When things don’t turn out the way we planned — Vivienne Solomons

A monthly column by Vivienne Solomons who is a legal consultant who passionately believes that God wants His people to make a difference right where they are and to stand up for what is true and just. She is also passionate about encouraging young women to walk victoriously with God and she is engaged in a challenging faith journey as a parent of a child with special needs.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you’ve put your faith “out there” – on the edge of what is possible? You know that it is a big ask — so much needs to be done and arranged, there are funds to be accessed and there is a set period of time within which everything must be accomplished. You start out with, let’s call it a great expectation, and your faith is high. God shows up at various junctures along the way, with each time being both a confirmation and an encouragement to proceed as planned.

Yet, despite doing everything “right”, navigating the many twists and turns and highs and lows along the way, it is suddenly all over when the door to your much-anticipated, long-awaited great expectation slams firmly shut. End of story … or is it?

This is what I experienced a few weeks ago. When I finally realised that my great expectation would not be met, at least not immediately and perhaps not even in the short term, I was … relieved. At least the struggle was now over and I had certainty. Can you relate? But my story did not end there.

A day or so later, when reality set in, I began to feel tremendous and even overwhelming disappointment that I just couldn’t shake. In trying to acknowledge and explain how I was feeling with a view to finding a way to move forward, I learned of the work of Christine Hassler, life coach and author.

Hassler created the term “expectation hangover”, which describes the disappointment and other emotions we experience when our expectations are not met. According to Hassler, the symptoms of an “expectation hangover” can include not only disappointment but also lack of motivation, lethargy, anxiety, anger, regret, depression, physical discomfort, confusion, self-judgment, shame, denial and … faith crises.

As I read those words, she could have been speaking to me directly. This was me! Clearly, disappointment can be felt on an emotional, mental, behavioural and spiritual level.

Here are a few of Hassler’s tips to move out of an “expectation hangover”, which I have found helpful:

  1. Give yourself permission to feel what you are feeling
  2. Release any guilt or regret that you may be experiencing
  3. Observe and adjust your behaviour to create healthy and helpful habits

To this I would add:

  1. Pray and seek the counsel of fellow believers who can provide the support that you need.

What I have learned from this experience is that the actual disappointment or unmet expectation is only the beginning of the story as it causes us to examine ourselves a little more closely: our needs and our desires, our dreams and the goals we have for our lives. And yes, it may even cause us to experience a crisis of faith, especially when we commit to a life of faith in God. But as I said to a friend of mine, I am of the opinion that God is not intimidated by my disappointment and dare I say it, even welcomes my questions as I try to make sense of my life and its many twists and turns, in the context of God’s Word and His promises.

We have only one life to live, let us live it to the full!

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