You know that terrible feeling when someone you respect falls short? I hate that feeling. It really stinks when people let you down, whether they’re authority figures, people we’ve put on pedestals for some reason, or close friends.
It particularly hurts when the person who disappoints us is in leadership, or worse, represents the church in some way. It’s painful when humans who represent God inevitably fall short.
History is chock full of people who made mistakes that really mattered. I’m sure it felt terrible every time someone missed the mark. The bright side, however, is that God can still use imperfect people.
Just think of the heroes of the Bible and how so many of them made life-changing blunders:
- Moses killed an Egyptian and hid the body (Exodus 2:10-15).
- Miriam grumbled against Moses in envy (Numbers 12).
- King Saul went nuts and repeatedly tried to murder David (1 Samuel 19:1-2).
- David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then killed her husband to try to cover his sin (2 Samuel 11).
- Several disciples fell asleep (multiple times!) when Jesus asked them to stay awake and pray with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-45).
Some of those mistakes may seem bigger than others, but they were leaders of their day—men and women of faith who at some point had God’s favor and trust. They were respected and had followers looking to them. Thankfully, God was able to accomplish amazing things in spite of their failures, but I imagine that for the people who witnessed the blunders, the fall from grace packed a punch.
So what do we do when we’re in the middle of the downfall and may not get the privilege of seeing how God redeems something for His glory? How do we respond in the face of heartbreaking disappointment?
Here are four things to do when people let you down:
1. Go ahead and grieve. Whatever the error, if it’s affecting you, it matters. Your feelings are valid, and it’s okay to feel upset (Lamentations 3:32).
2. Forgive. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean their poor actions are erased as if they never happened. Forgiving means that you are acknowledging that a person is human and that a mistake was made, but you are choosing to let it go rather than wallowing in the loss. It’s easier said than done sometimes, but it’s well worth it when you’re able to release the burden (Luke 6:37).
3. Refocus your attention. It can be hard to see beyond a fallen mentor, but remember that God is trustworthy. Psalm 16:8 says, I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand I will not be shaken. Do what you need to do to make sure your attention is on God. When people let you down (as they inevitably will), remember that God will never let you down.
4. Be the difference you wish to see. Maybe your mom let you down a lot as a kid by forgetting to pick you up after school. You are not your mom. You get to be the type of parent who shows up on time. Look at your disappointment as an opportunity to do better in your own life. You can’t control what others do, but you can be responsible for how you respond.
God is bigger than anyone’s mistake. That’s true for you as well as for others. There’s a maturity in rising above what hurts us and allowing God to carry us through.
If you’re still feeling discouraged, here are some resources I’d recommend:
- The When Disappointment Strikes Bible Plan
- Pastor Craig’s Emotions series and accompanying Bible Plan
- This episode of the You’ve Heard It Said podcast
- Pastor Craig’s Stay Positive series
- These other articles from Finds.Life