Our marriages are particularly vulnerable when we are disheartened, and unless we’re constantly seeking after the Lord and looking for Him in our circumstances, disappointment will become a distraction, one that threatens to keep us from all God has for us. And if we’re not careful, the effects of disappointment can lead to our destruction, steering us away from our divine appointment to have a strong marriage, bear much fruit, and live the victorious life.

What about your marriage is disheartening to you today? I ask you, dear sister, instead of trying to stamp it out, hold it a little closer. In fact, look straight at your disappointment and say out loud for your own soul to hear. “My precious Lord is up to something in my life! I will not miss out on what God has for me, because my God is in control. Lord, use my disappointments as a strategy for my life!”

When our anticipation of what we can expect is followed by great disappointment, the pain can be sharp. Here is a portion of an e-mail I received the other day from a friend whose situation is not what she had dreamed of.

David, my husband, hasn’t worked in over four years. Because of his illness and chronic pain, I’ve become the sole provider. I struggle with fear due to health complications, financial ruin, and the threat against a hopeful future. I miss the way my husband used to be. Mostly I suffer from a broken heart, watching the life of the one I love so much suffer in debilitating pain while observing him diminish in strength and vitality. There is simply no area of our lives that his illness hasn’t touched or affected.

No day is the same. Every day presents a challenge, and if I stop looking with eyes of faith, I will surely be defeated. The nature of David’s illness changes the dynamics of our relationship almost daily. Simply put, David is not always like himself for any number of reasons, and any day he can be different because his pain and strong narcotic medications cause changes to his personality. It is very hard to reconcile and balance between caregiver and the honor of wife, lover, and friend. But I walk on the power of His sufficient grace. Without the greater relationship with God, I don’t know how anyone would endure such a trial. God has promised: “He is close to the brokenhearted and His ears are attentive to their cry.” In spite of everything I still feel so very, very loved. I could not withstand such suffering without the Lord’s closeness.

I’m not in denial; I just want to keep faith alive. I know you can’t deal with something until you know what it is. You shouldn’t imagine the worst. I continue to keep the words of God before me. For every blow from the Enemy, I’ve been counteractively blessed by God. No pain has touched us that God hasn’t met with a greater measure of His presence.

I want my heart positioned to receive all God has for us, even when the circumstances are difficult. I want to be a catalyst of healing, not a hindrance. I’m waiting, not passively, but in prayer. The Enemy does not have any say over our lives—we belong to God! And He will have the final word. He is the author of this story, and it is not my story, or even our story … it is God’s!

For her response to this disappointing, one-sided season of marriage, this woman is a modern-day hero. This woman will not be denied; she is holding God to His promises! Reading her story makes me want to slip out of my chair, get on my knees, declare God’s goodness, and not relent until His promises come to pass in my life.

Life seasons and life lessons

We will enter into seasons of disappointment. But waiting for us there is a choice that determines if this season will make or break us, empty or empower us. If difficult seasons have the potential for redirecting us, just how do we harness that pain for our greater good? Shouldn’t we want to leave our disappointments behind?

When we understand that hidden in our disappointments are life lessons, we will view those disappointments as an opportunity to make greater strides in our journey of faith. When we look at disappointment this way, we will be less apt to toss them aside as useless weights that slow us down. Instead, we will hold these seasons closer, knowing they possess the strategy we need for reclaiming what we’ve lost. And when we believe that God is always up to something in our lives, we will see the value of carrying those afflictions in a different way.

We harness adversity’s pain when we embrace this truth: Every trial that comes our way is measured with grace to carry it and power to be blessed by it.

Even when our burdens result from our own mistakes, we must not despair. We must repent and face the character flaw that allowed us to stumble, but we must not despair. There is no condemnation for those of us in Christ Jesus.

When we bring everything before the Lord Jesus—our gifts, our flaws, our hopes, our dreams, and the tangled messes we make—God makes something beautiful of our lives. Life is incredibly heavy at times, but God is unfathomably strong. Disappointment can take our breath away, but in due time and at the right time, God will restore our breath, redirect us, and put wind in our sails!

When are we redirected by our disappointments? When we see our dreams flapping in the wind, but we confidently reach up and catch the sail! That‘s when we begin to move. When we determine that God has a next place for us, a place of promise and fruitfulness, we will refuse to allow today’s disappointments to weigh us down or shipwreck our joy.

Jesus chose you and appointed you to produce fruit—fruit that will last (see John 15:16). The Bible says it is to God’s great glory that you become a fruit-bearing, God-fearing, powerful woman of God—one who leaves the earth much better than she found it.

A useless weight or a powerful weapon

The choice we have to continually make is this: Do we embrace our disappointment as a useless weight or a powerful weapon? We will have to carry disappointment at some point in our lives. But will we allow it to weigh us down and weaken our testimony or strengthen us for the greater good?

In other words, will we listen to the thousand voices that tell us we deserve better and are entitled to much more? Or will we allow disappointment to thrust us into a deeper and more intimate place with the Lord? Will we consent to God’s dealings with our character and the dross that surfaces when things heat up? And while we are enduring the painful character-refining time, will we still have the courage to expect God to be good and big in our midst?

Will we wield this disappointment like a weapon and make the Enemy sorry he ever messed with us? Or will we cling to our lost dreams like a stone life preserver that threatens to pull us under when help is within our reach?

It takes great courage to allow the fire to refine you when someone else is guilty of lighting the match. But still, God wastes nothing; and He’ll use every injustice, every pain, and every circumstance to make us more like Him (if we let Him). He’s especially gentle with the humble, repentant heart and He’s especially tough on the pointing, prideful one. Keep the following things in mind to help cultivate a heart that’s willing and ready to be refined and used by God.

Watch your step

Be careful not to surrender to your circumstances. Surrender to God instead. Conceding to your circumstances is like camping in the barren wilderness and forfeiting your dream of something better. Yielding to God in your circumstances is to believe that His promises apply to you here; that there is purpose in your pain; and He will come through for you and in due time deliver you.

Stay on the right path.

Remember, your circumstances don’t define you. God does. Don’t allow your temporary disappointment to keep you from your divine appointment to bear much fruit, have lots of joy, and experience God’s resurrection power right where you live.

Run from.

Run from the temptation to find your needs met through male friendships. You are better off going without than risking your life, your marriage, the respect of your children and peers, and your reputation. Consider this disappointing season a “fast,” and ask the Lord to make up for and fill every empty, barren place.

Focus on the destination ahead.

Run toward books that fuel your faith and passion for Christ. Spend more time with God. Pray out loud and make heavenly, scriptural declarations over your life. Measure your life against the promises of God, not the perceptions of man. If your reality doesn’t line up with what God has promised, keep walking, keep praying, and keep believing that God is working on your behalf.

Watch the fine line.

If not tended to, disappointments can fuel depression. Face your disappointments, admit them, and bring them before Got; ask Him for a renewed perspective. Take care of yourself during this time; treat yourself to something that nourishes your soul. Be good to yourself. But also understand that you are most vulnerable during times of disappointment. Take the necessary precautions. You know what tempts you; stay away from those things. Spend much time in the Word, and allow your disappointments to fuel your determination and empower you to possess all Got has for you.

Adapted from Alone in Marriage by Susie Larson. Published by Moody Press. Copyright © 2007 by Susie Larson. Used with permission.