The Place Where Disappointment Grows

The space between our expectations and our reality is a fertile field. It will grow something. Disappointment.

When I was in high school, I had a friend whose sister had the coolest hairdo. It was cropped short with straight bangs that fell messy over one eye. She was that older sister who just seemed to have a handle on how to do everything with style.

I somehow decided all of her coolness traced back to her hairdo. Like that was the budding spot from which the life I wanted could sprout.

Yes, that hairdo.

Never mind the fact her hair was thin and obedient. And mine was thick and rebellious.

Never mind that her hair was sleek and straight. And mine was curly at best and frizzy at worst.

Never mind that her bangs fell nicely over her forehead. And mine had a crazy cowlick causing them to grow up, not down.

Yes, never mind reality.

I set my expectation on the highest bar and willed my hair to fall in line.

The hair dresser chopped. And chopped. And chopped. And tried to assure me I now looked JUST like the picture of the older sister.

But that was a lie. I knew it. She knew it.

And oh how the space between my expectation and my new reality grew some serious disappointment. I still have nightmares of that disastrous hairdo where I wake up desperately grabbing at my head to make sure my hair is still there.

But hair grows back. Bad cuts can be fixed in time. That disappointment can be remedied.

Other situations aren’t so easy. Maybe you have some space between a current reality and an unfulfilled expectation. If so, I imagine disappointment can be found growing there.

Psalm 23:1 says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” The Hebrew word for “want” is chacer meaning “to lack, be without, become empty.”

So, if the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not become empty. I shall not live in a constant state of disappointment where circumstances leak me dry.

You don't have to live in a constant state of disappointment where circumstances and relationships leak you dry. www.lysaterkeurst.com
But … I do sometimes. And not just with my hair. It’s other stuff as well.

Important stuff.

So, how do I let the Lord shepherd me so that the gap between my expectations and reality closes?

I ask myself questions. Here are three things we can ask ourselves when faced with disappointment:

1. What do I need to learn? Maybe God has an appointment for me in the midst of this disappointment. If God wants me to see, learn, know, or grow in some way while I work through this unmet expectation, I have to be open to hear this from Him.

Many times God shows me a flaw of mine that needs to be addressed. When I address my flaw, I can more easily adjust my expectations.

2. Could it be that I’m so concerned with what I don’t have, I’ve forgotten to be thankful for what I do have? Sometimes, it’s not that my reality is bad. It’s that I created too much space for disappointment to grow by placing my expectations too high.

3. Is there something I can do to change this situation? If so, I need to ask God for the courage to make changes. If I keep hoping things will get better but don’t make any adjustments, that’s foolish. The space between my reality and my expectations will only change if I do.

Now back to my high school hair situation. The next time I start flashing pictures of cute pixie hair cuts I’m considering getting, somebody send me a link to this blog post. Please. Pretty please. With a dollop of hair gel on top.

Here are the winners from the recent book giveaways: Jacqlyn Ester, Heather Peoples, Judi Splint, Kim Cherry, Candice Hendrix and Mary Anne Lansden. Please email your mailing address to jennie@proverbs31.org and we will get your book in the mail to you.

And here’s a fun little special we’re running this weekend … if you’ve been thinking of getting my new book Unglued but haven’t yet, or if you want to order one for a friend now is a good time! I’ll personalize a signed book plate for you.

All you have to do is purchase Unglued between now and this Sunday (Sept. 30th) from wherever books are sold. Click here to submit your receipt and include who you want the book plate personalized to. Fun!

We are only set up to mail these within the United States. Thanks! And may your disappointments be few and your hairdos be great this weekend.


  1. says

    Lysa-I’m currently going through Unglued with a great group of ladies at my church and have totally identified with the entire book! And I can also identify with your hair story above. I love that you included 3 things to do: I’m particularly bad at number 2. I allow my expectations to get so high that nothing that I have is good enough any more (I find this to be the case most of the time when I start looking at home decor catalogues, websites, and HGTV!). Your blog post today was perfect for me. Thanks!

