I have been raising catfish in the family pond for food and fun somewhere around ten years.  I started out with fish that were four to six inches long and only ounces in weight, and now they are at eighteen to twenty-four inches and two to three pounds.  It was years of waiting, worry, and anxiety to get here.  I was at the point that I thought, “My plan actually worked!”

Then one warm afternoon just as spring was starting to warm up and turn into summer and we were just about to start enjoying our family pond, someone came by and said, “You got a few fish floating in the pond.”  This happens every year about this time, so I did not think much about it and thought I’d go check it out later that afternoon.  Well later that afternoon, there turned out to be more than just a few fish floating.  It was what looked like the entire pond’s fish population was floating.  There were over one hundred forty dead catfish floating on the bank.  My heart sank.  Digging over three hundred pounds of fish out of the pond was disheartening.  I was not sure exactly how to respond or exactly what emotion to have, but what I can tell you is that disappointment was what was in my heart.

Anytime you lose something, or something does not turn out the way you expect it to, disappointment is going to be there.  The question is how do you deal with it?  You have a ton of options when these situations pop up.  Sadness is probably the first emotion that comes in.  You just lost or didn’t get something, and that hurts.  It hurts, because this is not what you wanted or expected.  Depression is another result of disappointment.  I call it the ‘woe is me’ attitude, and now because of this, everything in my life is now terrible.

The coping mechanism that is my go-to is ignoring or pushing it down to where I no longer feel it.  “It’s fine.  I’m fine.  Everything is fine.” is my mantra to suppress emotions.  Anger is also easy to resort to.  This usually quickly turns into blaming someone else.  In my case, it was the farmers around our pond.   That was because I was sure it was their chemicals that had killed my fish.  I obviously had nothing to base that on.  It even got to the point of blaming God and asking, “Why did you do this to me?  I don’t deserve this.”  Now, I know I am talking about fish and people are going to say, “Really, fish brings all this up?” But it does not take much to conjure up these feelings and frustrations.

Now back to the main question: how do you handle disappointment?  Sadness, depression, ignoring, anger, blaming are all things that we think we can’t do anything about, so we are content for them to be there.  These natural reactions are not the answer.  They are a byproduct of our flesh and are not helpful at all.

As a father, my goal is not to disappoint my kids.  It is to help them grow and do what is best for them.  When my kids were small, we did not remove the candy bowl from the table.  We simply told them ‘no’ and enforced our expectations.  Were they disappointed?  I have no doubt, but we wanted them to learn discipline.  There was a purpose in the struggles we allowed our kids to experience. Did they ask, “Why does dad do this to me?”  I am sure they did and still do from time to time today at the ages of 15 and 21.  The real question is: was I doing it to them or for them?  If they understood I was doing it for them and not to them, the lesson would have probably been learned much sooner.

I was just like my kids when I was reacting to all those catfish on the shoreline.  My reaction was, “God why did you do this to me?” I got really close to what I think is the true question you should be asking with any disappointment: “God why did you do this for me?”  It is time that we quit seeing ourselves as victims of God and start seeing ourselves as the children of God.  He has a purpose in everything that He puts or allows into our lives.  That purpose will always revolve around making us better and building a relationship with Him.  It is just as Matthew 7:11 states, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

Every struggle we face is a gift given from God.  It is there to build our relationship with Him and mold us into the person He created us to be.  There is a purpose in us going through that situation.  God has a plan, and that plan is bigger than anything we can imagine.  Psalms 37:23 says that the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord.  Every disappointment is a step that has been ordered by the Lord.  The question then becomes, are you going to pout and rely on your emotions of, “Why did you do this to me, God?” or are you going to rely on God and say, “God, why did you do this for me?”

Oh! So why did all those fish die?  Bottom line, there were too many fish in the tank, and the oxygen levels in the water got too low.  Who knew fish needed oxygen to breathe?  The fish on the bank were a disappointment.  They were also a great opportunity for me to see that God is growing me.  He wanted me to see that without Him I can maintain nothing.  No plans, no preparation, no foresight is great enough without His direction and plan, because only God is enough.  That was my why for my disappointment this time.  So remember to always ask this essential question, “Why is God doing this FOR me?”

– Written by Chris

 Meet the authors.
Listen to us discuss our blogs on our YouTube channel.