Far too often I find that I confuse expectation with faith.
What I do believe that I can expect is for God to honor his promises. The quandary becomes exactly what I interpret those to be. What does God actually promise us and how do I integrate that into my faith, my personal grid for how I pray, and for whom and what I pray?
These are bigger questions than I can answer in five hundred words assuming I had the answers at all.
In my own story of adversity and prayers that seem to hover just below the ceiling tiles I’ve begun to ask myself some questions. First of all, is God faithful, trustworthy, and just? Is it an answer to prayer only when things turn out favorably from my perspective as opposed to when they turn out in ways that disappoint and even devastate me? Is God in his sovereignty only going to do what he chooses anyway and my puny prayers are just exercises in futility other than me showing my utter dependence on him?
These are the questions I get pelted with on a very regular basis as I encounter people in the areas of chronic and life threatening illness, tragedy, and the areas of addiction and compulsive behaviors that wreak havoc on the lives of individuals and those around them. Our natural expectation would be for God to heal us, strike us sober, get us well, fix us, and sweep in to smooth out all the fallout.
God doesn’t promise us that any two situations are ever going to turn out exactly alike. I also don’t see that we can take certain promises in scripture that were made to specific individuals, people groups, or cultures (regardless of how comforting and glorious they may sound) and extract them to always fit our personal paradigms. Otherwise, we would just keep the ones we like and throw out the ones where he promises to hand people over to their enemies and even allow terrible things to happen to their women and children.
I see God’s promises to be in the areas of peace, wisdom, courage, and hope. Even as I ask for certain outcomes on behalf of my loved ones and myself what I can expect from him is peace, courage, wisdom and acceptance. These things focus me on the process much more than the outcome, which I believe is really the point in the first place.
Expectation and faith are like Christmas tree lights. Even though I think I have them neatly sorted and wound up when I put them away every year, I manage to open the box to a tangled web of cords when I need to get to them again. I will probably be revisiting this point for the rest of my life. What I am careful to remember these days is that God’s promises seem to be more about carrying me through the process than about guaranteeing my desired result.