The year was 1820. Ten-year-old Phineas was up before the sun. This was the day his father was taking him to the island. His island. On the day he was born, his grandfather presented Phineas with a deed to a portion of Connecticut land called Ivy Island. This day he was to see it for the first time.
They climbed into the buggy with a hired-hand. Phineas could barely sit still. At the top of each hill he’d ask, “Are we there yet? Can I see it from here?” His father would encourage him to be patient and would tell him they were getting close.
Finally, his dad pointed and said, “There, there is Ivy Island.” What he saw caused his heart to sink. Ivy Island was a snake-infested marshland. It was a joke. A stunned Phineas stared as the father and the hired hand roared with laughter.
Phineas didn’t laugh. He didn’t forget either. That disappointment shaped his life. The little boy who was fooled made a career out of fooling people. You don’t recognize him as Phineas or a landowner. You know him as a promoter. He coined the phrase, “There’s a sucker born every minute.” He spent his life proving it. You know him as P.T. Barnum.
You’ve known some disappointment too, haven’t you? Struggles in marriage. Letdown by friends. Let loose from a job. Disillusioned with church. What do you do with your disappointments?
There’s a story about two men on the road to Emmaus. They were disappointed in a big way. They had hoped Jesus was the one who “would free Israel.” But the events of Jerusalem led them to believe he was dead.
The ironic twist in the story is that the Savior they thought was not present was walking right beside them. Jesus had come up to them on the road. They didn’t recognize him. No matter. He listened to their crushed hopes.
Then he told them a story. He told them the story of God and God’s hopes for them. When he was done, he acted as if he were going to walk on after they stopped but they invited him in for a meal. When he broke bread with them they recognized him. Their hope returned and they went back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples that Jesus was alive.
This account can help us today. Jesus cares about your heartaches. When life disappoints you—maybe even when God disappoints you—take a cue from the Emmaus walkers and do what they did.
Tell Jesus your hopes. They told him all that had happened in Jerusalem and how they were feeling about their crushed dreams. Jesus listened to their hopes then and he will listen to your hopes now.
Then listen to Jesus’ hopes for you. Jesus’ cure for the broken heart is the story of God. What they heard was what we need to hear when we are disappointed. We need to hear that life is a series of chapters in God’s story and when we come to a chapter of disappointment the story is not over. There are more pages to be written.
Finally, share a meal with him. Did you notice it was in the “breaking of the bread” that their eyes were open? My guess is that when Jesus took the bread and broke it and handed it to the disciples, they saw his nail-scarred hands. When Jesus followers take the bread and cup, they remember a story. A story that is still being written through our lives.
Where is your disappointment today? Take a walk with Jesus. You might let go of the hurt and take hold of a new hope.
Question: Where can you use some hope today?