When God Fails Your Expectations

We don’t say it out loud, but often we expect that if we believe and live correctly, we’ll have great marriages, healthy bank balances, well-balanced children, and freedom from major problems.

When God Fails Your Expectations

(Photo by Photodune)

Of course, we know better—but we still lean on the side of expecting blessing for obedience.

The truth is, we have expectations of God. And sometimes, honestly, He fails those expectations.

Here’s why.

The Expected One Has Expectations

We’re not alone in our expectations. Do you remember that John the Baptist struggled with his own sermon?

  • He had preached about the Messiah’s kingdom coming with power and justice.
  • But instead, Jesus’ ministry centered on preaching and on acts of mercy, and John found himself unfairly wasting away in prison near the blistering shores of the Dead Sea.
  • Gentle Jesus hardly seemed the political Deliverer everyone expected.

Unable to reconcile the contradictions and imprisoned in his thoughts, John doubted his own preaching. John sent messengers to ask Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” (Matthew 11:3).

In other words, the Expected One had certain expectations placed upon Him.

Jesus had failed to meet them.

Macherus, where John the Baptist was imprisoned.

(Photo: Macherus, where John the Baptist was imprisoned. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Our God-Sized Expectations

Has it ever seemed to you as if the “good news” of the Bible doesn’t work in the real world? Ask yourself:

  • If the gospel “worked,” what would it look like?
  • What do I expect from Jesus?

Even when our expectations are biblical, as John’s were, we still see them through the lens of impatience. We suppose that if God has promised to act, He should act now!

As if God’s whole universe orbits around our timetable.

Our God-Sized Disappointments

When we find ourselves most disappointed with life, it’s not because something in life has failed us. Rather, our expectations of what life “ought to be” have failed us.

Or understood a different way, when we find ourselves most disappointed with God, God has not failed us—but our expectations of God have failed us.

  • We should always hesitate to assume the gospel doesn’t “work” when we simply cannot see the big picture.
  • When we struggle to connect truth with life, we must embrace the limitations of our understanding—and also the limitlessness of God’s.

Our inability to understand God should give cause for worship, not cause for doubt. (Tweet that.)

In response to John, Jesus graciously challenged him to shape his expectations from the Word of God and not from the circumstances that seemed to contradict it: “And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me” (Matthew 11:6).

Why Jesus Disappoints Us

Jesus was willing to disappoint everyone but the Father. Everyone.

Ponder that for a moment.

Jesus loved His followers enough to disappoint them, to allow them to question His power and to struggle against their own expectations, in order that they could experience true joy in the long term.

Jesus is willing to disappoint you for the same reason.

Question: What disappointments have you experienced from God that ended up becoming blessings? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Post adapted from Wayne Stiles, Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus: A Devotional Journey Through the Lands and Lessons of Christ (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2008). Used by permission.

The Question We Ought to Ask When Hurting

It’s been a rough week. This year, our Thanksgiving found us at a hospital, visiting a close relative who had surgery for cancer. It’s strange how Thanksgiving has held many bittersweet flavors in my life.

The Question We Ought to Ask When Hurting

(Photo By Artur Pokusin. Courtesy of Unsplash.com)

I’ve been lost in nostalgia for several reasons.

  • Eleven years ago on Thanksgiving Day we discovered my mother had died.
  • Last week I spoke with another woman who had surgery for cancer the next day.
  • Today marks the birthday of a longtime friend of ours who died from cancer several years ago.

That’s why, in part, when I asked you last week to tell me in one word what you’re thankful for, my one-word answer to that question was HOPE.

When we’re struggling or suffering, there’s one question we need to answer.

Why We Should Remember the Holocaust Today

Today always amazes me. At ten o’clock on this holiday each April, sirens ring loud in Israel. People stop—wherever they are, whatever they are doing—and stand at attention for 120 seconds of silence.

Imagine that for a moment. Two minutes. Silence. Everywhere.

