I was once given the advice to "steward your disappointments." I thought that I understood it then, but I more certainly understand it now. I don't have to talk about my own sufferings or disappointments in order to convey to you the weightiness and distress that come alongside difficulty. I don't need a pithy anecdote to show you how deeply rooted pain is within the human, earthly experience. We all know it intimately; we all understand it profoundly. The sin that is woven into the fabric of this fleshly world impacts each of us in a myriad of ways. The problem is not the suffering or the difficulty–there are plenty of blogs and articles on that (might I add that we need the thoughtful, Scriptural wisdom of said blogs and articles). The problem is, are we stewarding our disappointments?
I like to say, "God uses every part of the buffalo," harkening back to my elementary school days when we learned about the resourcefulness and responsibility within Native Americans. It started off more-so as a joke but has turned into an important way that I view God. He uses everything. He uses the things that we're prone to throw out, and He uses the things that we cherish. He uses rejoicing to grow us. He uses lamentation to grow us. He uses annoyances to grow us. He uses disappointments to grow us. He uses all of it, every moment of life is bursting with eternal value. God is working in it all, using it to sanctify us and draw our affections to Him.
Bouts of suffering are not isolated to modern-day Christianity. Scripture speaks volumes of saints-of-old experiencing the intensity of earthly disappointments. We know that God works our circumstances together for our good (Romans 8:28). We know that the sufferings of this world are greatly eclipsed by the glories of the next (Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:17). We know that we, as Christians, are bound to suffer as Christ Himself suffered (1 Peter 1:4, 2:21). We know that our sufferings prune us and make us more like Christ (1 Peter 2:21, Romans 5:3-4, Philippians 3:10). In accordance with all of these passages, we know that God uses our sufferings. He uses our disappointments. We do ourselves a disservice to view them as obstacles to rush through for the sake of comfort. We must steward them.
Stewarding our experiences means to take them captive and yield ourselves to what God is doing in us through them. We can sit in our suffering, whining and howling in dread, or we can take it captive and bend it to the purposes of God, using it as means to be made more holy and more Christlike. We can dig our heels into the ground, not wanting change and not wanting betterment, or we can fully surrender ourselves to the pruning work of the Holy Spirit. One makes us richer, and one makes us pitiful.
The more pitiful case doesn't grow our relationship with God, nor does it bring us joy. The pitiful case leads to ruin, drowning us in our sorry circumstances. But we get richer when we allow the Holy Spirit to do His work. We experience abounding gain when we surrender ourselves to what the Lord has for us. Stewarding our disappointments brings us into fellowship with God and gives us delight in Him alone.
Dr. Tom Schreiner said, "God uses our suffering to wean us away from the love of this world (because this isn't heaven); so that our hearts would turn to Him, so that we would seek our happiness in Him, so that we would acknowledge He is our portion." We are creatures prone to love this world far more than what we are meant to. The earth is filled to the brim with opposition to God and His desires; it abounds in the love of self and faulty truth. Above all, this world is not our home; it will dissolve and perish, but we who are in Christ have an imperishable home with Christ on high.
Our sufferings, disappointments, and frustrations give us an appropriate perspective, steering us heavenward, confronting the reality that this world is imperfect and insufficient for our joy. When we realize that there is no true happiness to be found in the things of this world, we are forced to seek happiness in God. God is our prize. He is the fount of delight, the source of perfect joy. The more that we learn to steward our disappointment and suffering, the more we grow to understand that absolute, unadulterated truth that God is of the utmost value, never wavering, never ceasing.
We don't count wealth as the world does, in dollar signs and luxury cars. We count richness in abounding delight in God, a joy that cannot be stolen from us. That is the richness we gain when we steward disappointment: we get more of God in our lives. This might sound trite and contrived, but I assure you that there is nothing better, nothing more valuable, than God Himself. And if we're stewarding our disappointments well, we grow in His likeness and in knowledge of Him. That is our portion and prize, and it is truly the only thing that matters.