Growing through Disappointment

Fountain in el Parque (Park) de Canalejas, where I often go on walks

Have you ever been homesick? Although I love my home and family dearly, my honest answer to this question, before coming to Spain, would have been “no”. Even as a college freshman, when I was living on my own for the first time, I never really felt homesick–and Erskine quickly became a second home to me. Thus, I was a bit surprised to find, during my first few weeks in Spain, that I often struggled with homesickness. Not, of course, because I wasn’t loving Spain and the new experiences I was having—I was. Even so, to suddenly find myself in the midst of another culture, away from friends and family and out of cell-phone range, was very difficult at first. As incredible and unique as the study abroad experience is (I wouldn’t trade it for the world!), there’s something about living in another country that tends to isolate one. Assuredly, now that I’ve gotten to know my host mom better (she is such a sweetheart!), have been blessed with some wonderful new friends
hips and a church family, and am more used to Spain in general, Alicante really does feel like home. But I still have my moments.

The park even offers free exercise equipment which, as you can see, is enjoyed by people of all ages

Consequently, when I got the news a couple of weeks ago that my parents—who had been planning to come visit me—were going to be unable to make the trip overseas due to complications following my mom’s gallbladder surgery, I was bitterly disappointed. On the one hand, the pragmatic side of me protested, “but they were going to bring me winter clothes…and now what will I wear?” What really hurt, however, was the disappointed expectation of seeing my parents, traveling with them, and sharing Spain with them. I was so looking forward to showing them the streets I walk down each day, the city I’ve grown to love, and to introducing them to my wonderful host mom, Puri. And so, when I heard that their coming really was an impossibility, I was terribly upset. In light of eternity, I realized that not having my parents visit me in Spain was a small thing…but knowing this logically didn’t lesson the pain I felt at the time. So what did I do? The only thing I know to do w
hen something seems to shake me to the core—I pulled my Bible off the shelf, turned on a worship song, and began a conversation with my Heavenly Father.

The next day, I was listening to the fourth sermon in a series on the life of Joseph that the pastor at my home church has been preaching this month. One of his comments in particular caught my attention. Dr. Ferguson was talking about the way in which God used privation and disappointment to teach Joseph patience and to prepare him for future fruitfulness. Wait, what? Disappointment might be a tool that God might use to work in my life? I wasn’t sure I like this. And yet, as uncomfortable as the idea was (who likes to be disappointed?), it was incredibly comforting to hear. If God used years of adversity to prepare Joseph for a great work, to make him ready and able to bear the strain of great responsibility and leadership, might not God do something similar in my life? My ears perked up again when Dr. Ferguson said this: “You can’t learn character from textbooks, but only from privation, and hardship, and disappointment.” There is was again. Obviously, there was no
getting away from it: God not only works in our lives through hill-top experiences, seasons of spiritual fervor, and, on the other end of the spectrum, times of great tribulation. Sometimes, he also uses a form of adversity that is a great deal more homely and less dramatic—disappointment. And the Great Physician never makes mistakes.

With the sweet friends who recently threw me a fabulous twenty-first birthday party, replete with a delicious meal and a scrumptious chocolate cake