Disappointment is such a common experience we need to figure out how to deal with it now! There’s many things in life that disappoint us. We buy things & they are a disappointment. You get a Christmas gift & the parcel looks great under the tree. You open it up and it’s … “Some new underpants again?”
Our Greatest Disappointments.
By far, the greatest disappointments of all are people, those who let us down,
- who are unreliable,
- who don’t appreciate it when you’ve done something for them,
- who tell you one thing then do another,
- who hurt you intentionally or otherwise.
But to make it in life you’ve got to learn to deal with people and circumstances that disappoint you..
If anybody were a pro at dealing with people it was Moses in the bible. He knew how to deal with disappointment and could have been the most patient man of his day. The favourite pastime of the people he was leading was complaining. They challenged Moses leadership, doubted his decisions, & questioned his motives. At one point they just said, “Moses, you just brought us out here in the desert to die.”
These people had many water problems. The first problem they had was too much water in the Red Sea. You probably remember that scene from the Ten Commandments movie with Charlton Heston. They asked “How are we going to get across?”
Another problem they had was that they came to a place called “Marah” where they found bitter water & they weren’t able to drink it. Exodus 15 v. 22 “Then Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the desert of Shur. For three days they traveled into the desert without finding water. When they came to Marah they could not drink its water because it was bitter, that is why the place is called Marah.”
This was a difficult situation with thousands and thousands of people and only bitter water available. But from this, I think we can learn 3 facts about disappointment that may help us handle it in our lives.
It was only three days earlier they saw the great victory in the Red Sea crossing. They were flying high. And in the first part of this chapter they’re singing a song of praise, “God has delivered us. What a great day! We’re unbeatable! We’re invincible!” Yet just three days later they’re grumbling.
So the first thing we see is that…
1. The Greatest Successes in Life are Often Followed by Failure.
The fact is, after every mountaintop there is always a valley. So, if you have just had a big success in your life – watch out!
In this case we know why God lead them to “Marah”, because the bible says in verse 25 “Then the Lord made a decree and a law for them and there He tested them.” For these people this was a test. Rick Warren once said “God’s character was revealed at the Red Sea, when he miraculously led them through the water but man’s character was revealed at Marah”.
The greatest successes in life are often followed by failure and how well we handle the disappointments, tells us much more about our character than how we handle success. The peoples response in v. 24, “So the people grumbled against Moses saying, `What are we to drink?'”
So, what does disappointment say about you? How do you handle it?
They had such a short memory. They’ve seen an incredible miracle just a few days before. Then three days later, at the first sign of trouble, they’re already doubting. I think their motto was “When in doubt, complain .” One minute Moses is the hero, within three days, he’s a zero.
Have you noticed how we forget things quickly? I don’t mean just as we get older – we do this all through our life! Yet some of you have recently discovered the joy of not having to work anymore. You are free to do whatever you like. The responsibility has been lifted off your shoulders.
And yet, you are beginning to think you want to go back to work again! Of course, that is your choice but try to think clearly before you take that step. Think about the real blessings of being retired and if you are feeling lost rather than accept someone else’s purpose in life and doing that, discover who you are and what you really want to do and do that instead. Retirement is about become more of who you were designed to be. I think you need to become a human being, not a human doing. So the second thing we can learn from this story is…
2. The Greatest Blessings in Life are Often Followed by Forgetfulness.
People forget each other all the time. you know children forget parents, and spouses take each other for granted. You probably can’t do too much about the first one but do you encourage your wife? I hope you haven’t forgotten the promises you made – for better or worse. You don’t have to test her commitment by being worse! You need to help her and keep your end of the bargain by becoming better.
The third thing we can learn from Moses example is that just as the greatest blessing in life are followed by disappointment so…
3. The Greatest Failures in Life are Often Followed By Success.
There will be a turn around eventually. The greatest shortages in life are often followed by fullness. It says they left Marah, (v. 27) “Then they came to Elim where there were twelve springs and seventy palm trees and they camped near the water.”
This was a place of absolute delight. They had more than enough water. If you read the whole of Exodus chapter 15 you’ll find they spent over a month there — 42 days.
So the greatest shortages in life are often followed by fullness.
Curiously, if you get out a map, and look at the Sinai, you’ll discover Elim is 7km from Marah. It was just down the road. But they stopped at Marah & they complained & became negative & worried and criticised Moses when Elim where they had more than enough was just a few hours walk away.
A few years ago there was the story of a plane that crashed in the Andes. When the rescuers finally found them, the survivors were shocked to realise that they were only 10Km from a resort hotel.
What is the main point of the story of Marah? I think it is that we often stop too soon. We stop at Marah & get discouraged & it’s bitter & we don’t like it & it’s distasteful and we stay there.
The main message is — Don’t Quit! Don’t throw in the towel. Elim may be right around the corner.
So how do you get from a bitter experience where it’s all dry & there’s nothing to drink & you’re in the middle of the desert, to paradise, to easy street? The answer is, you just keep on going! You keep moving ahead, & trusting God. This text does not say God brought Elim to them. God knew exactly where Elim was & He knew exactly where the people were. But He did not say, “They’re over here & I’ll bring this oasis closer.” God did not bring Elim to them. They got there by ignoring their feelings and continuing to walk in the direction Moses led them.
If you were still working and you woke up tomorrow morning & called your boss and said, “My heart’s not in it today. I really just don’t feel like coming in. I know you don’t want me to be a hypocrite, so I’ll just stay home & watch TV. How do you think he would react?? The fact of the matter is, most of what gets done in the world is done by people who don’t feel like it. Maturity is living by your commitments, not your feelings.
The Next Step
So maybe you feel like you’re living at Marah. It’s bitter & distasteful & it stinks. Maybe your needs aren’t being met. Maybe it’s a financial Marah you’re going through. Maybe it’s an emotional bitter experience. Maybe it’s a health Marah & your having to deal with constant pain. Maybe it’s a spiritual Marah and you’re feeling lost and as if life is meaningless.
Curiously, God knows exactly where you are right now. The issue is, “How long are you going to stay there?” God led His people to Marah, even though Elim was only a few kilometres away. They could have just gone straight there! But He led them to Marah as a test of maturity. Maybe God is leading you through this experience just as surely as He led the people of Moses day through their disappointment.
Wherever you are, remember the greatest successes in life are often followed by failure & the greatest blessings in life are often followed by forgetfulness and the greatest shortages in life are often followed by fullness.
So friends, maybe your Elim is just down the road. What are you going to do about it?
Don’t rehearse your problems over & over in your mind. Don’t complain to other people about it. They can’t help it. That only increases the hurt. Moses cried out to God and that’s what you should do. The Bible says “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.” But when you have done that, you have to get up and keep going. Nobody likes to go through Marah, but the way to the place of delight is often through the place of disappointment.