What Do We Do When God Fails to Meet Our Expectations?
But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,
“‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” - Matthew 11:16-19, ESV
John the Baptist was sitting in prison, where he would soon be beheaded. He had baptized Jesus and publicly proclaimed Him as the Messiah. Now he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" It's unclear whether John was really doubting or whether he was just sending his disciples to Jesus so they would follow Him. What is clear is that most people's expectations of the Messiah's kingdom did not include leading prophets of their generation sitting in prison and then being executed.
What do we do when we're deeply disappointed, when God doesn't meet our expectations?
The people of Israel were confused by both John the Baptist and Jesus. John seemed way too extreme for them, living our in the desert, eating locusts and wild honey, preaching and demanding real repentance. Why couldn't he be more normal, more mainstream? Jesus came along and He ate and drank with tax collectors and sinners! This was too far in the other direction! What kind of holy man acts like a glutton and a drunkard, feasting, turning water into wine, hanging out with all of the wrong people?
We all have our sets of expectations. We all have standards we expect God to meet. Because we're not God, that means we all face the reality of disappointment.
God doesn't rule with the goal of meeting our expectations, Our expectations are almost always too small, too shallow, too narrow, too petty for God. John the Baptist's followers wanted him out of prison. Jesus showed them that the blind were receiving their sight, the lame were walking, the deaf were hearing, lepers were being cleansed and the poor were having the gospel preached to them. The power of the kingdom was on full display and lives were being transformed for eternity.
Rest assured that when God fails to meet our expectations, it's always because He has something better planned. When God fails to meet our expectations, it's always because our expectations were too low, too worldly, too self-centered, too petty. God is not going to change. For that, we should be very thankful! So, when God fails to meet our expectations, it is our expectations that have failed and it is our expectations which must change!
Prayer Based on Psalm 25:
Sometimes, we can just pray the Psalm directly to the Lord:
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths.Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord!
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths.Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.
Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD!
Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.All the paths of the LORD are steadfast love and faithfulness, for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
For your name's sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great.Who is the man who fears the LORD? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose.His soul shall abide in well-being, and his offspring shall inherit the land.
The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant.My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.
Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me.
Oh, guard my soul, and deliver me! Let me not be put to shame, for I take refuge in you.May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.
Redeem Israel, O God, out of all his troubles. (ESV)