A week ago today the golf world witnessed what is being called “the worst meltdown in Masters history” when 22-year-old Jordan Spieth lost a five-stroke lead and eventually the Masters to Englishman Danny Willetts. While the media marveled at how Spieth “collapsed” and “choked,” Spieth himself was gracious and resolute. Tradition dictates that the previous year’s winner- Jordan Spieth- must help the new champion put on the fabled green jacket, and this year, that ceremony was carried out not once but three times. One can only imagine how hard that must have been for him to hold his disappointment in check and celebrate his opponent’s victory.
Spieth may have lost, but he did not fail. Through losing he gained an opportunity: to humble himself in order to honor someone else. He could have pouted, fumed, or even refused to carry out his duties, but that would have been self-centered. His courtesy gave the spotlight to Willetts, who had earned it. Spieth knew his own disappointment was less important than Willetts’ happiness. His graciousness in defeat was as inspiring as Willett’s excitement in victory, and far more difficult to achieve.
Disappointment is something every human experiences, but how I handle that letdown exposes my heart. If I think that I am the center of the universe, I will feel cheated or defeated when someone else gets what I want. If my hope for my future or my opinion of myself depends on getting what I think is best for me, I will feel hopeless and worthless when setbacks happen. If my hope is in anything besides Christ, I will not glorify Him when disappointments come, and that in fact is failure.
It’s ok to be honest: God is not glorified if I pretend disappointments don’t hurt. I do need to give myself a time to grieve the loss of a dream come true. When a reporter came too close at the Masters, Spieth politely asked they remove the camera from his face. He needed time to compose his thoughts so that he could respond graciously. I often forget this when one of my kids or a friend faces a disappointment. I want to rub in a little Romans 8:28- “and we know that all things work together for good…” -and make that sadness go away. The verse is Truth with a capital T, but it’s not helpful to hear when the sorrow is too fresh.
The best antidote to disappointment is gratitude. This week I read a blog post by Bay Matthews. This sweet twelve-year-old had trained long hours to make the middle school volleyball team, but she was cut from the roster the first day. Her solution was beautifully mature: she chose to be happy for her friends who made the team, and to comfort the others who did not. Best of all, she made a list of her blessings, focusing on all the things she was NOT disappointed about. I am very sure that none of this was easy for her. She would have preferred to make the team. But Bay’s attitude glorifies God, which has a value that far outweighs a season of volleyball.
In John 15, Jesus uses the analogy of pruning to demonstrate one of His purposes in pain. Nobody wants to be pruned: it hurts. But when Jesus cuts something out of my life, even something I want very badly, I can be sure of two things. First, I don’t need it. I might think I do, but its purpose has been served. Second, “every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (v.2) Jesus doesn’t arbitrarily deny you a promotion or your son a college acceptance. He has something greater planned, something that will bear more fruit for His kingdom. What an honor it is, then, to be pruned by the Master Gardener Himself. Though we may not see it, He must have great and loving purpose behind every disappointment He allows in our lives.
One of my very favorite passages of Scripture teaches me how to respond when all my hard work, preparation, and hopeful dreaming appears to fall apart:
Though the fig tree may not blossom/ Nor fruit be on the vines;/ Though the labor of the olive may fail,/ And the fields yield no food;/ Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,/ And the herd be cut off from the stalls-/ Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,/ I will find joy in the God of my salvation./ The Lord is my strength,/ He will make my feet like deer’s feet,/ And He will make me walk on my high hills. Habakkuk 3:17-19
Rest and rejoice in Him! He is so worthy of our trust.
Sometimes I want to ask you, God, my rock-solid God, why did You let me down? I am discouraged, and my heart is so sad. With Your help, I will put my hope in You. I will praise You again, my Savior and my God! I will wait patiently for You to help me, and You will turn and hear my cry. You will lift me out of the pit of despair, set my feet on solid ground, and give me a new song to sing. I will praise You! Psalm 42: 9 MSG, 11 NLT, Psalm 40:1-3
Father, I want to be the kind of friend who is able to be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep, no matter what is going on in my own life. Teach me to be content, whatever state I am in. For You alone are my portion and my cup, and my security comes from You. Your boundaries for my life are in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Romans 12:15, Philippians 4:11, Psalm 16:5-6
Father, I am so grateful that I have peace with You though Jesus Christ. And not only that, but I also glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance, and perseverance character, and character hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because Your love has been poured out into my heart by the Holy Spirit who was given to me. Romans 5:1-5
Jesus, You said of John, “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” In the same way, help me not to be offended when You do not do exactly as I want or expect. Matthew 11:6