God has called us to walk with His people in genuine family relationships as we daily live on His mission. As leaders, we must remember that GOD’S BUSINESS IS A PEOPLE BUSINESS.  Leaders are called to reach out, care for others and “make disciples instructing them to obey everything Jesus commanded” (Matthew 28:18-19). This process entails living real life with real people, and this is often where the greatest challenges begin.  

How do you spell “Problems” or “Disappointments” PEOPLE!

I once heard the phrase, “How do you spell “problems” or “disappointments” … PEOPLE.” Leaders are called to pursue God’s ideals while at the same time living real everyday life with others.  As we do, we must remember that we will face challenges and disappointments.   Some that we serve and pray for will not surrender to Jesus. Others we walk beside, some for years, may walk away from Jesus or abandon us. We must resist the urge to despair or become pessimistic and give up. 

During the Covid shutdown, leaders’ disappointment grew as Barna’s research revealed that 38% of leaders were considering quitting in 2021.  The figures have grown since then. A big part of this is the disappointments they faced with people due to the political polarizations, conspiracy theories, hostility, and abandonment by people under their care. 

One short passage we often read over quickly without realizing its implications is 2 Timothy 4. In it, Paul reveals the joys and disappointments of serving and walking with others. He is writing to Timothy, who was also facing great disappointments with people and fellow leaders in Ephesus. Paul highlights the various successes and struggles he had with the various people he walked with. 

  • 2 Timothy 4:10-22 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. (11) Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. (12) Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus…(14) Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. (15) Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. (16) At my first defense, no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! (17) But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. (18) The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom…(19) Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. (20) Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. (21) Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers. 

Consider the variety of Paul’s experiences. There were incredible challenges with the people he walked with.  Demas abandoned Paul when Paul needed him most due to a love for this world. He asked for Mark to come, even though Mark abandoned him in the past, causing Paul to lose confidence in him (Acts 13:13, 15:38). Alexander opposed Paul’s message and sought to cause him “great harm.” In defending himself due to Alexander, a bunch of others deserted Paul. 

Others like Prisca, Aquila, the household of Onesiphorus, and Erastus kept working with him, but Trophimus became so ill Paul had to leave him. Paul could have easily become so disappointed by the ups and downs of walking and working with people that he would become pessimistic and give up.   Thankfully, for all of us, he didn’t. 

Six Essential Steps in Facing Disappointments with People 

1. Give your disappointments to God. 

  • 1 Peter 5.7 NLT Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. 

You can be confident that He understands what you’re going through. He’s been there before and will help you get through it. Ask Jesus to exchange your disappointments for His peace. 

2. Remember and be thankful for the faithful. 

In his letter, Paul also mentions faithful people continuing to work and actively following Jesus. Crescens, Titus, Luke, and Tychicus brought Paul great joy. Instead of the people who disappoint you, focus on those faithful and praise Jesus for them. 

3. Don’t forget to celebrate progress with people and be open for new seasons with those who have failed.

Remember that “love expects the best” (1 Corinthians 13), not the worst.  Mark had disappointed Paul years earlier and left him on the field during their first missionary journey (Acts 13:13, 15:38). Mark had grown and probably learned from his failure.

Paul was like the loving father in the story of the prodigal son, rushing to embrace Mark as he repented (Luke 15:11-32). Paul was willing to include and benefit from Mark, not holding his past failure against him. 

4. Don’t stop or give up. 

Paul didn’t give up through the ups and downs of helping and working with people. Disappointments did not derail him. 

  • 2 Timothy 4.7 NLT I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 

5. Pray, pray, and pray some more. 

When all the disciples abandoned Jesus, He prayed intensely at Gethsemane (Matthew 26:26-40). Honest prayers in which we pour out our disappointments before God are essential. Of the 150 Psalms written, 42 are considered laments in which the Psalmist was honest before God about his emotions.  This helps us cycle through our emotions and return to our secure foundation in Christ.

6. Remember what Jesus faced as His closest disciples abandoned Him during His greatest trial so He knows what you are going through. 

“In all points, He was tempted like we are, yet He didn’t sin” (Hebrews 4:15). All the disciples abandoned Him at His greatest hour of temptation, and Peter even denied knowing Him. Yet Jesus bore it all and overcame. He will help us do the same. 

Disappointments from the very people we care for hurt us the most. Let us embark on the biblical path of overcoming and continue to fulfill God’s calling to care for and lead His people.