me. If it didn’t happen, it is because, for WHATEVER reasons, it was not in God’s plan for me.

  23. Sometimes God holds back success with the divine purpose of teaching me something…….Thank you for sharing these words of wisdom.Blessings.

  24. Tammy Ramsdell says:

    Thank you, I needed to here this. I just started our in a new business adventure and have been asking God many questions. This has given me so much peace.

  25. Jenette Erlandson says:

    Im 37 and have never been able to stay pregnant, 3 babies in heaven. Not matter how hard we have tried for the last 15 years. My best friend is pregnant and before I would be so jealous but this time I’m not. I have prayed for guidance and I am her biggest supporter which she actually needs. I feel so blessed to be a part of her life and I can be the best aunty possible.

  26. Thank you so much for sharing this today! I am definitely a “can do” woman, and over the past few years I have had to learn that I “can’t do” what I should without letting God work out how to make things happen. It’s been tough to learn to stop leaning on my physical strength to get things done. But when I step back and let God work, He always amazes me. Today my to do list is overflowing, and I needed a reminder to listen for His direction where I fail on my own!

  27. Shantell says:

    God is showing me that I’m a work in progress. I’m not a failure He’s showing me how to wait for Him and what happens when I move ahead of His will! I will wait and trust God!

  28. Karen Williams says:

    OMGoodness!!! This devotion was so right on point this morning. It was confirmation!! I’ve been struggling because I try to be strong, independent and successful on my own. It’s funny how I can rely in God for the natural, physical, financial matters but when it comes to my spiritual life I try to make strides on my own. IMPOSSIBLE…you would think it would be reversed. I don’t know why. God spoke to me and said that’s your problem…you’re trusting in yourself to get closer to me and stop sinning, but you can’t do that”. I have absolutely no power without Him. I must acknowledge and go through Him to get where I need to be! I’m encouraged this morning! Thanks!!

  29. Sarah Blythe says:

    God’s timing is always perfect, just as His timing today for this devotion to be published. The reminder of His timing when disappointments come is most appropriate for me today as a job search only shows closed doors. I was not anticipating this to be this way. I believe and trust He is with me and knows the plan, the way He has set forth for me, just as before in other disappointments in my life. I will continue to hold on to that.

  30. Marilyn Eason says:

    This is a on time word for me. Hallelujah!! God knows just what I needed today. I was just lying in bed thinking about my situation and trying to figure out what is going on. My life has taken such a turn in the last few years that I just do not know what what to do. First my marriage of 11 years failed, then I left my job of 15 years only to be without income for six months, then a year and a half later my son got in trouble that only God can get him out of. I got a job that I loved but they were having financial problems and were not able to pay on time and has now closed owing money I may neve receive. Now I am not sure when I will find a job. It be truly been hard. But I must say God has not failed me. He has truly been faithful. I keep telling myself to trust God. I remind myself of His promises of provision an that all things are working for my good and that He has a plan for my life and that those plans are to give me s future and a hope. This is only way I am able to get through each day. I am truly grateful to my Heavenly Father. Hallelujah!!! Amen

  31. JL Wilson says:

    This devotion & these words are like a blanket to me today. I lost my job a month ago, and shortly afterwards my significant other left our relationship. I have felt worthless, hurt & unloved. I’ve been rejected for multiple jobs, only to ask why? So I started my own company and am terrified. I have no start up capital to operate, yet I have three parttime clients – I did this with my own direction, but I’m praying for Jesus’ direction. At this point after 25 yrs and being a successful VP, success is no longer defined by accolades….I’m simply defining success as being able to pay my bills & survive, but I want to thrive! This message is a reminder that Jesus can provide more than my mind comprehends & it’s my job to be still. Thank you for speaking to my heart & helping calm my very tired & exhausted soul.

  32. And there is that word success again. What does that truly mean? I think people interpret it too much from a human perspective. God’s will for our life is our goal. To want that . To trust him. To believe. To love him, others and go and make disciples….

  33. This devotion was what I needed to hear. I am moving soon and haven’t found a job yet in my new town. This is really scary for me and I need to view my “failure” as part of God’s plan for my life. Maybe I’m not meant to do what I am currently doing? Maybe this will be a chance for a new adventure or I’m needed doing something else. Money is a big worry for me and I need to work much harder at giving it to God. He will provide for me!

