When God doesn’t meet your expectations

Around the age of 9, I visited Yellowstone National Park for the first time. Being so young, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. The abundance of wildlife, the towering mountains, and the overall beauty left me awestruck. There was only one spot I found rather disappointing—Old Faithful. I expected to see an extraordinary display in size or power. We had seen a few other geysers erupt before seeing Old Faithful, so my expectations ran high.

Instead of being wowed by this landmark, I was rather disappointed. I missed out on the truly impressive qualities because I was looking for all the wrong qualities. Old Faithful is one of the few geysers with eruptions of a somewhat predictable nature. According to the Yellowstone Park website, “The famous geyser currently erupts around 20 times a day and can be predicted with a 90 percent confidence rate within a 10-minute variation.” I had misguided expectations, and as a result, I missed out on the true wonder of Old Faithful.

Do we do the same to God?

We often expect Him to give us earthly comfort and ease, then rage at Him when things don’t go our way. Our expectations are earthly rather than eternal. Everything we crave in this world will eventually lose its shine. We might make a great name for ourselves, only to be forgotten in a few generations. We might work diligently to acquire wealth, only to lose it all when our nation crumbles or another generation squanders it away. What is earthly will pass away; what is eternal retains its value.

Watch this: How do you trust God when life isn’t fair?

In the New Testament period, the Israelites hoped for a Messiah who would cast aside the yoke of Rome and restore Israel to her former earthly glory. They expected a fighter like King David and a prosperity greater than Solomon’s. They expected someone and something who would strengthen their nation’s position in the world.

Jesus was not what they expected.

What they wanted was earthly, but what Jesus offered was eternal.

The Pharisees and Saducees didn’t recognize Jesus as the Messiah, but as a threat to their power. Jesus’ disciples often missed the point of His kingdom. John and James wanted to sit at His left and right hand. Peter drew a sword in the garden, ready to do battle. When Jesus allowed Himself to be captured, they all scattered in doubt and disappointment.

Following the resurrection, the gospel of Luke records this encounter with the risen Savior:

Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days? … Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. 

~ Luke 24.18-21, ESV (emphasis mine)

When Jesus allowed Himself to be beaten, mocked and brutally killed, the disciples were thrown into utter confusion. Instead of seeing Jesus rise triumphantly to power, they watched Him walk willingly into a humiliating death. They had hoped he would redeem earthly Israel, and they were disappointed.

The account goes on:

Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning,and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

~ Luke 24.21-27, ESV

What do we expect from God? Why do we expect it?

Do our expectations line up with what He teaches in His Word?

If we don’t see those expectations fulfilled in this life, what impact will that have on our faith?

Will we stick with God through prosperity and suffering, trusting in His perfect plans?

Here is what God promises—what we should expect—if we are in Christ:

**Some of these links should put you into the context of their verses.**

These promises are repeated frequently throughout scripture. Please take a moment to click the links and read these passages. We need to cling to these promises for they are our gifts from God.

What God does not promise:

  • Earthly Wealth
  • Earthly Health
  • Earthly Prosperity
  • Earthly Comfort
  • Easy Relationships
  • Constant Happiness
  • Total Earthly Success

If God had promised all these earthly things, why did the disciples and early Christians not receive them? Why have countless Christians endured hardships for the gospel? Why are Christians tortured or ridiculed for proclaiming Christ? Why do we still suffer if God promised prosperity in this life?

Does God give us everything we need? Yes—and often more!

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

~ 1 Peter 1.3-4, ESV

Does He sometimes deprive us or allow us to suffer in order to strengthen or perfect us? Yes.

We don’t always comprehend the ways or the whys of God because His mind is so much greater than our own.

Sometimes our suffering is caused by our poor choices or lack of motivation. Sometimes we destroy our own successes. But most often, we suffer because 1) we are not omnipotent, and 2) we live in a fallen world. The Promised Land for us isn’t here on earth, it is with the Lord in heaven. This world is merely a wilderness journey, and we should be moving in an upward direction.

Don’t place your expectations in a deteriorating world; place your expectations in something greater.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

~ 2 Corinthians 4.16-18, ESV

Now read this: The day I found meaning in life 

This post originally appeared on Elihu’s Corner and was republished with permission. 

Elihu Anderson is a surviving California native currently thriving in West Texas. When she isn’t writing for Elihu’s Corner, she is teaching, researching, walking, and book-worming with a cup of chai. Visit Elihu at elihuscorner.com


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