People will disappoint you. Have you ever met someone and within the first conversation you felt like they were a kindred spirit? You love the same things, you have similar stories, and you have the same ideas? It’s wonderful! You begin to envision a friendship or partnership where you can always count on this person. You begin to build plans that include this person, and you get excited. Meeting this person is going to change your life, or your business, or your church! And then, time passes and you begin to realize that they don’t actually live the way they talk. Their actions and choices in life don’t match what they say they believe. You just can’t count on them the way you hoped you could. It might not even be their fault, circumstances just didn't work out. Or, maybe they even reject you and turn away from you. 

It hurts, and you may even get upset at this person. You’re forced to change your assumptions about them, and you have to change your plans and your hopes. It’s depressing, I know. I have been disappointed by others who I hoped were stronger in their faith than they were, or who I hoped actually believed the things they said. What’s more, I ache because I know that I’ve disappointed others. If you think I’m great, then just wait a while. I’m sure to disappoint you!

What’s the problem here?

I think of David’s victory over the Amalekites after they’ve kidnapped David’s wives and all the wives and children of his men in 1 Samuel 30. There are two incidental things that happen in that story I want to highlight. When David and his men come home to find their wives and children taken, they immediately despair and a number of men wanted to stone David to death. These men have been cheering David on, and in all honesty, they’ve been pushing him to lead a rebellion against Saul, but in the blink of an eye they want David dead.

Notice what David does.

He doesn’t despair over these men’s attitudes. He doesn’t wallow in self pity because he thought these men were his friends, and now he’s betrayed. What does David do? “But David found strength in the Lord his God.”

David found strength in “his God.” I don’t want to put this too harshly, but here’s the truth: friends will come and go, friends will even betray you; wives and children will not always be there either, but you will never lose your God. You cannot lose your God because He holds you in the palm of his hand. You can bet that David is tempted here to despair because we often find our strength or feel our weakness depending on how the people around us are treating us. David looked for his strength in God, however, and it made all the difference. David remembered that God keeps all his promises and he never changes. He called for the Ephod and he asked God what to do instead of immediately engaging with the feelings of his men. We, on the other hand, can get so wrapped up in other people’s feelings and actions that we entirely forget about God.

The second incident comes after David and his men win an amazing victory over the Amalekites. David attacks them with four hundred men while they’re feasting and drunk. At the end of the next day, four hundred Amalekites are all that’s left, and they were last seen fleeing over the horizon. Did you catch that math? David came with four hundred men, and the Amalekites escaped with only four hundred? It makes you wonder how many Amalekites there were to start with. But then comes the time to divide the spoil. And David’s men parade it all before him and cry out. “This is David’s spoil!” They’re rejoicing now, and praising David. The same men who just wanted to stone him. The people can go from praising David, to wanting him dead, to praising him again all in the space of a couple days!

Notice what David does.

He doesn’t say, “All right, they love me! I knew it. I can be king, I can lead these people because they love me.” What does David do? He directs everyone’s attention to God. God is the one who gave them everything, including this victory. “He protected us and handed over to us the raiders who came against us.” The one being who mattered most to David was God. He responded to God, not to his people, and he called them to respond to God as well.

Ed Welch has said, “Regarding other people, our problem is that we need them (for ourselves) more than we love them (for the glory of God). The task God sets for us is to need them less and love them more. Instead of looking for ways to manipulate others, we will ask God what our duty is toward them.”

What do we need people for? Do we need them for their affirmation of us and what we believe? Do we need them to give us an identity? Do we need them to change our lives? The truth we always return to is that people cannot be our Savior. We should be responding to God ultimately, strengthening ourselves in our Lord, and then loving the people in our life.

We’re all guilty of putting our hopes on a person, or in people. It’s so easy! Going back to the person who was such a disappointment at the beginning of this article, perhaps we’re asking a mere human, a sinner who is struggling just like us, to be something they are not. We all get disappointed because we put too much hope and reliance on people to give us something only God, through Jesus Christ can provide. When we’re finding our strength in God however, we are much better at loving others, even those who disappoint us.