What to Do When God Fails Your Expectations

Jesus' words to John the Baptist at Machaerus are God's words to us.

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.

Macherus is where John the Baptist was imprisoned

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

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.

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The Critical Question We Ought to Ask When Hurting

And why asking "why" never goes far enough.

When something or someone hurts your feelings, where do you run? The book of Psalms repeatedly asks God where He is in the midst of our pain. After all, we’d really love it if God would stop the hurting since He can.

The Question We Ought to Ask When Hurting

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Amazingly however, the book of Job never answers the questions: “Where is God in my pain?” nor “Why does God allow such struggle in our lives?” Even Job himself received no answers to these questions—only elsewhere in the Bible do we discover their solutions.

When we’re struggling or suffering, finding out “why” is never enough.

There’s another question we need to ask.

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How Gethsemane Helps Stretch Your Prayers Past Your Pain

By asking only for relief, we may miss a surprising blessing.

It’s possible your prayers don’t go far enough. Maybe they need some stretching. I know mine do. Often our prayers begin and end with asking God to change the way things are around us.

How Gethsemane Helps Stretch Our Prayers Past Our Pain

(Photo: Mosaic of Jesus praying in Gethsemane. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Our prayers have a familiar pattern:

  • “Provide enough money this month”
  • “Protect us as we travel”
  • “Heal my friend from pain”
  • —etc.

These are fine prayers, and all legitimate, but incomplete. They just don’t go far enough. By asking only for relief, we may miss a surprising blessing. 

Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane helps us stretch our prayers past our pain.

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How God Broadens Your Limited Perspective

Bridging the gap between the God we want and the God who is.

Have you noticed how often we tend to interpret our faith as we want it to be, rather than as God reveals it to be? I think of it this way. We have adopted the lifestyle of a tourist who only wants to see the highlights of the city.

How God Broadens Your Limited Perspective

(Photo: courtesy of Oomph)

Forget all the back alleys of New York. Show me Times Square. Let’s just jump to the Empire State Building. We focus on how the Christian life “ought” to be. (As if the tough parts are electives.)

A broad chasm stretches between the God we want and the God who is. Between the life we want and the life God wants for us.

As tough as it sounds, the only way to bridge this gap is the cross.

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This is How to Overcome Your Overwhelm

Your problems can seem smaller when you see a new perspective.

Close one eye and look closely at a marble. It seems massive. In fact, the marble is all you see. It dwarfs everything else. But its size is an illusion.

A basketball is bigger. The planet earth is even bigger. Come to think of it, God is infinitely bigger than your marble. Your problems are like that.

This is How to Overcome Your Overwhelm

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Life is filled with marbles. When you fixate on your marbles, you can’t see the reality that they are small in comparison to God’s power.

Sure, they’re real. Of course they hurt. But your life is more than your problems, just as the world is more than your marbles. Or it can be. You can stop staring at your marbles. You only need to sit up, blink a few times, and look around.

God is much bigger than your marbles.

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How God Helps You in Impossible Situations

The only way to experience the joy of God's power

God often puts us in impossible situations. We find it frustrating, sure—but it’s never meant to be. In fact, those circumstances are meant to do just the opposite. They’re meant to encourage us.

How God Helps You in Impossible Situations

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With the Sea of Galilee in view on the Plain of Bethsaida, Jesus pointed to thousands of people and said to His twelve disciples: “You give them something to eat!” (Mark 6:37).

You can hear the frustration in the disciples’ reply: “Should we spend half a year’s wages to feed them?” Forget for a moment you’ve heard this story before.

Think instead of your current problem.

  • Your financial picture is unmanageable.
  • A close relationship has been strained for years.
  • You’ve been unemployed for much longer than you imagined.

Whatever it is you’re facing today, you face one of many impossible situations. Now go back to Jesus’ crazy command to His disciples. His solution for them is also His solution for you.

Let me show you why.

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Why God Allows Us to Crash and Hurt

Our assumption misses an astounding part of God’s love.

I will never forget the day when one of my daughters learned to ride her bike without training wheels. (The “fall” was an appropriate season for this event.)

As she sped down a hill toward a huge ravine, I saw written all over her face the message: “I’m not in control!”

Why does God allow us to hurt?

(Photo: Monkey Business Images, via Vivozoom)

As she raced by me, I reached out and lifted her off the bike—saving her from the ravine but causing her to fall. As the bike launched into the abyss, my rescued daughter hopped up hotter than a hornet!

“Why did you do that, Daddy?!” To answer, I simply pointed to the bottomless gorge I saved her from. But that didn’t matter. All she could see was that I caused her to fall.

Years later, I pondered how we can carry this same attitude into our relationship with God.

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Envy Grabbing You? Here are 4 Tips for Freedom

And why getting what we want doesn't fix us.

For some reason, we tend to envy others. Big time. Be it a car, a position, a house, or a spouse, we want it. There just seems to be part of our nature that sees what we don’t have as what we need.

Envy Grabbing You

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No matter what season of life we’re in, we tend to feel dissatisfied with who we are, or what we have, compared to someone else.

  • The teenager wants to be an adult.
  • The single wants to be married.
  • Those with no kids want kids.
  • Those with kids look forward to the empty nest.
  • The retired person longs for the seasons past.

If you’re not enjoying where you are today—and always looking for something better, something new, something else—then you’ll never have freedom in life.

Never.

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Why Your Life in Christ is Supposed to Hurt

Finding the key to pressing on in spite of your pain.

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

Why Your Life in Christ is Supposed to Hurt

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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.

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How to Resist Temptation Like Jesus

The Lord's strategy in the Judean Wilderness also works today.

Everybody faces temptation. And on some level, everybody has fallen to it. Everybody but Jesus. I have walked in the wilderness where Satan tempted Jesus.

Judean wilderness

(Photo: Judean wilderness. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Good grief, what a place. As far as my eye could see, it was empty, dry, and depressing. I tried to imagine the solitude and struggle Jesus would have endured for over a month. But I could not.

How did Jesus resist temptation here?

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