  2. says

    Lysa-This came at just the right time-funny how God works that way! It seems like I have had to deal with one disappoinment after another, and yet I don’t really feel as bad about things as I thought I would. God is good ALL the time and I thank you for your words of encouragement! I have a group of about 35 women that are doing your Unglued study and we LOVE it-thanks again! Blessings-Nicole

  3. bea says

    On July 8th, a beloved friend, Heidi was killed by a drunk driver. She was a mom, a wife, a nurse and so much more! She would help her patients physically and especially spiritually. She would offer them a Bible verse instead of a sleeping pill. She would tell us at church that many took the bible verse and slept better. She loved the Lord with such a BIG heart. The first Sunday after her death, our Praise team sang “Blessings” and oh, how that song touched so many hearts. In the midst of so much grief, we were reminded of the promise our Savior gives us and Heidi—eternal life! Laura’s song was sooo needed that Sunday morning. Praise God!

  4. says

    so, while i was walking into work this morning, with my head hanging, I was having a conversation with God. I said to him, “I’m not complaining. (only because I’m on a complaining fast) but, how much longer? It’s not that I’m ungrateful, I’m thankful for how You’ve provided, but how much longer at this job, until you move me to the thing that I long to do most, worship you full time?” yes, I realize I can do that wherever i am, but, you know what i mean. It’s not just what I want, but more importantly where I’ve felt He is leading me. I got into the office and opened up my email to find your post. and read this line. “The space between our expectations and our reality is a fertile field. It will grow something. Disappointment” It was totally what I was feeling. Your post was encouraging, inspiring, and comforting in knowing that I’m not the only one who has felt this way. AND even more so, a very TIMELY answer from God. Assuring me that, once again, He hears our prayers.

  5. Susan Hayhurst says

    Thank goodness for your willingness to be an instrument of the Lord, Lysa. I have always been a romantic and idealistic so my expectations are super-sized. Depression has plagued me for years, and now my marriage is suffering tremendous stress for myriad reasons. I know my husband is also now suffering depression even though he won’t admit it. Thankfully I’ve started counseling, something I’ve put off for 20 years. Thank you for your devotional and the grace with which it was written.

  6. k schuler says

    You have no idea how much this helps me today. Ive been really struggling with a relationship with my daughter in law just has just gone from bad to worse. I have really been praying for an answer and the Lord does provide! How good God is he is always on time and so personal. Thank you for being a good steward of the Lord in your blog and thank you Lord for hearing me.

  7. says

    Lysa, love this post and your Psalm 23:1 reference…The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.—Psalm 23:1…I recently wrot a blog post which is related…When I pray, I picture Jesus, my Shepherd, in the green pasture of the 23rd Psalm…I take whatever concern I have, or person for whom I am interceding by the hand…I walk out to the meadow, the green pasture, and I place my concern, or the hand of the person for whom I am interceding, in Jesus’ hand…knowing that He is sovereign, He loves me, and He loves the person for whom I am interceding more than I do…He has a plan, a hope, and a future for each of us…and I walk away, thanking God for how He is working in my life and in the lives of those for whom I am interceding…experiencing a feeling of peace…positive relinquishment…as Catherine Marshall prayed, “Lord, I trust You…You know what You’re doing…I relinquish my will to Yours.”

    • M says

      I tried to find that peace and to put my faith in God. I failed and somehow, it never seems to come together for me. Will you pray for a loner who is feeling pretty far away, and yes, probably at a pity party….but perhaps excusable when you’ve given up! I held so dearly to that verse “I know the plans I have for you…” and everything about having a purpose and God working things out in your life. Now I wonder if it was just an emotional ride, something to cling to. And whaat if you just blew it and now it’s all gone? Needing friends and needing hope…some joy again.

      • says

        I was feeling like you earlier this year . I slipped into deep depression. I am still trying to find out why I went through this. I had to go on medication from doctor. I feel alot better but feel gilty for having to reley on meds . We already know the lord is at our right hand. We are truly never alone. My verse I kept repeating to myself was ( He restorith my sole ). as you can tell I can not spell very well and I can’t find spell check on this computer . Of corse it was somrthing to cling to and it was an emotional ride. We are only human we are not perfect on earth . this is not our home. we do the best we can until the day the good lord calls us home. I never during the time I was in this deep depression ask him to take me home I just wanted to feel normal again. I lost 35 pounds which did not hurt me but I could not eat . What did you blow? We all make mistakes and I for one have made some pretty big ones . Your hope is in the Lord he has not left you . I can be your friend.

