“If I were to name the emotional condition accompanying the aura created by this pandemic, it would be disillusionment. It wasn’t caused by Covid-19, but it has been highlighted amidst a culture rooted in the kind of expectations impregnated with disappointment. Long before Covid-19 came along, this intimidating truth has lurked: Life doesn’t work the way we think it does. Covid-19 simply forced us to confront some suspicions that we already contended with:
Sometimes the hardest working person doesn’t get their dream
Sometimes the most loving person doesn’t keep their family together
Sometimes the best faith community doesn’t survive
The only difference now is that we have something to blame: Covid. But I know from my experience, blaming Covid doesn’t meet my internal need for justice, because who can we blame for Covid? This question isn’t intended to take you down the usual rabbit hole of conspiracies. It is to demonstrate this: assigning blame doesn’t resolve the internal loose ends that can’t work out why things didn’t happen the way I thought they would, or should…the way that makes sense.”
So says Melanie Saward, who has recently written a book on the subject¹.
She defines disillusionment as: when a person perceives a conflict between their ideals and reality, that cannot be unseen. The turmoil stems from the pain and frustration involved in trying to reconcile this discrepancy, particularly when this ideal has occupied an infallible foundational status.
She points out that disillusionment is different from offence, or disappointment or hurt or discouragement. With offence, for instance, there is a definite offender, who is to blame; and a definite course of action to take – forgive and reconcile. And while disillusionment can involve disappointment, hurt or discouragement, it is far deeper and more profound: it is a shaking of our very foundations of understanding about how the world works.
Disillusionment is the point where our feelings, beliefs and assumptions, hit the brick wall of reality. When our expectations are not met and we are unclear how to move forward. When everything else we believe is brought into question too.
Examples would include: When a respected leader is found guilty of gross immoral behaviour. When our children go astray after we have done everything right, according to all we’ve believed. When a relationship that we are deeply invested in goes south for no obvious reason. When innocent people die. When our prayers are not answered.
What do we do with these inevitable cracks in apparently realistic expectations? In our sense of rightness?
Well, that’s precisely the point of Melanie’s latest book: “Disillusioned, When You Get Lost Following Jesus.”
There may be a purpose to disillusionment. But you aren’t going to find it in the courts, the media, or in a feel-good podcast. It’s found in the pages of the Bible, demonstrated in the lives of biblical characters. Disillusionment is meant to shake our foundations, so that only that which is real remains. It is meant to push us deeper into the arms of God, just as the Bible characters discovered in the face of exiles, oppression, injustice and persecution.
As Melanie warns, disillusionment can have three main outcomes:
- It can make us suspicious and distrusting, wary to believe anything now that something we trusted in proved false.
- It can leave us frustrated, resigned to a world where things don’t make sense and nothing is knowable. Stuck emotionally and spiritually, trying to drown out the disconnect with addictions and entertainment.
- Or it can send us on a journey to look for answers. If this that we believed was not the truth, then what is?
Melanie encourages her readers that there is hope. The Truth is indeed out there, and His name is Jesus. When we come to Him, His teachings become the solid foundation and worldview through which all our other information gets processed. Then, Melanie counsels, one needs to:
- recognise the disillusionment for what it is and consider how it is influencing our choices
- mourn the loss (of time, relationship, effort, certainty etc.) associated with our disillusionment, and
- confront our disillusionment head-on.
For further understanding of how to do that, read Melanie’s book, available online and at Koorong bookstore.
- Saward, Melanie. Disillusioned: When You Get Lost Following Jesus