The Joy of Disillusionment

Disillusionment

If you’re feeling disillusioned today, you should be thankful. Why? Because disillusionment is an essential part of coming to terms with reality, which is the only way your life can be transformed.

We all need to be dis-illusioned from time to time—because that means being freed from our illusions. Dictionaries define an “illusion” as “a false mental image produced by misinterpretation of things that actually exist.” Until disillusionment has occurred in our lives, we’re walking in unreality, unable to experience authentic vision.

If you’re honest, you’ll admit that you’ve faced various kinds of disillusionment at one time or another in your life. Perhaps you’ve found yourself disillusioned about the goodness of humanity…the “happily ever after” of your marriage vows…your success as a parent…or God’s desire and ability to work out all things for your good. Or maybe you’ve been disillusioned about the Lord’s promises to heal you sicknesses or provide for your financial needs.

Jesus’ death on the cross was the most disillusioning event in history. His closest followers were devastated. After having high expectations during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (John 12:12-19), a week later they were hiding out in a locked room for fear of the Jews (John 20:19). Peter and some of the other disciples even sought comfort in turning back to their old occupation of fishing (John 21).

The pain of disillusionment can also be felt in the words of the two disciples walking to Emmaus: “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Perhaps there was something that you too “were hoping” that failed to come to pass in the way you expected. Your “hoped deferred” has made you heartsick (Proverbs 13:12). But if so, be on the alert—Jesus may be right there walking with you at the very moment you’re complaining that He’s abandoned you.

God, in His painful mercy, will often strip us of false expectations. The disillusioned disciples couldn’t point to any promise Jesus failed to keep. Instead, their disappointment was rooted in their false belief that He would overthrow the Romans and set up an earthly kingdom. Until we are stripped of our own dreams, God can’t give us His dreams—which are far better!

God shakes our false hopes so He can give us a hope that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:26), hope that serves as an “anchor for the soul” (Hebrews 6:19). Not only do the times of testing reveal our faulty belief systems, they also prove the faithfulness of the “heavenly vision” we have been truly given by God (Acts 26:19).

Disillusioned Dreamers

The pages of Scripture are filled with examples of men and women of God who had great vision, yet faced times of severe disillusionment. Moses, David, and Elijah were among those who evidenced great depression and discouragement.

Jeremiah once accused God of being unreliable and of deceiving him (Jeremiah 15:18). At another point he was so tired of persecution that he declared he would no longer speak the word of the Lord (Jeremiah 20:7-9).

John the Baptist had boldly declaring that Jesus was the lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29). But he became so discouraged in his prison cell that he questioned whether Jesus was truly the Messiah or not: “Are you really the one we are waiting for, or shall we keep on looking?” (Matthew 11:3 TLB)

These examples illustrate an important lesson: If you’ve been disillusioned, you’re in good company! Disillusionment was experienced by David, Elijah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Jesus’ disciples—and probably every Christian who has ever lived.

Recovering from Disillusionment

Although the Lord can dramatically appear and erase our discouragement in a moment, He often chooses to use a process. If you are currently facing the dark night of disillusionment, here are some important lessons that can speed your recovery:

Recognize disillusionment’s inevitability. You might as well not take your situation personally, for this is a condition that everyone will face.

Recognize disillusionment’s benefits. Since disillusionment is actually just the process of being delivered from our illusions, you might as well start thanking God instead of being mad at Him. Be glad that you’re being stripped of your illusions, because the truth will set you free (John 8:32).

Repent of the false beliefs (illusions) that have caused your disillusionment. The entire book of Job deals with the painful process by which Job was set free from false beliefs. Often our illusions affect a few key areas of our life:

  • Illusions regarding God. These illusions tend to be one of two faulty extremes: seeing God as our Heavenly Butler instead of our Heavenly Father; or seeing Him as a cruel taskmaster who is never satisfied with us or others.
  • Illusions regarding the Christian life or the church. Many people still cling to the clearly erroneous view that if we really exercise faith in God, we can cruise through life with no problems. And much of the disillusionment among Christians stems from misguided illusions they once had about how loving, sincere, and holy other believers would be.
  • Illusions regarding ourselves. If we don’t recognize the depravity of our hearts apart from God’s grace (Jeremiah 17:9), it will be a rude awakening when we finally face the truth of our fallen condition.

Even though God wants to deliver us from our illusions, He certainly does not want us to stop dreaming big dreams of faith. While illusions are false beliefs—idols of our own making—dreams of faith are God-inspired vision. Such dreams are an indispensable trait of any successful endeavor.

When are you too old to dream such dreams? Never! God promises, “In the last days…your young men shall see visions. Your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). This should be an incredible encouragement to us to never quit dreaming, for even old people are supposed to have dreams. Rather than becoming cynical as we age, God wants us to gain ever-increasing faith and vision.

