Review: "Invest your Disappointments" by Paul Mallard
How long is it since you were disappointed in something, somebody or even yourself? Perhaps you are experiencing disappointment at this time. Disappointment ranges from serious life changing situations to minor ones such as the disappointment with my latest photo, which makes me look like an ageing fugitive from the law!
It was with eager anticipation that I bought Paul Mallard’s latest book. I have been privileged to hear him speak at the Keswick Convention and to benefit from his teaching DVDs. He comes with excellent qualifications for tackling such a subject. In his introduction he shares with us some of the weighty family situations and disappointments his family are facing. His wife Edrie’s story of debilitating illness has already been told in his sister book, “Invest your Sufferings.”
He has a pastor’s heart and an ability to get to the core of the fundamental problems we all face: “Disappointment is the sadness we all feel when our hopes are shattered and our expectations fail to be realised.” (p.3) Mallard’s aim is to take us on a journey through the “Land of Disappointment” (p.3) and onwards to a place of forgiveness, restoration and hope in Christ. At the end of each chapter are questions for our personal reflection or for use in group discussions.
He begins by explaining the root cause of all disappointment by taking us back to the Garden of Eden as God created it, where for Adam and Eve it was “life in close and intimate fellowship with God, which is the purpose of human existence.” He contrasts that with life for the couple after they rebelled and disobeyed.
As a natural pessimist, I found his observation very pertinent that to avoid disappointment we can often go through life in an overly negative way, expecting very little. He reminds us we should enjoy all the good things God blesses us with and rejoice in the moment. (1 Timothy 6 v17)
He also leads us helpfully through areas of disappointment found in work, relationships, the pain of parenthood and childlessness, as well as problems at church. These sections are peppered with terrific modern and biblical examples. He gives a list of practical suggestions at the end of each section.
For me chapters 8 and 9 were the most poignant. Chapter 8 covers disappointment with ourselves. Using King David and Peter as examples, he deals with the importance of repentance and a recognition that our battle with sin is lifelong: “We will also need forgiveness every day if we are to complete our journey – anything else is self-deception.” (p.104) After Peter’s denial (“the best documented public failure in the history of the church” - p.111) and repentance, God wonderfully restored him and used him mightily in the future.
In chapter 9, Mallard tackles the times when we feel disappointed or let down by the Lord, using the example of Elijah after the victory on Mount Carmel. He warns us “that behind the disappointments we face in the world and at home are the slimy manoeuvrings of spiritual forces of evil…we must choose to believe what God says in the objective truths, rather than succumbing to Satan’s seductive slanders.” (p.117)
He does not specifically deal with the issue of SSA in the chapter “When Relationships Fail”. But TFT members who feel a disappointment in missing out on a sexual partnership, owing to their call to celibacy, should find much encouragement in Mallard’s wise teaching and advice. In the section on “Singleness: a challenge and an opportunity”, he describes singleness as a gift from God and not God’s second best: it is a challenge and an opportunity. “Singles have to struggle with loneliness and sexual temptation. Often it is when we feel most alone and isolated, that we experience the most seductive temptations.” (p.65) Mallard sees loneliness as a scourge and emphasises the importance of Christian friendships and the love and support that is vital within our churches. Mallard affirms God’s great love for us and His desire that we should experience life in all its fullness now. For anyone disappointed in how the church treats singles or people with SSA, the chapter “When Church Distresses Us” has a “Back to Church” section offers helpful suggestions of how we can respond well and move forward. Whether married or single, Mallard warns we should not look to our friends or spouses as our ultimate source of satisfaction and happiness nor allow anyone or anything to take the place of God in our lives.
Would I recommend this book? Most certainly. It compels us to face up to life in this fallen world with all its disappointments, but doesn’t leave us there. It directs us to the treasure trove of God’s grace and shows us how God comforts and restores us. It shows how God strengthens our back bones, and makes us, making us more determined to persevere, using even our most painful experiences to help others. I have found it a timely reminder that true fulfilment is found in Christ alone, and I believe this book could help many others on their journey through life.
"Invest your Disappointments": Going for Growth by Paul Mallard
IVP Books, 2018
This article was published in the Christmas 2018 edition of the TFT magazine, Ascend.