Disillusionment and Hope

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Life hurts.

A brief look at my journal won’t show extended entries on blessings or accomplishments. Those entries are present, but they aren’t prominent. Instead, pages often describe hurt and frustration, confusion and fear. I write out prayers wherein I wrestle through difficult situations and emotions. I come before my Lord with pen and paper to find peace and rest in the eternal shelter, the everlasting rock. When life hurts, when I feel overwhelmed, I run to the only sure hope for my soul.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you, like me, thought life was simple: you go to school, you get a job, you get married, you have kids, you make disciples, you grow in godliness. But things don’t go according to plan. Hopes get dashed, fears become realities, uncertainty becomes the norm. Sometimes your desires go unfulfilled. Sometimes you forget your lessons. Sometimes you lose. In spite of our utmost efforts and greatest plans, we can’t fix what is broken. And while it shouldn’t surprise us, it often does. Even though we inhabit world affected by the fall of Genesis 3, we assume the fall won’t affect us, won’t affect this part of life, won’t affect that hope. Disillusionment reminds us such assumptions are unfounded.

Disillusionment, however, serves a profound purpose. When confronted by a harsh reality, we see clearly this world’s inability to satisfy us. As unexpected events break our hearts, we find that our hearts were never really safe with temporary things. Possessions, friendships, families, jobs, degrees, experiences – each can be beautiful blessings. But they are insufficient gods, unable to provide us with the peace, the pleasure, or the purpose we seek. The temporal will always fall short of the eternal.

Temporary disappointments, then, serve to remind us of the true source of eternal security. As disillusionment jars us awake from the comforting dreams with which we often live, it calls us to remember that true comfort is found only in God. Paul understood this truth, likening the power of God within believers to a “treasure in jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7). Through God, we can endure suffering and hardship, resting in the sovereign purpose of a God who causes all things to work together for good for his people (Romans 8:28). Paul set his eyes on things above, and he encouraged others to do the same by reminding them of the source of our hope:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Paul knew suffering well (see 2 Corinthians 11-12), yet he knew suffering was not the end of the story. He found joy in trials that produced hope in God, hope grounded in the unshakeable foundation of peace with God through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1-5). Paul understood the value of knowing Christ and embraced all necessary suffering and sacrifice to know him more (Philippians 3:7-11). Paul found the secret of contentment by grounding his hope not in his momentary situation but in the eternal Christ (Philippians 4:11-13). Jesus changed how Paul saw everything.

And the same can be true of us. We, like Paul, can suffer the loss of all things without growing bitter or cold because we have an infinitely greater source of joy. Furthermore, we can enjoy the gifts of God with a pure heart because we know our ultimate gift is the Giver himself (James 1:16-18). We live with an eternal hope, an eternal joy, and an eternal source of life because of Jesus Christ. Disillusionment, however painful, stands as a temporary signpost reminding us of eternal truth.

Andrew Peterson’s song “Is He Worthy?” beautifully captures the weight of life. We do indeed feel the brokenness of the world and the depth of the shadows around us. We long for – nay, groan for – redemption. Yet we remember our hope, our joy, and our foundation. We remember Christ, the anchor for our souls in the midst of the storms of this life. And we remember that through every pain, every disappointment, every heartache and loss and fear we may face, God is on his throne. He is working for our good, providing for our needs, caring for us in our hurts. Jesus bore the weight of this broken world, suffering along with us that he might be the perfect founder of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10). So hope in him, rest in him, and wait for him. He will never let you go (Romans 8:31-39).


Photo by Trym Nilsen on Unsplash

Thanks to Maci for her editing help. Thanks to Atley for helping me choose the image for the post.

For some thoughts on sorrow, click here. For some thoughts on expectations, click here.

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