Yes, our aspirations and hopes may be stripped for a time. We may well face the “death of a vision” we felt was from the Lord. Yet God is a God of resurrection. Even as He allows us to pass through the Valley of Disillusionment, it’s all part of His process to raise up an army of dreamers, not afraid to dream dreams and take bold steps of faith to extend His kingdom.

The pain of disillusionment can be replaced with a tidal wave of joy. How do I know? Because “weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). If you’re currently experiencing a dark night of disillusionment, it doesn’t have to last forever. Joy is on the way!

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The Dandelion Principle

dandelion 2

It’s already dandelion season in the Carolinas, and I’m having traumatic flashbacks to my childhood. When I was about eleven years old, my dad assigned me the summer chore of ridding our yard of dandelions.

This was no small task. We had a big yard, and every summer there were lots of dandelions.

When Dad gave me this job, he was very particular in how he wanted it done. He handed me a long wooden rod, similar to a broom handle. It was equipped with a sharp metal attachment, specially designed to dig up dandelions by their roots.

“Jimmy,” he said, “after you’ve dug out each dandelion, you must immediately put it in the garbage so the seeds don’t spread.” Dad gave me these directions with such earnestness that I felt I’d been entrusted with the most important chore ever.

After following his instructions and digging out a few dandelions, I decided to take a break until later in the day. That turned out to be a bad decision, because it was a blazing hot afternoon when I returned. As I surveyed the countless dandelions before me, I began to resent this difficult and time-consuming assignment.

But then I got an idea…

Instead of taking time to dig out the dandelions by their roots, I opted for a much easier solution: I just walked around the yard and snapped off the dandelion heads. No need for the special dandelion digger in order to do that.

By the time my dad returned from work, the yard looked great. No dandelions!

“The yard looks amazing, Jimmy,” Dad complimented me.

However, my plan had an unforeseen outcome. While it seemed brilliant in the short run, after just a few days the yard was filled with dandelions again. Actually, they were the same dandelions as before. They simply had resurfaced.

It didn’t take long for Dad to figure out I had taken a shortcut instead of following his instructions. He handed me the dandelion digger once again, telling me to do the job right this time.

So now you know why dandelions still trigger unpleasant memories for me.

But as I’m reflecting on the story this year, I’m more aware than ever that the Dandelion Principle is one of life’s greatest lessons: When dealing with a problem, we must dig out the roots instead of only dealing with the symptoms.

Think of how profound this is…

  • Financial problems can’t be solved by taking out a new loan.
  • Health problems can’t be remedied by taking more pain medicine.
  • Emotional problems like anxiety, anger, or depression require deeper healing than pills can provide.
  • Marriage problems are never improved by ignoring them or by having an affair.

As I discovered that hot summer when told to eradicate our dandelions, the only smart approach to problem-solving is to dig deep and address the roots. Shortcuts will always be tempting, of course. But whenever we go with the lazy, shortsighted approach, the dandelions will surely return—and usually return quickly.

Although I’m a lot older now, I still have a tendency to address my problems by masking the symptoms rather than digging out the roots. If you’re like me, there may be some longstanding issues in your life where you’ve taken the same approach, and gotten the same results.

With God’s help, let’s resolve today that we’ll do whatever is necessary to truly uproot the bothersome weeds in our lives—not just temporarily, but once and for all.

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Do You Need a Collaborator?

Goffin King

Until this week, I had never heard of Gerry Goffin. Have you?

Not only was he honored with induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but Goffin has been described by some as one of the greatest lyricists of all time.

So why are most of us unfamiliar with him?

The reason is simple: Most of his work was done behind the scenes, providing great songs for other people rather than producing music in his own name. By the time he died in 2014, he had written over 114 Billboard Hot 100 hits, including eight chart-toppers.

As a ghostwriter, I feel a real kinship with Goffin. Most of the books and articles I write are published under the name of other people, and my name rarely even shows up in the credits. And I’m fine with that. I just want my writings to impact lives, whether I get any credit or not.

But I’ve concluded that Goffin’s most interesting trait was that he was a collaborator. Even though you may not have heard of Goffin, you’ve probably heard of his wife and songwriting partner, Carole King. Both were talented, but they were far better as a team than when they worked separately.

The Goffin-King songwriting duo was so successful in crafting hit songs that John Lennon once said he hoped the Lennon-McCartney team would someday rise to the same level. Wow. What an incredible accolade.

There’s an important point here, one that you and I should take note of. Solomon wrote about this powerful principle when he said, Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). The verse says in the NLT, “They can help each other succeed.”

