The Horrors of Disappointment Phobia

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Phobia (FOE-bee-uh) (n.): An extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something.

Common Phobia Symptoms (see

  • Feelings of severe panic when confronted by something, or even when thinking about something
  • Physical symptoms of panic: pounding heart, shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, tightness in chest
  • A sense of being paralyzed
  • Taking extreme measures to avoid situations that hold even small possibility of meeting the source of dread

Do You Have Disappointment Phobia?

Not all cases of phobia manifest all the above symptoms, but all phobias (even mild ones) have one thing in common: the limiting of life due to unwillingness to face uncomfortable situations. And one life-limiting fear so common as to be epidemic is fear of disappointment: the terror that life won’t work out exactly as we’d planned, that we’ll have to change direction midstream, that we’ll work ourselves to exhaustion for goals that remain elusive in the end–that, ultimately, all we’ll get from life is the despair of having proved ourselves to be hopeless failures.

While “disappointment phobia” rarely comes to a formal medical diagnosis, its parallels with “phobia” as defined above are easy to see. If anything seems better to you than being disappointed by circumstances/God/others/yourself:

  • You’ll avoid taking advantage of opportunities because you doubt you can handle them.
  • You’ll have no end of excuses for rejecting opportunities even when others urge you to accept them.
  • You may break out in a sweat, feel your blood pressure rise, or experience other panic symptoms at the thought of stepping into new territory.
  • You’ll hesitate to commit to anything because something might go wrong.
  • When you do make plans or promises, you’ll carry them out in a state of anxiety, driven by terror that something will go wrong. And you’ll be impatient and short-tempered with anything or anyone that interrupts you.
  • Even minor disruptions of your schedule will feel catastrophic.

Sounds like a pretty miserable life, doesn’t it?

The Greatest Saints Aren’t Immune

If you see yourself in the above description, and feel guilty about it, remember you aren’t the first. No less a person than Moses, confronted at the burning bush by God’s unmistakable orders to do something great, protested and made excuses to the point of getting his Commander seriously annoyed with him. A person who read only that part of Moses’s story might never guess this was the same man who, once finally agreeing to step forward, never looked back. The same man who stood up repeatedly to powerful rulers and angry crowds. The same man who is remembered as a great hero of faith, who chose the hardship of obedience over easy earthly pleasures, who lived in confidence that God stores up great rewards for those who trust Him.

What changed Moses? The fact that God had a purpose for him and wouldn’t let him out of it. The fact that God’s own Power was in him, and that he relied on this Power rather than continuing to assess his own limited strength against life’s challenges.

If you’re terrified of disappointment, remember that the Ruler of the Universe has a purpose for you and will take responsibility for making sure it succeeds. You may or may not see your dreams come to fruition exactly as you envisioned (even Moses fell a little short of his ultimate earthly goal), but if you commit yourself to seeking and doing God’s will, you can be sure He won’t disappoint you in the end.



“I Can’t Depend on Anybody!”


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Do you have a friend who’s back at your coffee table every month, crying over yet another broken relationship?

Do you know anyone who’s stopped speaking to her neighbors and relatives, one by one, for “disappointing me”?

Have you ever had someone stomp away in a huff because “I can’t depend on you for anything“?

Do any of the above sound too much like you yourself?

While it’s true that some people seem to attract genuinely abusive relationships, many who complain “I just can’t trust anyone” are themselves the greater part of the problem. They refuse to accept anything less than that perfect friend or partner who always answers the phone when it rings, who says “yes” to every request, who delivers instantly and flawlessly without exception, who never has anything else going they can’t drop. The extreme version of such expectations is the friend who demands you come home in the middle of vacation because he’s suddenly decided this is the perfect weekend to start the DIY project you casually discussed two months ago. Or the mother who can’t understand why her child won’t rise from an intensive-care hospital bed to pick up a pound of coffee.

Even God won’t always “be there for us” in the instant-wish-granting sense–which is why many people decide they can’t trust or believe in Him either. Admittedly some such cases are understandable: the whole church prayed for weeks over a child with leukemia, and he still died in agony–how could that serve any purpose in a good God’s eyes? There are also cases on the other end of the spectrum: “I prayed two nights for good golf weather this weekend, and God still let it rain!” Either way, the assumption is, “I know what’s best, and God apparently doesn’t”–which sounds pretty arrogant when you come right out and state it.

People often can’t grant our requests for one reason or another. God often won’t, for reasons known only to Himself. And no matter whom we’re asking or for what, there are times they shouldn’t grant it, and often the reasons are obvious if we can stop sulking long enough to think reasonably:

  • Giving us what we wanted would have kept the other party from doing something more important.
  • The request was just plain selfish, and our getting it would have been a step toward making selfishness a way of life.
  • Getting what we wanted would have brought us more trouble than could have been justified by the immediate reward.

Most parents can nod knowingly at that last item: they know the trials of dealing with children who get furious at not being allowed to play with knives, live on marshmallows, or drive at age ten. Some parents do try to grant their children’s every desire–and live to regret it even before tragedy has a chance to strike, because a selfish appetite is like wildfire: the more you feed it, the bigger and more insatiable it grows.

If a friend “isn’t there when you need them,” do you drop them as untrustworthy, or do you try to understand that they have needs of their own? Is your disappointment justifiable, or are you the one being selfish and unreasonable?

When you pray for something specific, do you remember to add, “Your will and not mine be done,” or do you stubbornly refuse to accept any alternative to your will? If your prayer isn’t answered in the way you’d hoped, are you willing to accept that God knows best no matter what? Will you give up on God or allow your pain to draw you closer to Him?

It’s not real trust if it depends on anyone always “proving themselves” on demand.

  • A blog for naturally melancholy Christians tired of being told to "snap out of it"; for Christians who struggle with mental-health issues and long for assurance God delights in them nonetheless; and for naturally optimistic Christians who want to understand their "gloomy" loved ones.

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    I am the go-to writer for people with tough stress issues and special emotional needs—and for those who love them, organizations that serve them, and anyone who just wants to better understand the world of mental/emotional struggles. Or who just wants to pick up some good stress-management tips! Visit my main website at

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    Bible quotes used in this blog are from the New Living Translation or the New International Version (1984). See for copyright details.
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