Dealing with Setbacks

Dear Friends,

Last week I bought a present online for my Mum.  It was to be an early birthday present because I wanted her to have it when she went away on holiday.  I did leave it a bit late and the estimated dates of delivery went up to and included the day she was to leave.  I really hoped it would arrive before she left.  So when it came early, even before the dates given, I was so pleased.  I visited her feeing quite excited because I knew it was something she wanted.  However, when she tried it we disovered it was the wrong size.  I had been so sure I'd ordered the right one.  I was upset, frustrated, annoyed with myself and disappointed.  I'd bought a birthday present for Mum which was no good!  I was not in a good mood!

Thankfully, Jason came to the rescue and was able to order the correct size and even managed to get it delivered in time for Mum's holiday.  I was so relieved and happy that she had eventually got what she really wanted and that she'd even be able to start using it before she went away.

In the scheme of things, getting the wrong item was not a big setback.  But there are times when we do have to deal with big setacks in life - such as perhaps not getting the promotion we thought was a done deal, our health taking a turn for the worse, a relationship breakdown, a goal or dream hitting a road block, etc.

A setback is often unexpected and takes us by surprise.  How do you deal with these kinds of setbacks?  I'll be honest with you and say I tend to react in the same way as I did with the setback of getting the wrong gift for my Mum.  I get frustrated, upset, annoyed, disappointed. Why did this have to happen?  I thought I'd been doing the right thing.  Where did it all go wrong?  Maybe I should just give up.  What's the point of trying?

Now I know the way I react is not good and not right but sometimes God has to remind me of this.  Because although I know it, I often forget, especially in the heat of the moment.

What I would define as a setback I believe God sees as an opportunity for a learning moment. So how do I deal with it in a more positive way? The first thing I need to do is to take it to God and be honest with him as to how I'm feeling. 

Whilst a setback can take me by surprise, God is never taken by surprise.  A setback can remind me that I'm not the one in control and I'm not the one who's supposed to be in charge.  It reminds me that God is the one who's in control and that I need to relinquish my need to control and place him in his rightful place of being Lord of my life. "This is what the Lord says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God." Isaiah 44:6 (NIV).

Whereas I may look on a setback as a negative thing, God can actually use it to teach me some important truths. "True wisdom and real power belong to God; from him we learn how to live, and also what to live for." Job 12:13 (MSG). When everything is going well I can get too focused on what I'm doing and can begin to lose perspective.  God can use a setback to refocus my attention on him. The writer to the Hebrews says that we need to be "focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity]," Hebrews 12:2 (AMP).  When I'm refocused on him, then my outlook and perspective is right. It reminds me that my life is not all about me, and that it's actually all about God.  God can use the setback to teach me to rely and lean on him, rather than living independently.  It helps me to realign my priorities with God at the centre.

God can also use a setback to get me to pause and to encourage me to wait on him.  So he can use it to teach me more about myself, to change me, to grow and strengthen my faith, to develop certain aspects of my character etc.  God can use a setback to prepare me for my future.

God can use a setback to teach me to trust him more. "Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you." Psalm 37:5 (NLT).  It's relatively easy to say I trust God when everything is going my way.  It's quite another thing to express my trust in God when it seems like my life is falling apart or when I'm dealing with a setback.  I have found that it's in those times when life is difficult that my trust in God grows.

There are plenty of examples of people from the bible who experienced setbacks, but God used them for good in the ways I've just been describing.  For example, Jonah hit a setback when he expected God to do as he said and punish the people of Ninevah.  Instead God showed them grace.  It was an opportunity for God to reveal something more of his nature to Jonah and to teach Jonah that he was wrong in his attitude towards others. (The book of Jonah is only 4 chapters, you might like to read it for yourself.)  Another example is Esther (you can read about her in the book named after her in the bible) she experienced a setback when as queen she learnt that she and her people's lives were threatened.  This setback caused her to focus on God, to wait on him to give her the wisdom to know what action she should take.  Through her obedience and faith in God she was able to save the Jews from annihilation.

God can still work his purposes out, even through a setback.  He is Lord of time, and while we may fret and fume over setbacks and the time we may feel is wasted on them.  When we allow God to be in control of our life everything happens in his time.  With God, no time is ever wasted.  If we surrender to him and submit to his purposes for our lives, then we will see how he can use a setback for good.

To Think About:
What is your natural reaction to setbacks?

Can you look back and see how God actually used a setback for good in your life?

If you could view setbacks as learning moments from God what difference would that make in your life?



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