Disillusionment is a feeling of disappointment when you discover that something is not as good as you believed it to be.
When you hear you’ve been accepted for the job, a surge of ecstasy drives you to set goals for this new opportunity: goals to achieve in the first 4 weeks and then the next 6 months… But disillusionment washes over us after that honeymoon phase passes. This new job feels pretty much the same as your old job – different setting and different people but same frustrations and same problems. It’s disillusionment. The new job isn’t as good as you believed it to be.
When you hold your newborn for the first time, you vow to love and protect him for the rest of your life. You look into his eyes and see all the ‘would-be’s in this new family, and you are full of hope and dreams for this young bub who would grow up and hold your hand and carry you in his arms. But one day you might find yourself staring at a familiar face looking back at you in the mirror and you’re wondering why life is not as good as you hoped it would be.
Disillusionment is a neighbour to our dreams. If we don’t get acquainted with our neighbour, one day the neighbour will come and get acquainted with you. Disappointment comes unexpectedly and a part of our dream withers. Left unchecked, our souls are crushed and we’re left feeling hollow again.
The Bible offers a cure for disillusionment. In the Book of Ecclesiastes, a teacher who identifies himself as “son of David, king in Jerusalem” (chapter 1, verse 1) pours out his feelings of disillusionment. He shares about his adventures working, partying, relaxing, building and creating, and thinking about life but in all his work – his pursuit of dreams and opportunities – he comes up with this conclusion:
“Meaningless! Meaningless!... Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes chapter 1, verse 2).
It’s pretty clear that he sees life as ‘meaningless’ and ‘utterly meaningless’. This man who’s lived a good part of his life working, resting and playing (what we in the West would consider a healthy balance in life), couldn’t grab hold of that joy and fulfilment he desperately longed for.
Throughout the Book of Ecclesiastes, he circles back to the theme of seeing life as “a chasing after the wind”. You can feel the wind but you can never catch the wind.
One of life’s modern mantras is:
You can have it all,
You can do it all,
You can be whatever you want.
But it’s setting us up for a lifetime of disillusionment.
When we read Ecclesiastes, we journey with the writer to his cure of disillusionment. His experiences resonate with so many of us who’s pursued something in life that we hoped would bring us peace and satisfaction:
- Pleasure and leisure
- Fulfilment in work
- Wisdom and knowledge
- Family and friendships
- Wealth and health
The problem, the teacher discovers is:
Firstly, everyone dies and will eventually be forgotten, rendering all our accomplishments and efforts meaningless: “For the fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?... For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten. Like the fool, the wise too must die!” (Ecclesiastes chapter 2, verses 15-16).
And secondly, as we age, we will grow tired and weak of pursuing what we once loved: “… when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags itself along and desire no longer is stirred…” (Ecclesiastes chapter 12, verse 5).
We will eventually slow down and we can no longer keep up with the demands and pacing of life that we once could in our peak. Our capacity to pursue pleasure, passion in work, and strength in cultivating deep relationships gradually diminishes.
The teacher’s conclusion
The teacher ends his depressing rant with these words:
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.
For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil”(Ecclesiastes chapter 12, verses 13-14).
The teacher’s concluding words seem somewhat… lacking. But like all books in the Old Testament, we need to keep in mind that they point forward to the future to Jesus Christ, God’s answer to the ultimate problem: sin.
It’s Jesus’ death on the cross that removes the barrier that blocks us from an everlasting relationship with our Creator – our first relationship.
It’s Jesus’ resurrection that gives us eternal life so that we don’t end up in eternal damnation, forgotten and rejected by God.
And Jesus raises up our ‘perishable’ bodies into ‘imperishable’ bodies, he raises up our ‘weak’ bodies into ‘powerful’ bodies, and he raises up our ‘natural’ bodies into ‘spiritual’ bodies (1 Corinthians chapter 15, verses 42-44).
In the new heaven and earth Jesus brings, we will no longer suffer from disillusionment as we are raised up again in transformed bodies with Christ.
The cure for disillusionment is knowing that the best is yet to come. It’s knowing that we are promised a future where “there will be no more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation chapter 21, verse 4).
Rachel is the children and youth pastor at Northern Life Baptist Church in Sydney. She loves volleyball, reading and a good TV drama! She has recently finished studying a Master of Divinity at Morling College and she’s continuing further studies towards another Masters.