About a week ago, I just had one of those days. You know the ones that begin with leaving your husband locked out of the house and end with being pulled over by a police officer? Yup, it was one of those days!! Thankfully that day ended, and a new, better day began. But let’s be honest, that isn’t always how it works, is it? What happens when one bad day is followed by another?

We have all said it, and if we haven’t said it, we have thought it, “What on earth is going on with 2020?” If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Bad days seem to follow bad days and you feel like you are running through a gauntlet doing everything you can to dodge all the things being thrown your way. I have to be honest with you and say that as I sit here and write this post I am navigating one of the toughest seasons I have been through.

I was reminded this past week of a man in the Bible named Jacob. When I re-read Jacob’s story my heart went out to him. He really did have bad day after bad day; some of his own doing and others out of his control.

In Genesis 27 we see that Jacob, after deceiving his older brother (Esau) out of his birthright, now has to flee for his life as an angry Esau hunts him down. This leads him through a place named Bethel (remember that name, we will come back to it later). Jacob then travels east and ends up working for a man named Laban. He strikes a deal with Laban that allows Jacob to marry Laban’s daughter, Rachel, whom Jacob loved, in exchange for 7 years of labor. But Laban tricks Jacob and he ends up marrying Laban’s other daughter, Leah, whom Jacob did not love (I can only imagine that awkward moment when Jacob made that little discovery). Laban however promises Rachel’s hand in return for a further 7 years. After finally marrying Rachel, Jacob decides it’s time to move on from his father-in-law’s land but leaves under a strained relationship with Laban. Following a wrestle with God that leaves him walking with a limp, Jacob reconciles with his brother, which was good news soon to be followed by, what I can only imagine would have been some of Jacob’s darkest days. His daughter Dinah is defiled and raped by a man named Shechem and Jacob’s sons decide to take revenge into their own hands. In their anger they not only put Shechem to the sword but they kill all the men living in the city. They loot the entire city carrying off their plunder including all of the flocks, women and children.

Stop there and imagine being Jacob in this moment. Can you see what I mean by bad days followed by bad days? Season after season of struggle, conflict, trial and difficulty. He moved from one dramatic plot-twist to the next with barely enough time to take a breath.

Jacob sits feeling completely defeated, under the weight of the events that have just taken place. God gives Jacob these instructions: “Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.” Genesis 35:1 (NIV)

There is that place I mentioned earlier, Bethel. God had led Jacob to Bethel before and it was when he was in Bethel the first time that God spoke to him through a dream. A dream about descendants, blessing and promise. It was in Bethel that Jacob first had a revelation of who God was. This was the place God took Jacob back to.

God knew that in a moment of defeat and disappointment Jacob needed to be reminded of a few things. God took Jacob back to a place where he had met with him before. I think God wants to do the same for you and I.

ON BAD DAYS LET GOD REMIND YOU OF A FEW THINGS:

1. LET GOD REMIND YOU OF YOUR IDENTITY.

God appeared to him again and blessed him.  God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel. Genesis 35: 9-10 (NIV)

Jacob needed to be reminded of who he was and who God had called him to be. So much so that God even gave him a new name. It was a reminder to Jacob that he was no longer the man he used to be, he was no longer defined by his past, his own mistakes or the mistakes of others. He had a new name and a God identity. The root meaning of the name Israel is, “God prevails”. Every day, simply by the pronouncement of his name Jacob (Israel) would now be declaring victory over his circumstances.

I want to encourage you to allow God to remind you of who He has called you to be. Go back to a place where He can re-establish over you your identity in Christ. You are not defined by your past, by your mistakes, by the mistakes of others. You are not defined by your bad days. His name for you is loved, valued, precious, unique, gifted, restored child of God.

2. LET GOD REMIND YOU OF HIS SOVEREIGNTY.

And God said to him, “I am God Almighty”. Genesis 35:11 (NIV)

God didn’t just remind Jacob of who Jacob was, He also reminded him of who HE was – God Almighty. Those four words reminded Jacob that God was still sovereign – despite what his circumstances said, God was still in charge and still on the throne.

It can be easy for us to allow the circumstances of a year like 2020 to get the better of us and keep us in a place of worry, fear and anxiety. We begin to panic about what decisions governments are making and feel like we are helpless in the face of what we are experiencing. It is then that we need God’s reminder: “I am God Almighty”. We need to remember who is on the throne. We need to remember that regardless of what we might be facing we have a God who sees beyond all that we see. We need to remember that God’s got this and He’s got us. 2020 may have shaken us but it hasn’t shaken God.

3. LET GOD REMIND YOU OF HIS PROMISE.

Be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” Genesis 35: 11-12 (NIV)

It is very difficult during our darkest valleys to remember where it is we are heading. When all that is before us is darkness and more darkness its easy to forget what light and hope looks like. Difficult years like 2020 can have us questioning our future and the promises that God once spoke over us.

God knew that Jacob needed to be reminded again of the purposes, plans and promises that He had set apart for Jacob.

What is it that God has promised you? Can you still see it? Are you still holding onto it? Declaring it? Or is it time to ask God to give you a fresh revelation?

Write down again the dreams He has put in your heart. Allow Him to breath new life into the plans and purposes that He has for you.