      • Joan D says

        I just read your post…I know the dry place that you have described in your life. I am praying for you and you will find someone close to where you live to meet with and be encouraged. I can truly say that God DOES hear you…Don’t doubt his love for you….He is on your side…

  8. says

    Amen x 10! This is exactly what I needed to hear today. We have a choice to overcome disappointment or let it grow in us. Thank you for allowing God to speak to me through you!

  9. Kim Corkern says

    Thanks for always listening and sharing what God lays on your heart! This was definitely calling to me today!! #2 struck a loud chord with me… I mean ear piercing!!! It is refreshing to know that I’m not the only one that struggles with disappointment on several levels. I have a choice and am filled with the spirit (and all it’s fruits) I do NOT have to let this get me down!! I have so many GREAT things to be thankful for! Concentrate on those today KIM!!!
    Waiting on His Return… Kim 🙂

  10. says

    I really needed this reminder, thank you! Sometimes it’s hard when we look at something and wonder why it has yet to be. We want it in our own timing. We feel discontented. But God is calling us to contentment in Him. It’s a hard lesson to learn…

  11. Shauny says

    I so think that every time I read one of these Proverbs 31 devotions, that you are talking about me – man what an eye opener today – “when I get into a twit”- before I read this, I had a “twit” – I get so wrapped up in the little things, things that don’t matter, things that just grind on my nerves and play over and over in my mind. This really helped and so does the Proverbs 31 Bible Study that I’m taking on-line (with your book – Unglued) – thanks for this! Blessings!

  12. Mary Anne says

    Lysa: This was exactly what I needed this morning! God is so awesome that way! And then I was shocked to see that I was a winner in the book giveaway! I’m so excited and can’t wait to start reading! Thank you 🙂

  13. Tammy McKiiney says

    Loved this post…..but can we please get a picture of the hairdo?! I know you have one somewhere!! Thank you for your encouraging words. I never leave your blog without something that helps me grow. Thanks!

  14. Janet says

    Love all of your work. I am currently going through the DVD study of Unglued with a great group of women. Thought you might get a laugh from my little unglued moment before we met last night. Imperfect progress….. http://secondhalf-janet.blogspot.com/
    Thanks for your open and honest look into your life.

  15. Becky Banks says

    Thank-you for helping me to see that my expectations are often too high and leave room for disappointment and discouragement. Thank-you for reminding me to see ALL that He HAS provided, and all that HE is doing in my life on a daily basis. Thank-you for challenging me to realize what I need to learn through the experience, and that I need the courage only HE can give me to make needed CHANGE. What a blessing today!

  16. says

    I love #1 and #2. Having just gone through a heartbreaking “disappointment” – struggling to understand the “why”?! — I have found peace in being thankful for I DO have. Thanks for the post. It’s amazing how your words can touch so many people…in so many different seasons of life 🙂 This was a perfect Thursday morning read for me.

  17. says

    Lysa, I so appreciate the questions you posed at the end of this post. They are very insightful and particularly #2 and #3 stand out for my situation. I think sometimes we like to feel self-pity because it’s easier than doing something about it. Other times, I simply forget to be grateful- and that change of attitude changes everything else. Thank you for revealing the balance of grace and empowerment that God provides us with.

  18. Michelle says

    Loved this post – definitely fighting disappointment right now.

    Stupid question – what is a book plate?

  19. sherwood8028 says

    Actually, Lisa, this is in response to an article you wrote for Lifetime Ministries. You had been confronted by a couple who objected to a conversation you were having on an airplane. Obviously you were troubled and wondered if your response to them would sound as if it came from God or Satan. That intrigues me – that reference. I am in my 80’s and spent the first almost 45 years of my life – in church, but certainly not – in Christ. Then reality came and I was offered a choice, follow Him or continue to drift. I dared to follow Him and the years since have been – as Peter describes it, ..”joy inexpressible and full of glory”. Jesus is now my Lord, it is He who directs my paths and provides the thoughts I express as I travel along and while I acknowledge God and am aware of Satan’s lures, I prefer to remind myself of my desire to share how my life has changed since Jesus took charge. He has become the reality that needs to be recognized for His role in our daily lives – in my opinion. I yearn for the days when we return to that concept and stop playing “church” with those who really do not know Him.

