By Lynn Cowell, Crosswalk.com
The tears wouldn’t quit falling as I sat in the desolate room. The hollow echo of my voice reverberated off the empty walls, even though I was only whispering to my weeping children.
Days before, this cold space resounded with merry Christmas tunes and laughter as gifts were passed around. Stockings, a Christmas tree, and a roaring fire had all provided my dream Christmas, the making of cherished memories with family and friends.
Now, just two days later, the stark difference only reinforced the ache in my heart. Our home, or at least our belongings, were all packed away as we prepared for the relocation of my husband’s job. The only thing left behind was myself and my crying family.
Although it was a good career move for him, it really didn’t feel like any advancement for me, moving 1,000 miles from my community of friends with two little children and one on the way. With New Year’s Day just a few days away, I couldn’t say I was looking forward to this new start.
I was wrestling to not make this about me, but this move was not according to my plan. As I hugged my little ones close, I thought, How can I do this… while I’m pregnant?
There was no time to figure that out.
The moving truck was pulling out of the driveway, and it was time to load up the little ones and head south. God had given us a new assignment and it was our turn to follow His lead, with all of my doubts in tow.
I’m certainly not the first to have received an assignment that felt greater than the confidence I had.
Just look at Mary, the mother of Jesus. Her change of plans was much greater than a move.
Picture her, engaged to a great guy; their wedding plans were in motion. Then, her dreams are interrupted by an angelic visitation: “But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.’” (Luke 1:30-31)
Wait… what? Pregnancy? But I’m not married yet! I can only imagine the thoughts that swirled in Mary’s mind as she began to process the words this messenger had just voiced.
Mary could have experienced a myriad of emotions: fear, anxiety, doubt. For one brief moment, she may have felt disappointment. This plan, the one the angel had just announced, would now become her reality. But this plan was her plan, not the arrangement that had been made between Mary’s family and Joseph’s.
Looking closely at the way Mary reacted, no matter what feelings she might have been fighting, we see a servant of God settled by faith: “‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’” (Luke 1:38a).
Mary responded to the angel with confidence because Mary’s confidence began with her relationship with God. Her heart was fixed on His goodness for her and her people.
Instead of building her confidence on something she could lose, or have taken, Mary built her confidence on God. This confidence, this faith, gave her the power she needed to overcome and not allow any amount of disappointment she could have felt when she saw her plans derailed. She would not allow disappointment to overshadow God’s miraculous plan.
I see in Mary three ways to overcome disappointment in our own lives, especially at Christmas time.
Don’t build our expectations on someone.
For Mary, it would have been easy to build expectations on Joseph. She would need assistance to fulfill this God plan, but for all she knew, Joseph would leave her once he learned she was pregnant.
When Mary responded to the angel, she said, “I am the Lord’s servant.” The only person’s reaction Mary could control was her own. To obey and follow through, she needed to keep her focus on God and His new promise inside of her, not on whether or not Joseph would stay by her side.
As we anticipate the coming of Christmas, let’s also be intentional to position our expectancy on the only One who will never fail us – Jesus Himself. Those who surround us, even those we love and love us in return, are not capable of perfection. They can and will disappoint us, even if they don’t intend to.
If disappointment because of another comes our way this holiday, we can remind ourselves that we are all humans and only our perfect Father has the ability to never disappoint us.
Don’t build your expectations on something.
The angel made it clear, Mary had “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30 NIV). Mary was going to experience a special privilege above all the daughters of the house of David in Israel. Yet how would this “favor” from God impact her life, especially her reputation? How others would interpret this new thing God was doing was outside of Mary’s control. If she set her expectations on something, like her reputation or a flawlessly executed plan, she could have easily been disappointed.
The set up for something to not go right at the holidays is perfect. Tension can be high. The desire to want everything to go “just right” brings stress. Too many people in too little space creates an atmosphere where even the most patient person can lose it.
Chances are that no matter how well we plan, something won’t go as we planned, so why not plan for that? Prepare for something to not turn out. Then, we can set our minds and hearts to overcome this disappointment by pre-deciding to enjoy what is around us instead of choosing to be let down when that something doesn’t go right.
Don’t build your expectations on someplace.
Mary actually left town once she received the news from the visitor angel. She left her home, which is usually where we are most comfortable, to visit her cousin Elizabeth after she received this news.
Each of us has a someplace we would prefer to be while we are celebrating Christ’s birthday, a place that says “You belong. This is home.”
Mary may or may not have had that type of home, a home which embraced her and all that God had called her to fulfilled. She was, though, exactly where she needed to be as she moved into her season of following God’s new assignment for her.
Whether we are excited about the place we will be this Christmas or disappointed, let’s look at where we are celebrating this holiday as our assignment to bring Christ into that place.
Christmas is naturally a time of reflection. As Mary surveyed her new situation, did she understand everything God was doing? Unlikely. Or resent what He was doing? It doesn’t appear so.
Would others judge her? No doubt they would, but Mary didn’t allow people’s opinions to prevent her from embracing God’s calling, even if she didn’t completely understand it. The lack of details didn’t impact her confidence in His plans for her life, nor her trust in Him to take care of her. Whether or not she experienced disappointment in the turn her life had taken or whether she completely understood what an honor this truly was, in this moment, she chose to embrace the new twist God in His wisdom had brought.
There have been so many times in my life when, through the delivery of disappointment, that I have stood at a crossroads. As a mom when my kids made mistakes, as a professional when my work has been rejected and yes, when I moved 1,000 miles away during the holidays… in each of these situations, disappointment brought an opportunity for my own maturing.
As I grow in my faith, I’m desperately trying to follow Mary’s lead. I’m learning that God can use disappointment to develop in me a confidence not built on people, positions, or places. Someone, something, or someplace will all let us down at some point. When we build our expectations and confidence on Christ alone, neither our holidays or our lives will be derailed by disappointment.
The Lord used that move so many years ago, faithfully bringing me to a place where my gifts would grow. I should have known, although it was far from easy, the Lord is always faithful. He will be to you as well as you set your expectations this Christmas on Christ alone.
Lynn Cowell is a Proverbs 31 speaker and the author of several books, written for women of all ages. Her newest Bible study is Make Your Move: Finding Unshakeable Confidence Despite Your Fears and Failures, is a great way to start your new year in God’s Word. Lynn calls home North Carolina, where she and her husband, Greg and the occasional backyard deer are adjusting to life as empty nesters. Along with their three adult children, the Cowells love hiking, rafting, and anything combining chocolate and peanut butter.
Photo courtesy: ©Loaves & Fishes; used with permission.