When Relationships Disappoint

We don’t get very far in life before we learn that sometimes people let us down. Siblings fight, friends disappoint (or betray), teachers see our faults instead of our potential, spouses don’t meet our expectations, and parents fail to keep the promises they made to their children.

How should we respond when a person we care about (and perhaps have even sacrificed for), is oblivious to how they’ve hurt or disappointed us? How should we counsel ourselves so that another person’s ignorance, inconsideration, or ill treatment of us doesn’t cause us to become angry, bitter, distant, or revengeful?

The gospel can help us navigate through these waters of disappointment. Mediating on the truths of Scripture will keep us from going down destructive paths which are most often more about us than Christ. Conflict and disappointment offer tests to prove where our greatest affection and confidence lie; whether in God or man.  When people fail us, it’s an opportunity to respond in a way that points others to Christ. Praise God, that through His life and death, He has redeemed us from the sin that has power to harm and destroy God’s good gifts, including the relationships we have with others.

Here are six opportunities God offers us when people let us down:

1. See this as an opportunity to remember that, because we are all sinners, the only One who will never let us down is God. Our hope is in Christ alone.

We are naturally inclined to have certain expectations of others, particularly those we care about. Women enter marriage expecting to be loved and cherished. Parents love their children and expect to be loved and appreciated by those they have sacrificed much for. We expect loyalty at work when we have served our employer faithfully. But spouses, friends, family, co-workers, and other church members will likely let us down sooner or later.

The gospel reminds us that we are all sinners. While it’s far easier to see someone else’s sin against us, we can be certain that we also disappoint others, whether or not we realize it. The apostle Paul called himself the foremost of sinners (1 Timothy1:15) and the more we grow in humility the more we understand that that is what we are as well! God allows us to experience unmet expectations so that we will learn to put our hope in Him rather than in people. His Word promises that He will never let us down (Hebrews 13:5).

2. See it as an opportunity to remember the mercy and grace God has given to us through His Son. When we take time to think about how much grace God has extended to us, we will be more patient and forgiving of others who fall short of our expectations. Ephesians 2 says that we were once children of wrath who lived in the passions of our flesh as we followed the world and the enemy with great pleasure! But God, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our sins, extended mercy to us and made us alive in Christ.

This amazing news is something we should preach to our hearts first thing every morning. If we go into our day freshly struck by the fact that we did nothing to deserve God’s mercy, we will be far quicker to grant mercy to those we don’t feel deserve to be forgiven. We are never more like Christ when we absorb the penalty of another person’s sin against us for the Lord’s sake. This is God’s work in us and brings glory to His Name.

3. See it as an opportunity to remember how often we fail on our best days to demonstrate undivided love and faithfulness to God. I really want to show God how much I love Him, don’t you? The truth is that our flesh still battles against the selfish desires we were born with. By God’s grace, through the power of His Spirit, I love Christ more today than I did even last week yet, I am more aware than ever of His kind patience with me when I fail to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. God extends grace upon grace to us, knowing we still battle our sin nature. And through the power of His Spirit, we can bend the grace of God toward those who fail to love us as we would like.

4. See it as an opportunity to die to self.  The Bible tells us that our biggest problem is actually ourselves. All too often we want to be the center of attention, to get credit, to promote ourselves, to be loved even when we are unlovable, and to be served by others. But God, in His mercy, gives us opportunities to put self to death so that the life of Christ may rise up in us. While we may feel put off or disappointed by others, as we mature, we learn to see unmet expectations as God given opportunities to humble ourselves, for He draws near to the humble but opposes the proud in spirit. (1 Peter 5:5)

5. See it as an opportunity to love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you through the power of Christ. Sometimes a person we care about can hurt us so deeply that we feel as though they have become our enemy. Our own love is insufficient to love a person who has become an instrument of pain in our lives. But God promises to empower us to do what He commands and that includes loving our enemies. Once again, this is our opportunity to put the power of the gospel on display that many would praise our Lord who redeems us from hatred, bitterness, and seeking revenge.

6. See it an opportunity to pray and watch God work in ways that only He can. What an incredible blessing God has given us to be able to pray, knowing that He hears and answers our prayers. Psalm 5:5 says, “O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” The sacrifice the Psalmist speaks of is the praise and prayers we offer when our hearts are hurting and confused. Believing that God hears, we can wait and watch with anticipation and expectation, knowing our God is faithful.

No matter how close we are to people, at some point they will fall short of meeting every expectation we have of the relationship. This is by God’s design because if human relationships were perfectly satisfying we would look to man to meet the emotional and spiritual needs that God alone is capable of filling. David prayed “Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name” Psalm 86:11.

When another person’s actions exert power over us we should be quick to examine our own hearts first. Susannah Spurgeon (wife of Charles Spurgeon) offers us this question: “Can it be that I am still keeping back from Him the full surrender of heart and life which His divine love demands? Still lingering and wavering on the borderland of half-heartedness, instead of gladly leaving all to follow Him?”

In other words, what does this disappointment reveal about my heart’s truest affections and allegiance? There is only one place for us to go from here and that is to the cross, where Christ died on behalf of His enemies, that we may follow Him and do likewise.

1 Peter 3 tells us how to keep a quiet spirit rather than becoming overly discouraged when husbands, friends, or family hurt us. Adorned in Christ, we are to put our hope in God. When our hearts are fully devoted to Christ, people will have far less power over us. While we might be saddened by their behavior, rather than becoming angry or bitter, our hearts will be filled with praise and gratitude because of the great mercy that God granted to us when we were still His enemy .

Thanks for letting me share my thoughts with you,

Linda Green





3 thoughts on “When Relationships Disappoint

  1. Linda, I so look forward to you posts. This one really was a great help to me. I have printed out and kept many of these, as well as your posts back when you were writing Women At the Orchard. Some are so worn out I can hardly read them. I so wish they were available somewhere to reprint them. I would love to you see you publish them in a book because they are treasures. IS there anywhere to read these? I would so love to be able to go back and read them all again. Blessings to you and thank you so much!

    1. Thank you Catherine! I would love to have you email me those that have particularly spoken to you because I have considered reposting some of them.

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