How disappointments can remind us of what lasts

Gaining eternal perspective through earthly sorrows

April 22, 2020

I painfully waited for a letter approving me for a second semester of study abroad. It came. I went. But the semester wasn’t what I hoped. My first semester was with a group of adventurers who were serious about studying the Word of God and experiencing the culture. My second group was different. The relationships, the food, my studies, and daily life were no longer rose-colored. I saw all the flaws of the culture where I lived. To top it off, I was missing important life events back home. I was disappointed. I had everything I had wanted, and it didn’t satisfy.

During that semester, I read this quote by C.S. Lewis: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” That phrase has been transformative in my life. I’ve continually preached that truth to myself when hopes are dashed. “Why is it like this?” “Why am I sad?” The answer: “I was made for another world,” and I have a God who is kind enough to orchestrate things in my life to reorient me and to train me. 

Much greater sorrows and disappointments have visited in the 15 years since that semester, but I wouldn’t trade one of them. Life in a fallen world is hard, but eternity is before me. Disappointments remind me of that reality as they reveal my true identity, display Jesus more clearly, provide a stage to proclaim a trustworthy God, and remind me that eternal bliss is real and waiting. 

Reveal my true identity

The world tells us that our desires are our identity, so unfulfilled desires are crushing. If we can’t have what we want, what’s the point? Scripture, however, grounds our identity in Christ (Col. 3:1-4). I love to work, but work never fully satisfies. When it looked like I would have to walk away from a job I loved, the phrase I often repeated to myself was, “This job is my life. I’m giving up my life.” I was tempted to believe that lie. But disappointment with that job allowed me to see that Christ was my life (Col. 3:4). My true identity was not in my position, in my ministry, in my hospitality, or anything else I was tempted to place it in. My true identity was in Christ.  Every disappointment, big or small, can reveal where our hope rests. Disappointment reminds us that something we hoped for isn’t ultimate and doesn’t define us.

Display Jesus more clearly

As winter points us to spring, so our disappointments can point us to our future resurrection. A cancer diagnosis, the death of a spouse, the death of a dream, or a mid-life crisis can all remind us that this world doesn’t have the last word, thanks to Jesus Christ. Death reminds us that the heinous executioner was not a part of the original order of creation. It is a part of the fall, but that’s not where the story ends. Redemption and restoration are a part of the narrative. Because of Christ, it is no longer death to die (2 Cor. 5).

Every disappointment, big or small, can reveal where our hope rests. Disappointment reminds us that something we hoped for isn’t ultimate and doesn’t define us.

God’s way is often paradoxical to man’s. If I were designing things, suffering wouldn’t be a part of the story. Man’s version of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 might read, “For these light and momentary wins will lead to an eternal weight of glory.” But God’s Word says light and momentary afflictions lead to an eternal weight of glory. Those light and momentary afflictions don’t feel that way, but in light of eternity, in light of the place we were designed for, they are. Paul knew all about suffering (2 Cor. 11:23-28), but his disappointments and despair led him to rely on God (2 Cor. 1:9). He also knew the disappointment of a reoccuring affliction, which he described as a thorn in the flesh. This too was meant to reveal Christ (2 Cor. 12:9).

Proclaim a trustworthy God

Disappointments allow us to hope and trust in God as we experience and see suffering. We are tempted by suffering to turn inward and forget God’s promises. At the same time, suffering or disappointment can lead us to the end of ourselves and help us stand on the promises of God. Understanding that this life is not all there is allows me to respond to suffering and sorrow in my life and other’s lives with a hope that is uncommon outside of belief in Jesus Christ (1 Thess. 4:13). How we respond to blessing speaks volumes about who our God is (Prov. 30:8-9; Deut. 8), but even people without the hope of Christ typically rejoice or respond well in blessing. A watching world is more frequently led to ask for the hope within us when we respond in kindness when we are maligned, when the hopes of our dream job that seemed to be in our grasp are dashed, or as we turn to God in great tragedy.

Point to eternal bliss

Disappointments remind us that eternal bliss is waiting. Joy and delight are in store. We will be with our Lord, and we will be like him (1 John 3:2). The truth that one day every tear will be wiped away is as real as every tear-streaked face brought about by disappointment. The death of death is as real as every funeral. As painful as every unfulfilled longing is, we have hope in Jesus Christ and a glorious future with him. Tears, pain, and sorrow all have an expiration date, but joy and life for those in Christ are eternal.

Paul was in prison. He knew he would likely be executed for Christ, but he knew the truth of Lewis’ statement. Paul’s “eager expectation and hope” amidst dire circumstances was that he would not be ashamed, that the trials would turn out for his deliverance, and that Christ would be honored in his body. He knew his greatest longing would be realized and his future hope would never be disappointed. 


I have a canvas on my wall that says, “Those were the days, and so are these.” It reminds me of the joys of past seasons and that God has given me good things to enjoy in this season. The truth is, those days and these days are simply preparation. Eternity—those will be the days! Those are the days we were created to know, so we should expect that these days can’t and won’t satisfy. We are simply window shopping and sampling on this earth. My disappointment when I was studying abroad, when I received the thing I had hoped and prayed for, was the recognition that window shopping and sampling doesn’t satisfy. I was made for something more. I was made for another world.

Jenn Kintner

Jenn Kintner is the associate dean of academic affairs at Gulf Theological Seminary. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24