Sometimes our expectations lead to our greatest disappointments. They can hinder us from truly knowing one another.
They can hinder us from truly knowing God as well.
Have you ever had someone grow attached to the person they thought you were? Not who you were but an individual they’d conjured in their mind? I have, and the situation didn’t end well.
I met Anna* at church. Though we had numerous mutual friends, children close in age, and had been part of the same faith community for years, we didn’t really know one another. But then, after having read material I wrote, she initiated a conversation. We soon developed a relationship and began to go on walks and talk over coffee. Our interactions, though brief and sporadic, were pleasant enough, until I ceased meeting the woman’s expectations.
She acted as if I had deceived and cheated her.
Have you ever experienced something similar?
Have you ever felt that way about God?
I have. My relationship with Christ has swung from one side of the pendulum to the other, finally resting back in center. Early on, I viewed Him as hard and exacting, the One with the power and authority to send me to hell and who would be quite justified in doing so. I knew Him as the Rule Setter but struggled to see Him as loving and compassionate Father.
Steadily, one sermon, Bible passage, and Christ-centered interaction at a time, He transformed my thinking so that I began to view Him as my Savior and Friend. And for sure, He is both of those, but somehow, in the softening, I lost sight of the fact that His merciful side doesn’t negate His awesome sovereignty as the One who formed and retains full ownership of all creation, myself included.
As a result, I began to expect blessings and abundance. Oh, I never would’ve said that, if asked. I understood, at least in theory, that life held no guarantees and often horrible things happen to really good, God-loving people. I had read the book of Job, after all. But when that somebody was me, I grew sulky, frustrated, and at times, downright angry. I accused God of holding out on me, of not caring, and of not listening.
But really the problem lay with me. I allowed my self-created ideas of who I thought He was hinder my intimacy with the God who is and always will be:
Always good, faithful, loving, and true.
One day, when our daughter was young, I asked her to help me unload groceries from the car. She huffed and said, “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t make me do this.”
I’m not sure if she really believed that or was simply trying to talk her way out of what she clearly deemed to be a rather torturous event. I suspect the latter. But she was so melodramatic about the whole thing, it was all I could do to keep from laughing. Once certain I could respond with appropriate sternness, I replied, “It is because I love you that I must insist you unload them all.” Then, pocketing my keys, I left her to it, adding, “I’m raising you to have a servant’s, not serve-me, heart.”
Then I went inside.
I wonder how many times God whispered similar words to my huffing and hemming heart over the years. “I know you want that promotion. I know you feel I’m being unfair withholding it from you, but I would rather raise a daughter who trusts in Me more than her paycheck.”
“I know you don’t enjoy having chronic illness. I know it hurts and is hard. But I want you to experience My strength made perfect in your weakness.”
Or perhaps most challenging, “I know you don’t like to see your daughter struggle in this way. I Know it breaks your heart, and it does mine as well. But you must entrust her to Me. I’m growing her, patiently and faithfully, just as I have you all these years.”
I’ve seen enough of His heart, of His faithfulness, to know just how true that is. I’ve come to trust Him, to see Him as Father and Savior and Friend and King. I still have areas of deception He’s working to rectify with truth, areas of misconception His grace will expel. But for now, I’m resting in this:
He is good. He is loving. He is faithful, and He is enough. Regardless of what my fickle feelings or faulty perceptions might tempt me to believe. And perhaps that’s the most glorious lesson He’s taught me—to question everything else but Him. To say, like the apostle Paul did in his letter to the Romans, “Let God be true and every man a liar.”
When our view of God clashes with reality, it’s an invitation to get to know Him better.
*Name changed for privacy purposes
Let’s talk about this! When have circumstances challenged your view of God? How did you respond? Did your understanding of Him deepen through that event?
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