Jacob did something interesting in verse 14 and 15 (NIV): Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it.  Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.

Jacob set up a pillar to mark the place where He met with God, discovered his identity and realised his purpose. A marker that should he ever need to, he could once again go back to and let God remind him again. Perhaps 2020 could become a marker in your life? But not a marker of struggle and heartache. Instead, it could be a marker of God’s goodness and faithfulness. A marker that we will go back to in future bad days to remind us that God’s got this, God’s got you and good days are coming.

Now, go out there and live like you believe it.

I spent some time this afternoon looking at what other people say about disappointment and to be honest most of the quotes out there offer very little hope.

“No expectations. No disappointments.”

“Silly me, expecting too much from people again.”

“Too many high hopes, too many disappointments.”

It’s no wonder people struggle to pick themselves up off the floor if those are the voices they are listening to.

In saying that, one of my strongest emotions this week having gone into a second level 3 lockdown in New Zealand, would have to be disappointment. In the first lockdown I think it was a novelty. I think I was ok with having a break from our normal rhythm and in some ways it was a relief to not have to turn up to event after event all the time. But after a few months of cancelling everything we started to fill our calendar again – this time with things I now looked forward to so much. The most immediate being my husband’s birthday and a weekend away – just him and I – for the first time in over 10 years.

So when the lockdown was announced late Tuesday evening I couldn’t help but feel ripped off that I was going to miss out on something I had set my heart and hopes on.

I wonder how many others are in the same boat? Making the assumption that I am not the only one to feel disappointment at lost plans and cancelled calendars, I thought I’d put pen to paper and see if we can’t encourage one another on this rollercoaster journey. Who knows, this might even hit home for you in many other areas of your life.

HOW DO I DEAL WITH DISAPPOINTMENT IN MY LIFE?

1. TAKE A MOMENT TO FEEL IT.

Give yourself permission to feel the disappointment. Acknowledge it. You don’t have to squash it down, ignore it and pretend like it isn’t there. It’s ok to have a wee meltdown, shed a tear or stomp your feet when it hits you unexpectedly. JUST DON’T STAY THERE. Give yourself 20mins, an hour, half a day, a day (however dramatic you feel the need to be) to feel sorry for yourself. Wallow. Lament. Throw a tanty. Then get up and dust yourself off. Don’t stay down.

2. BE HONEST WITH GOD.

In those lamenting moments it is so important that you are honest with God about how you are feeling. Allow him into your world – even the places you want to hide. You don’t have to hide it from him. Tell him how you are feeling. Tell him why you are disappointed. Tell him what hurts the most. Tell him why it sucks and how you have been ripped off. Spend some time writing it down. Journal it through. He’s listening.

3. EVALUATE YOUR EXPECTATIONS.

Now I am not someone who would ever tell you to stop dreaming and stop hoping. In fact I believe that our expectation is linked to our experience. Expectation is important in the faith journey. What I am saying here is that sometimes in a difficult season it is important to adjust our expectations of ourselves and of others. This will help us navigate our disappointment. If it’s a new season or a full season. If it’s a season where there is sickness or extra pressure somehow then lowering your expectations does not mean you lack faith – it means you carry wisdom. Ask yourself, do I need to change any of my expectations to help me navigate this season.

4. GRAB HOLD OF SOME POSITIVES.

In moments of disappointment sometimes all it takes is a shift in perspective. A reminder that while it might be bad, it’s not all bad. I have lost some things, but I haven’t lost everything. This is the perfect moment to start a gratitude journal. End each day by writing a list of The Good In Today. Gratitude keeps us from wallowing. It helps us to look up from our circumstances and see the good all around us. Thanksgiving and praise is a practice that grows our faith and shifts our perspective.

5. TRUST THAT GOD’S GOT THIS.

There are many things that we will never get our heads around, will never be able to reason and may never understand. There are answers to questions I may never know on this side of eternity and I have to be ok with that. I have to be ok believing that I may not know, but God knows. I may not be in control but God is. I may not have all the answers but God does. This is the part of the journey where trust comes into play. There are many circumstances when all we have left is to trust. Trust that God has got it in hand.

6. REMEMBER GOD’S GOODNESS.

This disappointment does not signify the end of God’s goodness over your life. He is still good. And He is still good to you. Take some time to write down all of the ways He has been good to you in the past. Think of the times He has felt near to you. Think of the prayers you know He has heard and answered. Think about moments of provision, healing, reconciliation and restoration you have witnessed. May those times become a testimony of His goodness in your season of disappointment. A reminder to you that if He has done it once, He will do it again!

7. MAKE PURPOSE YOUR PERSPECTIVE.

I do not believe that God orchestrates tragedy in our world but I certainly believe He will use it to fulfil His purposes. God is greater than any failure, mistake, loss, discouragement and disappointment we may encounter. And if we will allow purpose to be our perspective we won’t miss what He could do in and through us.

8. BEGIN TO DREAM AGAIN.

This might be the hardest step of them all. It’s scary to step out after you have stepped out once and been left disappointed. Don’t let the past rob you of your future. If God has put something on your life He will use anything to bring it to fruition – even this. Allow the possibilities to stir in you once more. Fear will tell you it can’t be done but choose to live in faith not fear. And faith says, dream again.

Now, go out there and live like you believe it!