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.

We Have Expectations of the Expected One

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

  • He had proclaimed 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 at Machaerus near the blistering shores of the Dead Sea.
  • Gentle Jesus hardly seemed the political Deliverer everyone expected.

Unable to reconcile the seeming contradictions, and imprisoned in his thoughts, John doubted his own message. 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: Machaerus, 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.

In response to John in prison at Machaerus, 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).

We should never judge God’s love for us based on our present circumstances. 

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.

Tell me what you think: What disappointments have you experienced from God that ended up becoming blessings? To leave a comment, just click here.

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