Dealing with disappointment

By Richard Gammill
Special to The PREVIEW
Kris Lackey thought he had hurricane-proofed his manuscripts. An English professor at the University of New Orleans, he had saved his fiction and papers (including his half-finished novel) via flash drive, diskette and hard copy. But as Hurricane Katrina swept in, the murky waters rose fast, forcing him to evacuate his home. He left his papers and computer equipment behind. He put them in high places, on tables and bookshelves well out of harm’s way — so he thought. He did not expect the 11 feet of water that inundated his house during the hurricane
When Lackey returned to his home more than a month later, he found his precious pages buried in mud, completely indecipherable, as well as what was left of his flash and hard drives. Nothing was retrievable. Nothing.
Writers can relate to Lackey’s terrifying sense of loss and disappointment. Our manuscript — the product of days, weeks and months of toil and exhausting imagination — is our baby, our hope of significant accomplishment. We may never lose it to fire, flood or computer crash, but we could face years of disappointment trying to get it published. Then follows the hard work of marketing it to the reading public. All motivated by the hope of publishing powerful stories that edify and elevate the human condition. We determine not to be defeated by long-term discouragement.
Disappointment is part of the human experience. King David cried out repeatedly: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” (Psalm 22:1). Scattered throughout the Psalms are verses that echo this complaint: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?”
We fail to recognize that these mournful passages are key to the power of the Psalms. David and the other psalmists are not ensconced in their ivory towers composing beautiful essays about their wonderful lives. Dissonant sounds shock their hurting ears. Terrible troubles tear their flesh. Wrenching hardships make their bones ache and go out of joint. Ugly scenes of life flood their eyes with tears. Daily injustices bring deep perplexity. Why do evildoers prosper while the righteous sometimes suffer outrageous losses?
These authentic struggles invigorate serious literature. Life can be brutal and it is not a sin to express our disappointment. But the complaints comprise only part of the passages. The tone changes in the middle of Psalm 22. David exclaims: “I will declare thy name unto my brethren; in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.”
Praises issuing from a bed of petunias can sound trite. Praises resounding from a bed of thorns are forceful and compelling.
Psalm 42:11: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”

This story was posted on September 6, 2018.