For the past week or so, I've been meditating on expectations. If you've followed my writings for any length of time, you know that the topic of expectations appears frequently, and the reason for that is because it's something I struggle with. You see, I have this bad habit of expecting God to work certain ways or do certain things in my life, but when He doesn't come through in the way I think He should, I get angry and disappointed. So, a while back, I came to the conclusion that expectations are bad and tried to convince myself (and you) that we shouldn't set up any expectations concerning God. That way, we can't be disappointed.
It sounded good at the time. In fact, it even sounded Biblical, but I'm afraid I must apologize to you, for the Lord has made it clear to me now that having expectations is not the problem. It's how we deal with our expectations. It all began many days ago when something I read (I can't remember what now) brought about a question in my mind: What is the difference between asking in faith with nothing wavering (James 1:6) and having expectations? Don't they both involve asking God for something and then believing (or expecting) Him to give it? Immediately, I was confused, but of course, my poor little brain couldn't stop there. It had to continue the thought process and pose another question: How are expectations different from hope? After all, the biblical definition of hope is "quiet, confident expectation," and the Bible tells us repeatedly to hope in God. Is anyone else getting a headache?
After much prayer and meditation, I posed the question to Jason in hopes that he could further enlighten me. His opinion is that there is no difference between expectations, asking in faith, and hope. They are all one in the same and, therefore, carry the same message. The problem we often have with expectations is not that we expect but rather that we get mad when those expectations aren't met exactly to our specifications. Jason's thoughts on the matter led to many other questions on my part (some of which I will discuss in the upcoming days), but I truly believe that in this matter, he was right. The reason I think that is because the Lord confirmed it during the preaching on Sunday morning. (Did I mention we had this discussion on the way to church? Coincidence? I think not!)
The preacher's message was about the prodigal son, and somehow, in the midst of that sermon, God spoke to me about my quandary. The prodigal's father expected his son to return. He was waiting for him at the gate. He made sure the calf was fat and ready for the barbecue. No doubt in my mind, he prayed for God to send his son home again and expected God to answer his prayer in just that way. Fortunately, for the father, God did grant him his request, but what if he hadn't? What if the son had never returned? Would it have been wrong for the father to have waited all that time, expecting God to answer in the affirmative? No, as the pastor reminded us on Sunday, "Waiting time is not wasted time." However, suppose God had not honored the father's request because He, in His great wisdom, wanted to give the father something better. What if the father had grown angry and rebellious toward God because He didn't meet his expectations? Then, we'd have a problem, right?
So, you see, there's nothing wrong with having expectations, but we have to be careful in how we respond to God's answer to our expectations. Remember, "no" is an answer as is "wait." And sometimes, even when God says "yes," He still doesn't work things out the way we wanted. The key is to have expectations (ask in faith; hope) but also to expect that God will be God. He is just and holy, and He knows the beginning from the end. He will always give us what is best even if it's not what we want.
Now, if your brain works like mine (and I hope, for your sake, that it doesn't), you may be wondering, So how can I ask in faith if I'm not sure God will grant me my request? Never fear! We're going to discuss that one on Thursday, Lord willing.
For in thee, O Lord, do I hope: thou wilt hear, O Lord my God. - Psalm 38:15