This book is a strong contender for my book of the year. Paul Mallard is a popular preacher and writer, based in the UK, who writes beautifully and biblically on a range of Christian living topics. This book deals with something familiar to many of us, and offers practical, biblical and profound wisdom for what to do when we are disappointed, pretty much whatever that disappointment is with. Published by IVP, this is a book that offers powerful and searching reflection across 14 chapters, across four distinct sections.
Mallard opens the book with one of his own stories of disappointment, in this case a son who would not be born. This poignant and personal introduction is matched by a theologically thoughtful opening section, ‘Preparing for the journey’, where he lays out some of the foundations for the book, and for why disappointment is such a reality in the world today. A particularly pertinent chapter, chapter 3, engages with the question ‘Am I allowed to feel like this?’. Rooted in a pastoral doctrine of the fall, Mallard writes that “Disappointment is the breath we breathe outside the Garden. It is marked by fear and loathing… betrayal and broken relationships, depression and despair and death”. Hope is not lost – indeed much of the later part of the book is about hope – but this opening section is realistic.
The core of the book is a practical look at ‘Travelling through the Land of Disappointment’, As Mallard writes, “We cannot control what happens to us – but we can control how we respond.” Chapters 4 through 9 consider how to deal with disappointment in work, relationships, parenting, church/church leaders, ourselves, and when God seems to let us down. I found ‘The enemy within: when we are disillusioned with ourselves’ to be a timely and penetrating set of lessons and reflections. If you are someone who has failed, or feels that they are a failure, Mallard’s words are a balm, rooted in who God is and what the Bible says: “One of the most comforting truths in the Bible is that failure is not final. God forgives us, picks up the shattered pieces of our lives and continues to use us for your glory”. The other standout chapter here is ‘Loving what Jesus loves: when church distresses us and leaders shock us’, which would be beneficial to anyone wrestling with the broad idea that they might love Jesus but the church is too much.
The closing sections of Invest your disappointments consider ‘The power that preserves’, and ‘Home at Last’. This is collection of further teaching, and also suggestions for practical application. Writing from a place of deep pain and prayer, Mallard’s vision of heaven is beautiful, echoing the hope that seeps from the pages of the Bible, and the best of Christian classic writing on the subject. His focus on heart attitudes and how to change them is helpful throughout – and again, pastoral and practical. A genuinely moving reflection on the painful story of Abraham and Isaac is one of the final treats as the book draws to a close.
Overall, then, Invest your disappointments is a timely, powerful, and timeless book. Steeped in the Bible, like a cup of tea just the way you like it that actually tastes of something, and with lightly-worn learning and reflection complimenting genuine vulnerability and authenticity, this is a beautiful book to read. Yet this is not some self-help book. Rather, this is doctrinally rich, refuses to offer platitudes and lifts the gaze of the disappointed reader to Jesus. I would recommend this to any Christian – especially if they are struggling with disappointment with themselves or their church/leaders.