The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake (Psalm 23:1,3 NIV).
Friend to Friend
Each morning on her way to work, my mother would drop me off with my sitter, Mrs. Derryberry. I’d skip to her door, ready for the playmates, cookies, and hugs waiting on the other side. Summer meant a yard full of flowers with a swing set and wading pool for sunny afternoons.
One summer day, the scent of Mrs. Derryberry’s roses drew me around the side of her house. Breathing in the fragrance, my eyes landed on a cluster of lilies standing nearly as tall as me. Eager to smell more beautiful blooms, I poked my nose into the orange petals. Yet instead of a sweet scent, pollen filled my nose with burning pain. Tears streamed down my cheeks as I wondered how such a pretty flower could trick me into hurting myself!
You and I know all about that kind of disappointment, don’t we? You land your dream job, but bad management makes it a nightmare. You fall for the perfect guy, only to discover his betrayal behind your back. The vacation you planned for months is ruined by sickness or bad weather. You pour years of love into your child, only to see them struggle and rebel. The delight of a new home gives way to rude neighbors or expensive repairs. It feels like a bait-and-switch when the blessings we anticipate become a source of pain in the end.
In the book of Ruth in the Bible, we follow Naomi’s journey into disappointment. She and her family made the trek from Bethlehem to the country of Moab to escape a terrible famine at home. Moab held the promise of rescue, provision, and life after a difficult season of fear and hunger.
Yet after settling down in Moab, Naomi’s hopes for a healthy, happy family were tragically disappointed:
“Now Elimelek, Naomi’s husband, died, and she was left with her two sons… After they had lived there about ten years, both Mahlon and Kilion also died, and Naomi was left without her two sons and her husband” (Ruth 1:3-5).
Instead of sustenance and life, Moab held death and loss. Naomi had nothing left, so she set out on the homeward road to Judah.
Perhaps you, too, find yourself with empty hands and a grieving heart. Your exciting plans collapsed into ruin. The loved one you cherished is gone. Your enemies are getting the last word. Like Naomi, you’re tempted to believe that “the Lord’s hand has turned against me” (v. 13) and there is no hope.
In our most painful disappointments, we face a danger that’s more destructive than our circumstances. The poison of bitterness can work itself into our hearts to make a wreck of our faith. Naomi returned home with a bitter spirit full of accusations against God for her empty, afflicted life. Instead of trusting in His love, she placed the blame for her pain at His feet.
How are you coping with disappointment today? Are you more likely to count your losses than blessings? Does everybody get an earful of what’s gone wrong and why? Do you wonder if God turned his back on you? Are you irritable and pessimistic about tomorrow? Take heart and simply remember what is true.
Psalm 23:3 says, “He leads me along the right paths for his name’s sake.” This stretch of life’s journey may feel too hard to bear. But we can trust that even on our hardest path God offers refreshing comfort along the way. Even though we “walk through the darkest valley,” our Shepherd never leaves our side (v. 4).
We also remember Jesus who walked his own “right path” of suffering to the cross. Instead of resisting His Father’s will, He believed in “the joy set before him” still to come (Hebrews 12:2). In time, Naomi discovered the joy God held in store for her all along. She was blessed with a caring community, a loving family, and a precious grandbaby who would take his place in the lineage of Christ.
If we turn from bitterness and trust our Shepherd, we can be confident that “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NIV). God’s power that raised Jesus from death to life is working for us even now. Together, let’s keep the faith.
Dear Lord, my disappointments feel so unfair. I struggle to see Your goodness. Guard my heart from bitterness that denies Your faithful love. Help me to believe You are leading me down the right path and You’re here by my side. I want to trust You with my whole heart.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
In what ways have you experienced God’s kindness and care in a difficult season?
More from the Girlfriends
In our greatest disappointments, God offers the comforting gift of prayer. Joanna has written 101 Prayers for Women to help you take your worries, praises, and hurts to the One who loves you most. Find uplifting scriptures and heartfelt prayers to refresh your faith and hope today. And, share this lovely embossed and silver-foiled gift book with a friend who needs encouragement too.
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