Disappointments. Disillusionment. Your life going to pieces.
It happens to everybody, doesn’t it? As predictable as death and taxes.
How do you handle it?
I talked recently with a man who was hopeful of a new job. He had been through the application process and was one of the two persons being interviewed. He and his wife were so hopeful that they even applied for a place in a new school for their daughter and had that all arranged. Then he got the word: a younger man had been chosen.
He was crestfallen.
That’s a descriptive word, isn’t it? Do you know what it means, literally? A crest is a comb or growth on the head, such as a rooster has. It is also a plume on a helmet, or an insignia worn on the top of a helmet. When one is “crestfallen,” it means that his head is bowed in humiliation or defeat.
My friend was crestfallen. He was hurt. He was disappointed.
How do you deal with your disappointments?
There is a clear prescription for it in our text today.
Maybe you are like me, and have always thought of this text about the men from Emmaus as a post-Easter text. It is filled with mystery and surprise, and functions well in that way.
But it is also a text about how to deal with disappointment at any time. It is very simple. It shows three things you are to do when you are hit by any great disappointment. First, you are to look back at the scriptures. Then you are to look around you at the fellowship. And, finally, you are to look ahead to the resurrection. Three simple acts, and they will take the heartache out of any disappointment. Let’s look at them more closely.
I. First, look back at the scriptures.
These men had been greatly disappointed. They had believed that Jesus, the miracle-working teacher from Galilee, was the long-awaited Messiah from God and that the kingdom of God had been about to break forth in their time like wine from a pierced wineskin.
Then Jesus was crucified and His followers ran away. Their whole situation appeared to have changed dramatically. The Savior was dead, the movement was over. They were dragging their feet toward home, a few miles away from Jerusalem. They must have looked awful. They were tired, disillusioned, dispirited. Their hope had been nailed to a cross.
Jesus appeared and walked beside them. It was near dusk. They didn’t realize who He was. He asked why they were so dejected. They hardly looked at Him, intent as they were on the dusty road.
“Surely you are the only stranger in Jerusalem who has not heard,” they said. “Jesus was crucified there three days ago. We thought He would be the one to liberate Israel. Now He is dead.”
And then, says our text, Jesus took the scriptures and, beginning with the Torah and then the prophets, showed them what they all meant concerning Himself, that He was to die and be raised from the dead. Wouldn’t you like to have heard that lesson that evening? It would have to be the greatest Bible lesson of all time!
That was the first thing that answered the disappointment of these fellows from Emmaus — they were made to look back at the
That isn’t a bad practice anytime, is it? The scriptures are such a rich repository of truth and experience, revelation and understanding. We sometimes forget how deep and cunning they are, or how engagingly they speak to our life situations today, even centuries after they were written.
I have never known anyone who was going through a bad episode in life to read the Bible without finding things in it that spoke to his or her condition as if it were written especially for that condition. I have never read it myself without finding this to be true. Sometimes I am simply amazed by the way it happens. I will have been feeling something, maybe without even recognizing what I was feeling. Then, perusing the Bible, my eye would fall upon some text that arrested my attention as if neon lights were flashing all around it. “Wow!” I would think. “This is exactly what I need to hear right now! It speaks to my heart in precisely the right way!”
Several years ago I met a young dancer who told about being in a terrible car accident that put her in the hospital for months. Her leg was in a cast and suspended on weights and pulleys, and she was immobile for weeks and weeks. I asked how she, a dancer, could stand that kind of immobility for so long.
“I would have died,” she said, “except for one thing. Every day, sometimes several times a day, I mentally danced the twenty-third psalm. It is so beautiful! It gave me the patience to wait.”
Jesus had a purpose in turning the Emmaens’ attention back to the scriptures. It was to help them see how God acts in the world. Every reference in the Torah and the prophets was to an instance in which God had done or said something that would throw light on God’s nature and purpose in history.
This is why we look back to the scriptures, too. They remind us of what God is doing in the world. They help us to see how our own lives are part of the faithful unfolding of God’s will. They set our lives and times in the right perspective.
When we realize that we are standing here, with our disappointments, in a direct line from Moses and David and Jesus and Paul to Anselm and Luther and Wesley and Mother Teresa, we can handle anything. Then we know that the God who presides over all history is our God, and that He never fails, whatever seems to be happening at the moment.
It’s always a good rule to look back to the scriptures.
II. Then it’s important to look around us at the fellowship.
That’s what these men from Emmaus did. When Jesus had interpreted the scriptures to them, they arrived at their house. It was dark and they wanted to be hospitable, so they invited Jesus to join them for the night.
Inside, they produced food and shared a meal. As their guest, Jesus was invited to say the prayer of blessing over the bread. Then they recognized Him, as He blessed and broke the bread.
Maybe they had seen Him do it before. Maybe it was something about His countenance. Anyway, they knew Him — and He suddenly vanished from their midst.
