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.

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  • http://thereforenow.com/ Jim McNeely

    I know this is a really lame comment, but I tried to subscribe to email notifications for you blog, and there is no submit button on that form, so it is impossible. 

    • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

      Actually, that’s a great point, Jim. Just hit return or enter and it will work. It’s a glitch I’m trying to fix. Thanks.

    • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

       Jim, this is fixed now! Thanks for the lame comment. You can also subscribe here: http://www.waynestiles.com/contact/subscribe-via-e-mail/

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  • Charism

    Great article. I found this website because I was searching for Christian sites in Rome. I like this line: “Our inability to understand Jesus should give cause for worship, not cause for doubt.” It seems like today the phrase, “I don’t know” is never well-received (in ANY area of life) :) . Imagine how many people have said to themselves, “What if they ask me something I don’t know?” I love the idea of praising the Lord because I don’t have all the answers (but He does); and not walking away with the intent of returning  until all the answers are clear. 

    • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

      Glad you stopped by, Charism. And I’m glad you liked this post. You’re right, if we walked away until everything was clear, we’d never return. How can a finite brain comprehend an infinite God? I wouldn’t want to worship One I could fully understand– at least, in this life. Thanks.

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  • Michele

    I’ve been reading Job again lately, and this matches closely with what I read there. Good article.

    Even in today’s churches, people still try to make you feel that if your life with Jesus is not free from problems, worries, etc., then you are somehow less than a full Christian. But throughout Jesus’ ministry and the ministry of the apostles, they said to expect persecution, trials, and tribulations.

    I once held a sobbing little girl for an hour after giving my testimony at a girls’ camp. I had felt that I needed to share my testimony because up until the point when I shared, the testimonies had followed this basic pattern: I was horrible (or my life was horrible), then I became a believer and all of my problems disappeared. Well, that had not been (and still has not been) my experience at all. I came from a family that sent me to church with the neighbors so that I could be “a good moral person”. When I accepted the Lord as my savior, it took them by surprise and they belittled and ridiculed me and said that, “it’s just a phase.” Anyway, to make a long story a little shorter….that message was exactly what that little girl needed to hear. The previous year at the same camp, she had accepted Jesus under the impression that all of her problems would go away…but they hadn’t…her dad still drank, her parents still fought like crazy, etc….People had given her a false expectation of Jesus. I was able to share with her the thinking that our problems do not go away because of believing, in fact, they may get worse (and the Bible suggests that they will get worse)…the difference is that God carries us through and gives us strength…
    God bless you, sir!

    • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

      These are great thoughts, Michelle. No doubt, the Lord used your painful past to encourage that girl– with many more to come. The lie that says all problems disappear is one of many the enemy uses. You might want to check out this blog post I wrote about 4 lies that Christians believe. Thanks again for your super comment.

    • Gail Cantrell

      It’s really sad, the “Prosperity Gospel” is preached much more than the True Gospel.

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  • Gail Cantrell

    When I read the subject, I instantly thought, I never really had any expectations of God. Well, I did, but not really, it was others telling me God would heal my daughter, so I expected Him to heal her, because they were telling me He would. When she passed, I wasn’t upset at all with God. The bible says we are all appointed a time to be born and a time to die, it was her time. Now other than that, I really do not have any expectations of Him, what He did at the cross is sufficient enough in itself. Anything above that is lagniappe. I’ve been struggling with the following statement: “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.”

    • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

      All I meant by that statement was that our expectations of life come through the filter of what we think life should be. God knows best, and so, He often allows our disappointment. Thanks, Gail.

      • Gail Cantrell

        I meant I was struggling with exactly what the statement was saying. I feel I’m not getting what should be rightfully mine. However, you just enlightened me, just because I think ( or general population thinks) it should be that way doesn’t necessarily mean it should. This is helpful, thanks.


    This is one of the best short teachings I’ve seen on this topic, Wayne. And it’s one of the most important topics you could write on, IMO. One thing that has helped me in this regard is to realize that one of God’s primary goals for Christians is to conform us to the image of Christ, which (unfortunately for us) requires that we experience pain, disappointment, and trials of various kinds. If we expected *that* and saw how important it is to God, we might actually be surprised at how little we suffer. “God is more intent on the production of character than He is on the provision of comfort.” —Ern Baxter

    Another thing God has to teach us is that we can’t control Him. Sometimes we can only really “get” that when He postpones answering our prayers or just says no. “God’s arm is untwistable.” —Derek Prince

    And I really love your pithy statement, “Our inability to understand God should give cause for worship, not cause for doubt.”

    • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

      Thanks for these great quotes. Yes, I think if we knew what God knew then we’d more willing surrender to the tough parts of His will for us.

      • JFKAR

        I’m clicking through all the links and the links’ links. So much good stuff—I could be up late! (It’s 8:00 P.M. where I am.)

        • http://www.waynestiles.com/ Wayne Stiles

          Thanks! It will all be there when you wake up. :-)