By Stephen Hong
When our plans for God do not pan out the way we imagined, it is inevitably disappointing and can lead to discouragement. But is that all? Can frustrated plans actually be a blessing? This story is about disappointments turning into encouragements.
Going into the past school year, I was full of hopes and dreams. It was a new year, and I was starting a new role at Wellspring. My plans for God included expanding a mentorship group, growing the number of home groups for college students, developing student leadership and discipleship, and helping more students integrate into the life of the church. However, I often found myself disappointed and discouraged. The way that I pictured a discipleship group did not go as I planned. I thought home groups would quickly multiply after a year, but they didn’t. I asked, “God, why would you not bless the great plans I have for you? Don’t you want these students to flourish and grow into the purposes that you have for them?” I was devoted to these great plans for God, but I had lost sight of my devotion to God.
When David lost everything in Ziklag and his men were about to kill him, he was greatly disappointed in God. How could he not be? Yet, he did not lose sight of God and “David found strength in the LORD his God” (1 Sam 30:6b). And as David was strengthened in the Lord, he sought the Lord for a plan and overtook the Amalekites and destroyed and restored everything back to how it was with more blessings!
The Lord was graciously reminding me of my need for Him. His ways and thoughts are higher and infinitely greater than mine. As I devote myself to Him in the Word and prayer, my love for Jesus increases and this means my love also grows for the students. The inductive bible study that I prepped might not have gone the way I wanted in the discipleship group with Samuel, Matthew, and Joseph, but at the end of the year they felt genuinely loved by Christ through our honest times of sharing. And all three of them are now trying to lead a bible study and evangelize their non-Christian friends over the summer! Home groups might not have multiplied, but looking back, what the Lord did in the leadership community of Harvard, Dana, Christin and myself and the students was so encouraging. Diverse in age, gender, ethnicity and culture, we knew we had to talk about some of the current racial issues in our country. As we took the time to share our stories, the Lord brought us into intimate times of worship, prayer and honest conversations about our hurt and pain. Through these times, not only did we have a greater understanding of one another but God was healing us and building us into a true community.
I am so grateful to God for these disappointments because through them I was able to experience deep encouragement.
God is at work. But, are we patient and humble enough to see what He is doing in the midst of disappointments? Disappointments are opportunities for encouragement rather than discouragement. As John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).