  34. That was just what I needed to hear. Thank you! If only I can do it. 😥

  35. Thank you for reminding me that without Jesus I am nothing. God bless you and this ministry. Amen!

  36. Sherie Robinson says:

    This message hit home for me today. So often I feel like a failure and very disappointed with some of my life choices. I can’t go back to reorder my foolish steps. All I can do is move forward, shed my brawny tears, and trust God to order my steps and fill me with His holy presence. Thank you for your sound wisdom and words of encouragement. God bless you.

  37. Kimberly says:

    Oh my word this one really hits the spot! Oh how I needed EVERY SINGLE WORD of this today!! Thank you Lord for leading me to soak in this lesson!! And thank you Glynnis for sharing these words of thoughtful wisdom!


  38. Thank you so much for this, Mrs. Whitwer. Last month, I had a, what I considered, a very disappointing performance during an important final presentation in my undergraduate studies. I was in tears (sobbing) when I left the room, and kept on beating myself up over and over. Everyone else did so well, except me. I felt like no matter how hard I tried, it doesn’t seem to work out. This morning, all of those emotions of disappointment and frustration came back. I was in tears when I decided to read a P31 devotional, as I usually do. I am glad God led me to this devotional, and I have felt some peace through it. I’ve been listening too much to my own voice, and not enough of God’s voice. I have been so busy focusing on school and have not spent enough time with God. No wonder I felt so physically and emotionally drained most of the time. I need to stay focused on listening to God’s loving, hopeful, truthful, strengthening words. I need to just stay focused on God, and I’m praying that God will teach me to completely rely on and look to Him. Thank you, again!

  39. Thank you for your heart and for sharing. God Bless you and your family!!!

  40. Nathalie V says:

    I mean, this is so in line with where I am right now. I am an attempted “superwoman” who tries to do pretty much everything on my own. I’m a single mom and I’m just so used to “making things happen solo” but there is never much (or any) fruit that comes from it. Over the past few weeks or months really, I have wanted to start a business, took the steps to get things rolling but then resources just dried up. I have also been on a mission to get back into school, enrolling in two different schools thinking I’m doing the right thing and those dried up. I have questioned where I am, if I’m doing something wrong, if I’m in sin somewhere….even wondering if God was listening to me (forgive me Lord 🤦🏾‍♀️). Oook so these past few weeks I have just felt overwhelmed and backed into a corner…realizing that all I’ve been doing was my plan….not Gods plan; focused on getting somewhere my way without seeking the Lords guidance. This study just reiterated the fact that I need to take my hands off the wheel, turn off my gps and let the Lord be in control of my every step because “He knows the plans that He has for my life”!!

    Thank you for this refreshing message today!!!

  41. Deb Aries says:

    Several years ago, I was let go from my job due to cutbacks. I was angry and vowed to have a new job within the week. It didn’t happen. My father was ill and passed away 4 months later. My daughter became pregnant & my life was seemingly turned upside down, inside out. Long story short, I was unemployed 17 months. I started volunteering at our local food shelf/bank. After a year, a postion opened up & I was immediately hired. Helping my unmarried, pregnant daughter, I learned about locating housing, food resources, medical care. etc. which prepared me for the position at the food shelf. This was most certainly God’s plan!!! The journey was very difficult but I learned to trust God & the plans He had for me. I certainly had no control of the mess I was in. This has been THE most life changing time in my life. I am still at the food bank/shelf and its the best job I’ve ever had!. My co-workers are phenomenal! I’ve had a lot of health issues the past 2 years and they have had my back, donated PTO to help me cover lost wages, filled in on a moments notice. This is ALL God’s doing! How I have been blessed!!

  42. Marriage is my area of struggle.
    Even before we were married, we both knew we would need God for our marriage to work. We had good Godly premarital counseling and later continued to meet periodically with our counsellors to work on issues.
    It was never my intention to cut God out and do things my way, even though I know I did at times. Each time I realised I was doing things in my own strenght, I turned to the Lord and asked for His guidance and the power of the Holy Spirit. I did my best to follow scriptural advice on how to do relationships. I read countless books ans heard a bunch of sermons. At times I even felt like I heard (not audibly, but in my spirit) the Lord guide me specifically what to do or how to handle a specific situation. I would pray in advance and did what He told me to do, expecting Him to work. But things just keep getting worse.
    To say that I am discouraged and disappointed is an understatement. I don’t know anymore what it means to do something in God’s strenght as opposed to mine. I used to think I know the difference. I have preached it and taught it to others. (My husband and I are in full-time ministry to college students.) I have seen God work mightily through me in the lives of others. But in my own marriage… I don’t know why walking in the power of the Holy Spirit doesn’t “work”.
    I refuse to believe that His word and His promises are not true. I refuse to believe that His guidance obtained through prayer is just me talking myself into believing my own thoughts.
    I know that nothing can transform my marriage other than the Lord almighty. I give myself and my marriage over to Him daily. I don’t know what else to do, how to pray, how to show my dependence on Him.
    I need Him to move.
    Pray for me not to give up even if I have to live in failure for the rest of my life.