You see, collaboration is often a critical element in a person’s success. In the case of Goffin and King, he was gifted at writing lyrics, while she was skilled in crafting melodies.

If you find yourself frustrated today in your business, ministry, nonprofit work, or personal life, this may be the reason: You need a collaborator! Maybe you have a piece of the puzzle, but you lack one or more of the other pieces necessary for success.

The Goffin-King story is only one example among hundreds that could be cited to show the power of collaboration…

  • Neither Steve Jobs nor Steve Wozniak would have been successful in the early years of Apple without the other’s collaboration.
  • Most comedy acts would have fallen flat without the chemistry between the actors: Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Spanky and Alfalfa, the Three Stooges, and the Smothers Brothers, to name a few.
  • Action heroes have often had a partner. For example, the Lone Ranger needed his faithful friend Tonto, and Batman had his sidekick Robin.
  • Many of the Bible’s most famous heroes had collaborators who were crucial to their success. Moses had Aaron and Joshua. Ruth had Naomi. David had Jonathan. Peter had John. Paul had Barnabas.

What about you? Are you writing beautiful lyrics, without anyone to write the melody? Or perhaps you’re writing great melodies, but you lack someone to provide the lyrics.

A “collaborator” is a co-laborer. If you don’t have one, you probably need one.

As I look back over my life, my most fruitful seasons of ministry were always when I had a collaborator…a comrade…a faithful friend by my side.

Synergy beats individuality any day.

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The Strange Story of Apple’s Forgotten Founder

Ron Wayne

By now, just about everyone on the planet knows that Steve Jobs founded Apple Inc. Many people also realize that Steve Wozniak was a cofounder when Apple was launched 40 years ago.

But the most intriguing founder of Apple was Ron Wayne, the third member of the team. Wayne had a 10% stake in Apple when it began, but he soon relinquished it because of fears of personal liability if the company didn’t do well.

In an attempt to explain his decision, Wayne later said:

There would be significant bumps along the way, and I couldn’t risk it. I had already had a rather unfortunate business experience before. I was getting too old and those two [Jobs and Wozniak] were whirlwinds. It was like having a tiger by the tail, and I couldn’t keep up with these guys.

Because of these fears, Wayne surrendered his share of Apple for just $2300. Today 10% of Apple would have been worth about $70 billion.

Ron Wayne’s choice to bail out of Apple may well have been the worst financial decision in human history—losing out on $70 billion just to play it safe.

But before we’re too hard on Wayne, we each should ask ourselves whether we’ve made similar bets. Have we missed out on God’s provision because we feared failure and were unwilling to take the necessary risks to succeed? Have we bailed out of some enterprise too early, right before our breakthrough came?

Perhaps you have regrets about some decision in your past, wondering what might have been if you had hung in there a little longer. As Ron Wayne predicted about Apple, there will be “significant bumps along the way” if you do the right thing. But the payoff might be beyond your wildest dreams.

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The Best Password Ever

Password iPhone

I hate passwords. Yet they’re everywhere—the apps on our phone, programs on our computer, PIN code on our debit card, and even the key pad on our garage door. Only someone with a photographic memory could remember all of life’s passwords. And the problem is even worse because we’re supposed to change them every month or so.

However, my war against passwords unexpectedly took a positive turn last year. My employer gave me a new Apple iPhone 6, and one of the features is a “touch ID fingerprint sensor.” Instead of having to remember my password, as I had to do with my Samsung Galaxy s4, all I have to do is press my thumb or finger onto the sensor.

Wow. It’s amazing how exhilarating this is. No more passwords to remember for my phone! All I need is my thumb or fingerprint, and the iPhone 6 recognizes who I am.

There’s an important principle of life here. When you create a password, it’s like devising a false identity. Whether you use the name of your dog, your spouse, or your favorite NFL player, the password is not really “you.” So it’s no wonder you might struggle to remember it.

But false identities are nothing new. Teens use fake IDs to purchase booze or gain access to nightclubs. Singles post false photos and inaccurate profiles on online dating sites. People apply for jobs with fabricated credentials on their resume.

Just like a password, these fictitious identities are all about getting access to something we want. The problem is, when you lie about who you really are, you’re prone to forget what the truth is. Just like a forgotten password, you must try to regain your real identity.

If I ruled the world, I would abolish passwords and require fingerprint sensors everywhere instead. No need to show your driver’s license or passport to the TSA when boarding a plane—just press your thumb onto the sensor. And instead of constantly having to change your password to prevent identity theft, you would just use your never-changing fingerprint.

Best of all, your fingerprint represents who you really are. It can enable you to gain access based on your true identity rather than some fabricated word or name. That’s the only kind of access worth having, isn’t it?

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