Memorial

(Photo: Janusz Korczak Memorial at Yad Vashem honors one who sheltered Jewish children during the holocaust)

Then the sirens rang again, and life resumed—full-speed. This annual pause allows the nation to remember the six million Jews who were murdered simply because they were Jews.

Today’s date marks Yom Hashoah, known as Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day, the Jewish holiday that remembers those who perished in the Holocaust.

Many times I have visited Jerusalem’s Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem.

It changes you.

God May Want to Give You More than Relief

Sometimes it seems no one understands what we’re going through. When people fail us, or forget us, or even forsake us, we’re left alone in the ashes of a reality we never expected or wanted.

In those intense moments of loneliness, confusion, and pain, we ask God for one thing more than anything else. Relief.

God May Want to Give You More than Relief

(Photo by Alexander Shustov via ooomf)

But when relief is denied, we begin the difficult journey of resisting the notion that God is a cruel sovereign who toys with our lives. After all, He could stop it all in moment.

After everything else but God gets stripped away from our lives, we begin realize that the Lord may want to give us something more—and much greater—than relief.

In those moments, God becomes more real to us than we ever would have known any other way.

I sat in the audience as Joni Eareckson Tada gave this talk to the 2013 National Religious Broadcasters.

Her words completely changed my perspective and mood that night. I walked in grumbling the hard week I experienced . . . and I left filled with gratitude for God.

Watch her video and you’ll understand why. Incredible.

God permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves.

A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's SovereigntyJust this week I finished reading Joni’s book, A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God’s Sovereignty.

Believe me, if you’d like some encouragement in the midst of your pain, this book will show you how to view your struggles with the joy only God provides.

Question: What has your suffering taught you that you would have learned no other way? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

 

Pain in the Body—A Lesson for Your Soul

Not long ago, my body gave me a little gift. I awoke suddenly one night with a smarting pain in the body. No matter how I fidgeted and adjusted, the hurt in my lower back only intensified.

Pain in the Body—A Lesson for Your Soul

(Photo by Photodune)

The best way I can describe the discomfort compares to having a doctor insert a three-inch hypodermic needle just to the left of the spine, exactly where the kidney sits. Occasionally, just for fun, the doc then twists the needle in a slow, clockwise motion.

The pain literally nauseated me.

Never before had I experienced such an inescapable ache.

The most frightful part was I had no idea what was happening.

Your Life in Christ—It’s Supposed to Hurt

Any woman who has experienced childbirth understands it. Any helpless man who has witnessed childbirth, like me (twice), understands it to a degree. That’s why the Bible uses the experience of childbirth as a metaphor of our lives.

Your Life in Christ—It’s Supposed to Hurt

(Photo: By D. Sharon Pruitt from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, USA. CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves . . . groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. —Romans 8:22–23

We would all love to have an emotional epidural to where we didn’t feel the pain of life. But that won’t happen.

God doesn’t give us a way to avoid the hurt.

But He does tell us what to think so we can make it through the struggle.

Finding Hope in Jesus’ Transfiguration

Sometimes we need a good dose of hope and encouragement.

We can get so obsessed with the weight of our cross that we forget Jesus showed us what lies beyond it. Today’s hardships can distract us from tomorrow’s hope.

Finding Hope in Jesus' Transfiguration

(Photo by Andrew Storms Happiness CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Jesus’ Transfiguration wasn’t some sideshow He did one day for fun. It came at a point when the disciples desperately needed some hope.

Scripture records it to offer us the same thing.

Some hope when we need it most.

Reconciling Pain and Prayer with God’s Love

Because God can stop our pain, we think He should. So we pray. And pray. But nothing happens.

Reconciling Pain and Prayer with God's Love

(Photo by Jiri Hodan. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

That’s what occurred with Mary and Martha. They sent a message to Jesus that their brother Lazarus lay sick. But instead of immediately traveling to Bethany, Jesus stayed right where He was beyond the Jordan River. When He finally did arrive, Lazarus had been dead four days.

In other words, Jesus had taken His sweet time showing up.

From what happened next, I see several lessons to help us reconcile pain and prayer with God’s love.