Each year Red Lobster rolls out an aggressive marketing campaign associated with their annual Crabfest. They run commercials depicting mouthwatering crab dishes characterized by vibrant colors and luscious portions of crab-inspired seafood. Usually, the camera zeros in on a crab leg snapping open only to expose blossoming crabmeat. Every time I watch the commercial, I say to myself, “I’ve gotta get some of that!”

Then I visit a Red Lobster and discover a disconnect between their advertisement and their execution.

I order a Crabfest-inspired dish. The plate is placed before me and I hardly recognize it. The colors are not vibrant. The plate is not full. My crablegs do not crack and snap open. They bend and tear open. The meat does not fill up the entire shell. It is shriveled up and dried out as though the crab spent far too much time sunbathing. What I experience in that moment is called disillusionment.

Disillusionment occurs when our experiences contradict our expectations.

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We carry expectations into every aspect of our lives—marriage, career, friendships, parenting, etc. Often times, our expectations are influenced by a shrewd marketing campaign. Romantic comedies tell us that the feeling of being in love is more important to the health of a marriage than the commitment to love. The American Dream tells us that we can achieve anything we want in life. Diaper commercials give us the impression that parenting is one perpetual parade of cuteness. Collegiate culture projects the mirage that life is one long party with our friends.

Life rarely delivers as advertised. Marriage is hard. Careers are insecure. Friendships fail. Parenting is difficult. Often times our experiences contradict our expectations because the latter is formed by unreliable sources.

We also carry expectations into our relationship with Christ. When our expectations are not grounded in a robust understanding of the person and work of Jesus then we risk disillusionment even with Jesus. A person may put their faith in Jesus expecting life to get easier only to find that following Jesus can often make life harder.

I once knew a teenager who discovered she was adopted while randomly surfing the internet. In an instant, the fog of disillusionment set in. She seemed to have lost her bearings on all that she once held dear. She said to me, “I am trying to hold on to Jesus’s shirt sleeve, but I am losing my grip!”

The fog of disillusionment causes us to lose perspective on what we hold dear. By God’s grace in those moments, we discover that the strength of the Christian faith is not dependent upon the strength of a Christian’s faith. God’s grip on us is stronger than our grip on Him. The gospel assures us that God never loses perspective on what He holds dear.

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The gospel’s ability to lift the fog of disillusionment from our lives depends not upon the quality of our faith but upon its object. The object of a Christian’s faith is the God whose grace and power converge in the gospel. Unless our faith has room for both then we resign ourselves to disillusionment. On one hand, a God who is powerful but not graceful may be able to help us through whatever frustrating experiences we face in life. But, He may not desire what is ultimately best for us. On the other hand, a God who is graceful but not powerful may want to help us but is simply unable.

Nowhere is God’s sovereign grace revealed more clearly than in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The fog of disillusionment is lifted not because we focus on God in general but on Jesus in particular. His person and work assures us that no matter what happens, the God of sovereign grace has got us. He will work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Rm. 8:28).

When the gospel informs our expectations then we become hopeful realists. Anything can immediately happen but nothing can ultimately harm. Such perspective may temper our expectations from being contradicted by our experiences, warding off disillusionment.

Reflection Questions:

1. If you currently find yourself disillusioned in life, ministry, or even in your relationship with Christ can you identify what specific expectations have been contradicted by your experiences? What informed these expectations? 

2. Are your expectations more informed by cultural traditions or common assumptions than by a gospel-centered understanding of the Scriptures?

3. Where do you tend to place the accent of your faith—on God’s sovereign power or His tender grace? How might you expand the scope of your faith to encompass both?

4. When disillusionment arises do you look to the quality of your faith or its object to lift the fog?

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