I met with my friend, Andy Stanley, last month to catch up on life. He mentioned a book he’d just finished called, “Losing My Religion.” It was written by a Los Angeles Times journalist who had lost his faith in God. To summarize, he had begun a spiritual pilgrimage and in response, he wanted to research churches of every kind and write about them. Along the way–he saw terrible atrocities. He discovered all kinds of unethical and immoral behavior by priests and just good “religious” folks, and couldn’t stomach it any more. His book turned out very different than the one he intended to write. He wasn’t angry with God–he just couldn’t find him any more.
Today, I met with a long-time mentor of mine, Keith Drury. We talked about this and he shared some wisdom with me on the issue. In fact, he shed light on disillusionment of any kind. He told me a discovery he and his son had made some years ago about people who become disillusioned about faith, about marriage, about people…you name it. It can be summarized in one sentence:
“You cannot be disillusioned about anything unless you are first illusioned.”
It’s so simple we miss it. Only when I have illusions of what should be; only when I possess expectations of something or someone can I be disappointed in them. Someone who gets disillusioned with God or their career or their family–or anything–and decides to give up on them usually does so because they have an assumption of what should have happened. An expectation of perfection or an ideal model. Then, when that model doesn’t appear, they are miffed. Disappointment sets in. Anger emerges. Then, bitterness and resentment and often a desire for revenge. I meet people all the time who are unhappy and disillusioned with their job, with marriage, with God, or with people in general…and they’ve checked out.
Can I tell you what I’ve learned over the years? I must cling to hope, but I must have no illusions about life. It is hard. People let you down. Plans rarely turn out exactly the way we imagined them to turn out. Further, when I enter situations knowing life is difficult–I never experience disillusionment. When someone does something nice, I am grateful. When a bonus comes in for me, I treat it as just that. A bonus. It’s above what I expected. I work because it is right. I love because it makes life work. I trust in God not just because it is a phrase on our coins but because I have good reason to have faith. I equip people to be leaders because I know that, even though they’re far from perfect, they possess some good inside of them that must be nurtured and utilized to influence the world. But I must work to keep it real.
How about you? Have you gotten depressed over an issue? Are you struggling with disappointment? Have you given up on something or someone?
Have no illusions, and you’ll won’t be disillusioned.