Let life's disappointments bring you closer to God

My friend Michele teaches the fourth grade and is one of my best youth group chaperones -- the kind who can hear kids sneaking through the hallways to get a soda from the vending machine after curfew; and the kind who is never fazed when the bus has to stop, yet again, because someone drank too much Mountain Dew.

Michele occasionally attends her students' Little League games to be supportive. So whenever she asks me to hang out with her at Crossings Park for an hour to watch a game, I try to drop everything and bring her a soda.

I've got to keep good chaperones happy.

On a day when nothing was going right for me -- an oil change had revealed that I needed new brakes; a soccer tournament was conflicting with a retreat I had scheduled; and my hair was frizzy -- I arrived at Crossings to a game with a score of 17-2.

"It's over," Michele said. "I think they're going to call it."

"What?" I asked, incredulous. "It's only the fourth inning. Aren't there supposed to be seven?"

Apparently, when a Little League team is down by 15 runs, they call the game. I was not in the mood for anyone to get off easily that day.

"Sometimes, that's how life is." I began. "How are these kids going to learn if they call a game just because they're down 15 runs? I mean, life doesn't stop just because you're behind. My day did not stop today. They need to finish this game!"

At this point Michele was looking at me oddly. "Could you hush? You sound crazy. Go take a time-out in your car or something. They're 9."

She had a point.

It's not that I wanted the kids to lose their game, but I've learned there is value in disappointment. So did St. Paul. He explained, "We even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts..." (Romans 5:3-5).

While chatting with some friends about this passage the other day we reflected on our first big disappointments -- like when our baseball team lost 2 to 17 or we had a fight with a friend. You're sad at first, but then you learn that you'll be OK because while life can disappoint, hope in God ultimately will not.

A real danger in Christianity is thinking that once you go to church, you'll never be disappointed again. Christian apologist C.S. Lewis explained in his novel, "The Screwtape Letters," that God "allows ... disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavor." He explains that it allows us to freely choose God, even in the midst of affliction, and having survived disappointment or affliction, one becomes "much less dependent on emotion" and more resistant to temptation.

Does this mean that it's bad to call a baseball game at 17-2? I'll leave that to Dr. Spock. However, the value of disappointment should not be overlooked.

Surviving disappointment, while unpleasant, ultimately increases our hope in God.

Alison Griswold is the director of youth ministry at St. Francis By the Sea Catholic Church. Follow her on Twitter @alisongriz.