Walking Through the Forest of Disappointment | Travis Barnwell


John 6:16-27

Disappointment - Sadness or displeasure caused by the non-fulfillment of one's hopes or expectations.

- Oxford Living Dictionaries

Oh, how we have experienced being disappointed, whether it’s our fingers falling on crumbs in that empty bag of cookies (we so knew the bag held one more!), or the more profound let down of losing someone or something very precious to us. Even our inescapable sin is constantly resurfacing to reveal how little we’ve been able to grow ourselves! Disappointment is about as regular as taxes coming due, leaving us bemoaning the vast distance between the hoped-for outcome and the actual one. The day I finally began my morning commute on time, only to reach the metro station and find my train significantly delayed, did the letdown rattle me to the core? Or just cause me a momentary pause for frustration? Either way, not experiencing what I’d hoped for and expected was not without notice and effect. It was added to life’s landscape, already crowded with the vegetation of prior hopes unrealized.

Sure, our landscape is also sprinkled with both incidental and monumental expectations that do get met - I do get to work on time, I do find a spouse, we do have a healthy baby, I am chosen for the promotion, etc. But these morsels of joy offer temporary satiation to the ravenous hope within us. And the shadows cast by our losses often feel more dense and less fleeting than these joys. Perhaps more tragic in our journey through the forest of disappointments is the torturous state of motion in which our journey is set. We’re propelled along a wooded road with no brakes and have to either duck the branches or take them on the chin. Again, and again, and again. We may choose to cognitively dismiss the impact of so many disappointments, and labor to numb all hope out of our emotive radar by limiting our intake of life. But we smack into disappointments nonetheless, and however much we attempt to minimize our hope and soften the blow of future letdowns, the ache persists.

In the sure-to-disappoint world that we live in, what do we do with a stubborn longing that just won’t quit?  

We easily come to Jesus, as the seekers in this passage, wanting reprieve from a life of daring to hope, while we get pummeled by disappointments. “Jesus, just make it stop! Tell us what we must do to quell this hunger we cannot escape! Give us something to treat the disappointments that keep coming!” We make these demands as a people long accustomed to simply surviving, our imaginations limited by our tenuous condition. We just haven’t had much space for thinking beyond our need for relief.

But Jesus knows what we should truly ask for, and what we actually need:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

   neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

   so are my ways higher than your ways

   and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55: 8-9)

This Lent we draw near to the “Bread of Life” - the embodiment of our hope. What does He have for us? Perhaps it is far more than we dare expect.

Travis is currently living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia with his wife Tiara and son Theo. It’s pretty awesome.