The Christmas season is ripe for disappointment. For kids—there’s weeks of anticipation that may end in either getting the gift they wanted (but soon not enjoying it as much as they had hoped) or in getting socks (again).
For adults, the disappointments often cut deeper: conflict with extended family, stress related to differing expectations, or facing empty chairs around the table. We may also have our own set of hopes for the holiday season—the “most wonderful time of the year.” Yet the combination of stress, disappointment, or even grief often make it one of the most difficult times for many people.
You are Not Alone
In this gap between our hopes and our reality, we are not alone. In the disappointments of the season, we stand shoulder to shoulder with all of God’s people. All of us live in this “gap,” between what God has promised and the fulfillment of that promise. This is normal Christian living. For example, Psalm 1 tells us God’s people will thrive like well-watered, fruitful trees, while those opposed to God would not.
Yet our actual experience often delivers a different reality. The wicked prosper. The righteous feel like chaff blown in the wind. And we perceive a gap widening between our understanding of God’s promises and their fulfillment.
When we face difficulty and disappointment, it may seem that God has not thrown a line of rescue. But take heart. A journey into the Psalms will show us that he sees and understands each struggle we face. He has given his people over sixty psalms of lament, petition, protest, and complaint. In the darkness of the gap, when our hearts fail, and when words fail, he’s given all of his people prayers in the night.
There is a Prayer for Every Struggle
No disappointment or difficulty is excluded. We have a voice for the hardships we’re experiencing within us—whether fear (Psalm 3), distress (Psalm 5), weakness (Psalm 6), grief (Psalm 9), sleeplessness (Psalm 22), guilt (Psalm 25), a sense of God’s absence (Psalm 28), exhaustion (Psalm 31), loneliness (Psalm 35), agitation (Psalm 37), anxiety (Psalm 38), instability (Psalm 51), groaning (Psalm 55), shame (Psalm 69), discontentment (Psalm 73), folly (Psalm 85), hopelessness (Psalm 88), meaninglessness (Psalm 94), illness (Psalm 102), bitterness (Psalm 106), or sin (Psalm 130).
And he’s given us prayers for hardships we’re facing around us—whether personal attack (Psalm 7), misfortune (Psalm 35), unrest (Psalm 40), slander (Psalm 56), danger (Psalm 55), God’s chastening (Psalm 60), poverty (Psalm 69), adversity (Psalm 71), injustice (Psalm 82), or disease (Psalm 106).
All of God’s people have been given prayers for all of life’s hardships and disappointments. Songs of the heart for life in the gap belong to all of us. We’re not alone. We have each other. Together, we have the Psalms, and together we also have hope. One day the gap will be gone. One day, what God has promised will be ours in full. But for now, we lament the gap and look to the future.
We Have a Future Hope
In the past when God’s people have languished in the gap, they looked to the what God had promised. They had the promise that God would send the Messiah to set things right. Isaiah prophesied a “Light” in deep darkness (Isaiah 9:2), a “shoot from the root of David” (Isaiah 11:1–2), a coming “Shepherd” who would gather his suffering people (Isaiah 40:11), and a Deliverer who would be no one less than “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14).
Just like us, God’s people waited in the gap. They waited for God to bring to pass what he had promised. And we know that Jesus came just as it had been written (Matthew 1:22; 2:2-5, 17, 23). The gap had ended and their hope had come. And so will ours.
In the gap, people will let us down. In the gap, we will let other people down. In the gap, the wicked thrive and the powerless are oppressed. In the gap, we struggle with sin and suffering. But in the gap, we also limp forward in hope that one day all wrongs will be righted, all questions answered, all tears wiped away.
Until then, as we wait, living in the gap of disappointment—the gap between owning our hopes and experiencing them—we are not alone. Into this gap God has poured the Psalms, the prayers of his people for millennia. He has poured the prophets, the hopes of his people eventually fulfilled in the coming of Christ.
Into this gap, God has poured out—to all his people—undying words of lament and comfort. In this gap, we pray and we hope.
I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.Psalm 130:5 NIV