  20. Deborah J. Coombs says

    Reading this blog gave me a little comfort but grieving over longterm chronic financial stress& also physical challenges, along w/loneliness & depression. Holding onto hope w/a slim thread. Too many losses & too many overwhelming problems (even though I have known the Lord since I was 17). Need prayer & mercy from others & maybe it’s time for some counseling even though I don’t know how I will pay for it. I can’t do this alone anymore. Thanks for listening, and praying if u feel led.

    • says

      Deborah, I’ve never responded to a blog before, but my heart was touched by your comments. (Even though your post is from Sept. 2012 I hope this reaches you.) You sounded so lonely and that is a terrible place to be and to experience. I too have experienced many disappointments in life and for a while felt hopeless. I have attended church almost all of my life, but until recently just could not find a connection with others like myself. I am now a part of a 50+ Singles at our church – and it’s not a dating site or set-up. We’re just a group of singles who go to lunch together, meet at someone’s house for a rented movie and popcorn, or a pot-luck dinner once a month, and plan together to find social events in the community we all want to attend. It’s just a way of fulfilling that need for friendship and fellowship and having friends to do something with. We have become like family to one another, accepting one another right where we are. It has made a tremendous difference in my life so I just wanted to recommend it to you. God bless you dear. I will be praying for you, that God will show you new avenues of friendships and fellowship to help fulfill that need for companionship which we all have within. Also, we do have someone in charge of sending out e-mails for informational purposes so that everyone knows what’s coming up and then they choose what suits them. For example, concerts in the park in the spring/summer are free just as many other events are. So we give location info and time to meet, then you can choose.

  21. Robin L says

    Hey every 1 I need a big old prayer right now @ the doctors office n they are late getting fusstrated n want to cry

  22. Deborah J. Coombs says

    Lysa, I want to subscribe to your blog & can’t find anywhere how to do that. Please tell me what to do. Thx!

  23. Dawn says

    Dear Lysa,
    As I read your Proverbs 31 devotion this morning, I got stuck and focused on your tree! Sweetgum, right? Yes, it is easy to get distracted and focused on the little! Your words always come at just the right moment; thanks for letting Him work through you. Grind the stump to the ground and try an ornamental pear, or if your husband does not mind flat things on the ground, Redbud 🙂

  24. Lori says

    Thank you! This just what I needed today. Thank you for inspiring me. I just finished reading your book “Unglued”. It spoke to my heart in more ways than 1. God bless you.

  25. deborah fultner says

    You always know what to say and how to say it. I used to recite the 23rd Psalms all the time. I felt God was walking with me and I knew he would take care of me. I experience disappointments now and I justify them. That helps but I realize I’m missing out on growth opportunities for Christ. Blessings

  26. Samantha says

    Psalm 23:1 says, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” This really stuck out to me today in your blog. Because it’s so true with most of us, including me. It is so easy to get caught up in the “want” instead of the “need”. I constantly tell my kids that it’s about the inside not the outside that counts and “you don’t need that”, but then I go out and buy what I “think” I NEED. It just made me realize that I need to be a better example for my kids. Baby steps…in just this week, I’ve noticed a huge change in my attitude and my husbands and I have to Thank the book, my small group, and the blog for the support, comments, and lessons. I’m really trying and focusing on changing my outlook and priorities. 🙂

  27. says

    Lysa, thank you. This is just what I needed today. I have been feeling a bit disappointed due to this very reason. #2 is what I am needing to be reminded of. I have so much to be thankful for. Praise the Lord for the way He speaks through His servants.