Then they reflected on the fellowship they had had with Him and said, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as we walked together on the road?” Wasn’t it wonderful? Didn’t we have a great experience with Him?”
Fellowship — with Christ and each other.
This is the second thing you do to deal with your disappointments. First you read the scriptures, you look back at the scriptures, then you look around at the fellowship. You see how good it is to have friends in the Lord, and how they relieve the pain you are feeling.
I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty wonderful to have friends to turn to in moments of disappointment or rejection.
I remember an occasion not long ago. We were feeling unhappy and grief-stricken about leaving Los Angeles, and there were some unpleasant things going on behind the scenes, the kind of things many church members never hear about.
Our friends Walt and Eleanor Vernon were sensitive to this, and asked us to come down to visit them in Anaheim. We went down to their house and found their arms open and their hearts over-flowing with love. They took us over to Orange, where we spent several hours looking in antique shops and sitting at a sidewalk cafe having tea and coffee. Then we went to dinner at a fun restaurant they had found, and laughed and talked and reminisced. Later, on the way home, we said aloud how much good it had done us, and how wonderful our friends were to share our time of need and fill it with their love and strength.
It would be awful, in our times of disappointment and disillusionment, not to have anywhere to turn.
There is a scene about this in Edward Albee’s play A Delicate Balance. Two people show up on their friends’ front porch one evening and ask to be taken in. “We became afraid,” they said. They were just sitting at home, and suddenly they were filled with a sense of dread.
Their friends take them in, but they really don’t want to.
You feel the helplessness on both sides — the people who became afraid and the friends who feel imposed upon — and you realize there are people in the world who don’t seem to have anybody to turn to in the hour of need.
But Christians always have someone. There are always brothers and sisters in Christ who care and who have the welcome mat out. It is one of the great strengths of Christianity, one of the great privileges of our faith. We understand about life and death and suffering and hope, and we want to be there for one another.
Christ has given us a bond together. “Love one another as I have loved you,” He said. And, though we don’t always do it perfectly, most of us will try to do it. There is always somewhere for a Christian to go.
III. Look back to the scriptures, look around to the fellowship, and look forward to the resurrection.
That’s what this text is most about — looking forward to the resurrection.
The disciples from Emmaus learned that Jesus had been raised from the dead. It threw everything they had experienced into a new dimension. If Jesus was alive, then the future was assured. If God had raised Him, then God would raise them as well. They were in a new ballgame. Life was radiant with hope! The resurrection changed everything!
Their lives weren’t over, they were just beginning! The effort they had spent wasn’t lost, it was just invested! The Christian faith wasn’t defeated, it was on the verge of winning!
Perspective is everything, isn’t it?
There was a beautiful story in Guideposts magazine about a woman who was turning forty. She was feeling very unhappy about growing older. She took her daughter for her first horseback-riding lesson. As a girl, she had always wanted to learn to ride, but had been unable to do so. At least her daughter would learn, she thought. But taking the daughter added to her sense of depression. Her own life was nearly over, she felt, and it would always be incomplete because she had not fulfilled her childhood desires.
Back at home, she ran across a little booklet her daughter had made when she was eight years old and in the third grade. It was entitled “The ME Book.” It was about the daughter’s life up to that point. There were eight pages, one for each year of her life, and on each page there was a photograph of the daughter at that age.
Slowly, the mother turned the pages, looking at her daughter’s pictures. It made her sadder than ever. Her daughter was so young, and she felt so old.
Then she came to the last page.
She expected it to say “The End.”
But it didn’t.
It said “The Beginning.”
The mother shook her head. It took a moment for the meaning to sink in. The teacher had had the students write “The Beginning” on the last page instead of “The End” because their lives were only beginning at that point.
Suddenly the sunshine broke into the mother’s life again.
Her own life wasn’t at the end, it was at the beginning!
Her whole attitude changed.
She decided it wasn’t too late to learn to ride a horse. She asked her daughter’s teacher, and soon she too was sitting on a horse, riding around the track.
She had learned an important lesson. Never think of any time as the end of your life, for every time is only the beginning of the rest of it. Even death itself, when we are in Christ Jesus, is the beginning of eternal life.
This is what those disciples discovered: life wasn’t over for them. It was only beginning!
Whatever happens to you, whatever disappointments may come your way, that is always true. If you only stop to remember that Christ who died has been raised from the dead, and that we too are promised resurrection and eternal life with Him, it sets everything in a different perspective. Then, as the Apostle said, we have to figure that even our worst sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory we shall enjoy with Him.
Disappointments hurt. There is no denying that they do. But these simple actions will take the sting out of them in a hurry.
Look back to the scriptures.
Look around to the fellowship.
Look ahead to the resurrection.
Nothing will hurt very long when you are able to do this.
Disappointments. Disillusionment. Your life going to pieces.