  43. Jeanine says:

    This is exactly what I’m experiencing right now. Thank you.

  44. Jessica says:

    I read this during my devotion this morning and read again just now. I needed this so much. When I decided to really let go and let God take the wheel In 2016, I was truly back down to zero. I had to move back in with my parents yet a second time. I truly received the revelation then of how to let Him have control so I can have genuine lasting success. However the process of going through and learning the lessons until He says it’s time for breakthrough is not easy. The feelings of anxiety and anxiousness coupled with helplessness is so hard. BUT I have no choice but to hold on and I decided to choose Him and TRUST HIM for HIS WAY to purpose in every area of my life!!!

  45. Thank you for the timely reminder that God is in control.

  46. This is exactly what I needed to read today. I have had 3 failed marriages (infidelity & abuse), but in all instances I didn’t wait on God to send me my mate. I am sad, lonely & don’t know how anyone will ever want me. Please pray for me; that I will accept that God’s love for me is enough & that He will always want me.

    • Alison Hall says:

      The greatest PEACE you will ever have is when you give up trying to find a mate and get on with what God would have you do in the church or however you want to serve Him. Believe me I have experienced a PEACE BEYOND ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING . Let God find you a mate. It doesnt matter if you are too old, too poor, too unatttractive, too anything. God doesnt care!!! – It makes no difference whatsover to Him. He will find you a mate in His way and His time and when He does it you will never have any problems as it will be Gods gift to you and He only gives the BEST!!!!!!!

  47. Thank you for this devotion. I’ve been struggling with a situation that went wrong years ago but keeps coming up and slamming me in the face. I keep asking why, what did I do wrong? I did everything I was told to do, followed the checklists. Now I am hear today reading this and understanding the nets I’ve cast on my own didn’t produce but will be casting them again when I’m told it is time.

  48. Alison Hall says:

    Yes waiting on God is such a test especially when its over 30 years. But I know God will come through in His time.
    I pray that I and other christians have the faith to wait and let God have His Way and His plans for our lives. I like the saying “God is driving. Just take a seat in the back and see where He takes you”. If only we will LET God do the driving instead of taking the steering wheel ourselves and going off on some unnecessary detour. God I pray for myself and all other believers in you that you will give us the faith and patience and grace necessary to trust you completely with our lives and to wait where we need to wait for your answer. In Jesus precious name. Amen

  49. Awesome message. It really did bless my day!

  50. Anthony L Brewer says:

    Awesmoe message. Well received.

  51. Anthony L Brewer says:

    Great message for me today.

  52. Carolyn R says:

    Thank you, Glynnis. I love this: God is always up to something for my good. What a wonderful perspective! As a “can-do” woman myself with high expectations, this is a lovely place to rest my thoughts. God is good…always! Blessings to you and thank you for the message today!

  53. Thank you for the reminder that God’s will for us is first and last. When we “let” Him have control, we are in the best place we could be for success. How blessed we are to have a heavenly Father who loves us so much, and has promised to always be there for us, regardless the circumstances. Thank you for your very special message.
    God Bless You.

  54. Trying my best to operate under Jesus’ direction. But I don’t always get it…… how in the world do I?

  55. Susan G. says:

    Thank you for this and for these encouraging scriptures. I have learned to fix my eyes on Jesus during great disappointment, because we can depend and trust Him with everything we go through in our lives. He also is the only One that gives true peace and joy keeps us going on the right path.

  56. Brianna says:

    Thank you for this message, it feels like I take it in really well at this moment but it slips my mind by the next day. I am trying to learn how to practice believing this but I struggle to look past the disappointments. How do I know if I’m following his path? Are these disappointments, punishment? all my fault due to sin? 🙁

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