  28. Tara says

    This is a bit off topic (if I were an entry in the dictionary, off topic might just be part of my definition:), but as I am sitting here reading Unglued before my babies wake up for the day and break this calm reflective time by bringing on a day full of unpredictable chaos (simultaneous with much joy) and I came across the best part of the book thus far. This may not be entirely true since I can’t remember yesterday and surely have come across other ‘best parts’, but nevertheless; any of you who are reading this book: skip ahead to or go back and read page 104-106 where you will find amazing scripture from 2 Peter with an inspirational list of qualities to keep handy as a goal to a full and loving lifetime (enough with the sap already??) to the most hilarious flight story I’ve ever heard! I just needed to share this with someone who might actually own the book and be able to laugh about it like I have. Thanks for making my morning Lysa!

  29. says

    Wanna know what I’m disappointed over right now?? Not being able to see you live tonight in Kingsport, TN. I bought my ticket the day before my gall bladder removal surgery was scheduled for this past Monday. As recently as last night, I was hoping that I could come and hear you if I could find a way there, but after going to my eldest son’s basketball game last night, realized it probably wasn’t the most likely thing ever. Then we realized that two of our sons have hand, foot, and mouth disease. So here I sit….not coming to see you tonight. But God has other plans, and I have to trust that His plan is best. 🙁

  30. Deborah Dean says

    Well I just wrote and poured my heart out just to have lost my comment. Again having to deal with being frustated, Dear Lord help me !!!! Soon i will hope i get this. Especially on my phone . I was unglued yesterday and did not react very well. It is always a husband wife thing or a work thing. Thank u for sharing.

  31. says

    Wow! What a blessing. While reading through this entry, the single thought that kept going through my mind was ‘I’m not alone. It’s not just me.’ The past few months have held more than their share of grief and disappointment for my family. It’s been very stressful, and that stress has taken its toll on my health and attitude. The worst part is that I spend my weekdays writing about God’s goodness and faithfulness and my weekends teaching ladies to trust God, yet I’m failing to walk the walk myself. I’m tired of growing disappointment. I’m ready to close the gap. Thanks for the reminder today!

    Dana Rongione
    A Word Fitly Spoken – http://danarongione.blogspot.com

  32. Vonnie says

    I want to thank you Lysa for this thought provoking blog post. I find myself in a place of possible disappointment and your post has given me a lot to think about! Are my expectations accurate? Am I still not being disciplined enough? I can see I need to close that ‘space’ so that the enemy does not have a ‘fertile field’ in which to sow ‘disappointment’!!

    Again, many thanks!

  33. Emma says

    Thank you so much for these thoughts today. Just this morning I was writing out a list of what I’m grateful for (pretty short) and what I’m angry about (pretty long). I realize now it’s not so much anger as it is disappointment. Disappointment in how my husband of 4 years has more cynicism and questions about God and Jesus than faith, and feeling like I was deceived because I’d thought he was on-fire for God when I was dating him. Disappointment because I’d wanted a marriage that would do a lot for God’s kingdom but instead we just go to church and that’s it; no praying, Bible-reading, serving together, etc. And disappointment because we can’t have babies. I try to ignore these issues but they just won’t go away and they fill me with sadness and anger and I take it out on my husband. I think I need to read your book “Unglued” and also I will try to keep these 3 questions in mind. Thank you again.

  34. Bertha says

    How do I start this message? I have gone through your web site and have finished reading one of your books. Currently I am unemployed so I have time on my hands. Where as before I had not much time between work and family. I wanted to re-establish my relationship with God. Your words and events touch me and encourages me to push forward and reminds me of how far I have moved from God. When I decided to resign from job I said it was to step out in faith to be in a better job. I also encouraged my partner to do the same. That was in November 2012. I was so sure that we would have found jobs by now. But we have not. I have posted my cv to various job applications and so has he. We both have the love of God and faith. But I am a very up and down person. He has so much faith and the love of God. There have been times that I feel so lost dark place. Much as some of your share moments. For this I thank God for showing me the answers and encouragements. I want to share with you and others an amazing healing I received recently. I am going through the change, so my periods are up and down. I have had months of no period and then all of sudden three weeks of heavy period. The last time this happened I landed in hospital. So when this happened again now I just kept saying I will wait a little longer before going to the doctor. Prayed and received a message that by Sunday this will start to stop. By Monday it was so much better and by Tuesday gone. This I know was Gods healing hands. God just reminds us not always in our time but in his. Thank you for encouragement.