Inspired by the success and popularity of Spotify’s ‘This Year in Music’ roundup, the Getty Museum decided to launch their own end-of-the-year list of popular artists and arts. Vincent van Gogh was on the very top of their list. The Los Angeles Museum of Art compiled their own list of top artists and artwork. And again, Vincent van Gogh was heading the list this year. Countless people suffering the effects of the isolation, fear and uncertainty of the pandemic searched for Van Gogh’s art on museum websites around the globe, hoping to find comfort and consolation in the silent serenity of his paintings.
Ironically, it was Vincent van Gogh who had to give hope and comfort to humanity, help us fight disappointment, despair and sadness. His life is the ultimate symbol and definition of what disappointment is and how deep the human soul can sink in its dark abyss. Van Gogh’s art is among the most expensive in the world. His Portrait of Dr. Gachet set a record when it was sold for $82.5 million in 1990. But during his life, Van Gogh was unable to hold a job, form friendships and relationships. His astonishing paintings were some of the best ever created, yet he could never sell any but one, only one. But he kept fighting the ugliness, despair and disappointment with art and beauty. He created thousands of amazing paintings that though dim and grim in color, redate with a transcendent and magical silence, stillness and peace.
Disappointment is never an easy thing to experience. It might fracture and reshape precious relationships, redefine our self-image and self-worth. We do everything to avoid disappointment. When confronted with disappointment, our first response is often a denial or misguided emotional reaction. What is the spiritual perspective on disappointment? How can our faith help us transform the moments of disappointments into opportunities for growth?
The theme of human disappointment and how God continuously and tirelessly interacts and works through it all by guiding and saving us, forging new realities and opportunities for us out of the darkness of our disappointments, runs like a red thread throughout the entire Holy Bible. In the very first line of today’s Gospel reading, we read that just days before the crucifixion and death of our Lord, the disciples were arguing among themselves as to who among them is the greatest. How disappointing. The incarnate Word of God and Savior spent years preparing them to transform the world only to see them argue and debate prominence and prestige up to the last minute. Christ humbled himself and was born as one of us, and the disciples were occupied with obtaining authority and rank. Christ taught them the importance of faithfulness and sacrificial love, only to witness his disciples abandoning and betraying him.
Think about all the stories about great miracles from the Bible and you will realize that in almost every instance, they were born out of the brokenness, despair and disappointment of the human heart. Often, we might not fully understand why God would allow us to experience disappointment. We might not be able to comprehend how He possibly uses something so dark as a human disappointment to forge new miracles, new beginnings and blessings for us. Still, we have to make every effort to keep our belief and faith that God indeed is fully present in our lives and, holding our hand, leads us to something much better and brighter.
Next Sunday, we will explore why God allows his children to be disappointed and some of the ways in which God touches and transforms us and our lives through disappointment.