Leaders are constantly prone to disappointment. It comes with the territory. Things seldom go exactly as we had hoped for or dreamed of. It seems we are criticized by some  no matter what we do or decide. Rick Warren has some good insight for us when disappointment is our oft companion.

Ministry can be lonely and disappointing at times

Originally posted by Rick Warren

How to Deal With Disappointment in Ministry

Have you ever noticed how forgetful people can be? They quickly forget all the ways others have helped them in the past, and they end up complaining later on. 

Children forget what their parents have done for them. Spouses take one another for granted. Bosses move on to other employees.

It’s human nature.

Many pastors experience this firsthand. Despite years of faithful service, their congregations only remember the failures. These pastors work so hard, and no one seems to notice.

Maybe this is the position you’re in today. You’re not alone. Moses also experienced this kind of disappointment. 

Just three days after Moses led God’s people through the Red Sea—one of the greatest miracles in history—the Bible says, “The people grumbled to Moses, ‘What are we going to drink?’” (Exodus 15:24). Israel was quick to forget what Moses had done for them.

At the first sign of trouble, the Israelites complained. Their motto during their time in the desert was: “When in doubt, grumble against Moses.” One minute Moses was a hero, the next he was a zero.

We can learn a lot from how Moses dealt with their complaints. 

First, we can learn from what Moses didn’t do.

Moses didn’t curse his critics. 

He didn’t retaliate or get revenge. You wouldn’t blame Moses if he looked the Israelites in the eyes and said, “You guys can forget it! I led you through the Red Sea. I led you to freedom. You’re out of Egypt. If that’s the way you’re going to treat me, forget it! Good luck finding your way back to Egypt. I’m going on to the Promised Land.” But you can’t find him saying that anywhere in the Bible.

We need to fight the urge to strike back when people disappoint us. Instead of retaliating, we must leave our pain in God’s hands. 

Moses didn’t rehearse the criticism. 

Rehearsing criticism is addictive—and it can kill your ministry. I’ve met plenty of people who have rehearsed disappointments so often that it dampens everything else that comes their way. Soon, they believe everyone is out to get them.

Moses didn’t nurse the criticism. 

He didn’t take it personally. The Bible reminds us in Ephesians 4:26-27: “If you become angry, do not let your anger lead you into sin, and do not stay angry all day. Don’t give the Devil a chance” (GNT). It’s okay to be angry. Anger is a legitimate response to hurt. But the Bible says that when we hold onto anger, it becomes sin. 

Second, we can learn from how Moses proactively dealt with disappointments. 

Disperse it. 

Moses could have cried out to the people, but instead, the Bible says he “cried out to the Lord” (Exodus 15:25 CSB).

When you’re disappointed by people in your church, it’s tempting to take it out on them—but don’t do it. Instead you need to talk it out with the Lord. 

Let God reverse it. 

God is the master of reversing hurt. Disappointments are really his-appointments. Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (NIV). Nothing comes into the life of a child of God without the Heavenly Father’s permission. 

God allows delays, difficulties, and disappointments for his greater purposes. It doesn’t surprise God when your congregation has forgotten all you’ve done before. Most of them have forgotten what he has done for them, too. 

The good news is, God provided a solution for Moses and the thirsty Israelites. In Exodus 15:25, we learn that God showed Moses a piece of wood that became the answer to their problems, for “when Moses threw it into the water . . . this made the water good to drink” (NLT). Many of us get so caught up in the disappointments that we don’t see the solutions right in front of us. Thankfully, God is always faithful even when we are forgetful.

With God’s help, our disappointments can become opportunities to know and trust him in a deeper way.