This week I got letters from two longtime friends. Both expressed how they have been disappointed in life. Things have not gone as planned. Life has not proceeded as intended. There has been great pain, loss, frustration, and disillusionment. This disappointment with life, themselves and God led them – both men – to contemplate or attempt suicide in quite dramatic fashion.

Thankfully both men have pressed on, pushed through, and found new meaning in life. Both men have gone on to overcome the depression and sadness that almost ended their lives. Their stories have reminded me of my own disappointments in life. I am not living the life I envisioned for myself, the life I worked so hard to build and thought I would achieve. Our lives can be hugely painful, frustrating and disappointing. Intellectually, I fall way short. Financially, I am wanting. Relationally, I want greater closeness. Physically, I want more time for exercise, fun and surfing. Musically, I wish that I could provide myself and others with beautiful guitar music. I can’t. Vocationally, no one is going to give me some lifetime achievement award for my humble efforts. What about you? What has disappointed you the most in life? How has God, family, society – and your own will – let you down? How are you processing all of this?

Some of us are discontent with things we have no control over. Things like where we were born, our gender, our skin color, our level of intelligence… Others of us thought that did everything right in the sight of God and man and still, we ended up with longings that our greatest efforts, over many decades, could not fulfill.

I remember, as a young man, working with a much older man. We were working together to discover why someone had died in an untimely manor. As we labored, he told me that he had studied pre-med at university, fully intending to enter med school, and become a famous physician. But he couldn’t get into medical school and needed a job. So, he took a position as a Deputy Medical Examiner. He then made a life and a career without a medical degree. Still, he expressed and I wondered how he felt not being the top dog in his chosen field. Some of us regret not having gone farther in our career. Over the years many others have shared with me their disappointment with their bodies, with the abuse they experienced, the poverty they endured or the lack of love in their lives. Some are disappointed with God’s people. They feel let down by the church. Others have climbed to the top of their field, made the money, and experienced every success in the world but still, they feel empty or lost. What’s going on?

Well, I think all our pain points to several things. One, we were not made for this life. We all aspire to more. We all have this desire to transcend. This something more that our soul craves is God. Ultimately, I am living a meaningless existence without the life of God inside of me, transforming my heart, soul, and aspirations. I can know and experience the life of God, be reconciled with Him, and live in His presence, moment by moment when I put all my confidence in Jesus. Two, I am/we are self-seeking. We want/I want more for myself. This discontentment has a fancy name for itself, it’s called covetousness. But who died and made me Elvis? Why is it that I sincerely and deeply believe that the world should conform to my selfish desires? Some of my yearnings for personal fulfillment are fueled by my own egotistical and psychological avarice. I want more and think I deserve more because I am naturally an idolater. I worship myself. I foolishly demand that God get off His throne and let me take over.

I am glad to say that the two friends who wrote to me this week are alive and doing well. Both, along with me, have found solace living in greater submission to God, and they no longer desire to harm themselves. Both men discovered the joy of serving others and living for The Love outside of themselves. But it’s an ongoing struggle though, isn’t it?  For me, my journey toward greater contentment and less disappointment with self and God has been the gradual acceptance of God’s providential sovereignty and a greater desire to really live for Him and less for my pride, pleasure, and my self-important plans for myself. He is greater than modest me, my short life and my small intentions. He knows me better than I know myself. This acceptance of Him has made me more content and more grateful for the mercy I have been shown and the grace that I have been given.

And we all have seen the train wreck that results when we observe others NOT submitting to God and forcing their will on others. (Perhaps you or I have done this ourselves). In the most literal sense this results in rage, rape, robbery and ruin. On the relational level, it devolves into arrogant manipulation of others and of systems so that the driven and self- absorbed “achiever” gets what they want. They “win” but we (and their underlings) are all left to clean up the metaphorical dog dirt they leave on our emotional and relational (formerly) white carpet.

This little essay is not neat. I am just sort of writing down what I am thinking. I don’t have a neat little bow to wrap it up with.  I will, however, end by encouraging you to be honest with yourself, others and with God about how you really feel? Are you disappointed? Sad? Exploring why may be a good thing for you. Draw close to God. Read the Psalms. Admit your selfishness to Him, yourself, and others. Stop worshiping yourself. Get down on your knees (literally) and worship God. Find joy in service. Seek contentment in gratitude to Almighty God.

And if you are considering harming yourself today, please, don’t give up. Reach out for help. There is help. There is hope. There is joy, fulfillment and meaning. Things can change. You can get better and improve your thought process. But growth may not come as a result of the thinking or behaviors that brought us to the places of desperation that we have known.