When God doesn’t meet our expectations, we wonder three things:
1. Does He care?
2. Is He listening?
3. Is He real?
Our tidy theology, you know, the kind that we were taught in Sunday School as young children, where we sat entertained as we watched felt board or Veggie Tale stories unfold before our very eyes—stories that in real-time, took place over the course of decades or centuries were scripted into 30-minute lesson plans, now, as adults leave us questioning if we’re doing this faith thing right.
Sunday school stories fed our imagination that anything with God was possible. Underdogs turned heroes, unexpected twists brought good from evil, and made the seeming insignificant feel seen, valued, and loved—sought after, even. Hope was the thread woven throughout each and every story.
I loved these stories.
They fueled my belief that I could be good enough, loved enough, courageous enough. I believed that God was my Prince Charming, my Super Hero (minus the red cape), and even my Magic Genie. Writing these words, I realize I pretty much made God into a Marvel character. Maybe we all do that to some degree. Regardless of how we attempt to make sense of Him, we all have expectations of Him.
God is good, so therefore we expect good from Him.
God is love, so therefore we expect love from Him.
God is the Supreme Almighty God, so we expect Him to do great and mighty things.
The problem with this faith formula is that we attempt to draw conclusions—or absolutes—from things unseen, from variables unknown. We attempt to put parameters around the mystery of God, making Him into something we can comprehend–and in doing so, we make Him into our image.
Somehow, we forget that there is no limit to Him—that He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha and the Omega. We forget that He is not only the Supreme God Almighty but also “The Man of Sorrows.”
In our faith formula, we inadvertently choose which version of God we want or need in this specific season of life. Sometimes, we beckon the strong, all-powerful, almighty God who calmed the raging seas with a single word. Sometimes we want the resurrected Jesus complete with nail-scarred hands, our Comforter—the One we feel understands us most.
I wonder if we forget that they are One in the same—Supreme and Humble, Almighty and Scarred, Mighty and Merciful.
I wonder if we forget that when we seek one characteristic of Him, He is not void of the other characteristics—that He brings all of Himself to all of us.
I wonder if we think about how huge it is– how incredibly loving it is– that the Supreme Being made Himself small for us by becoming a servant.
I wonder if we view His scars, not as defeat, but as testimony of His love for us.
I know I don’t; at least not in the face of unmet expectations. Admittedly, in these moments, I’m thinking more about myself and my circumstances than of Him.
And He becomes my scapegoat.
C.H. Spurgeon writes, “The way you view God will eventually show up in the way you live your life.”
When God doesn’t meet our expectations, our faith grows mediocre, stagnant even. We stop expecting anything of Him because it hurts too gosh darn much. We stop looking for Him and reduce Him and His ways down to—at best—a washed-up superhero who was badass in His prime, but now seems to let things slip by, and we give up on Him—or at least our idea of Him.
“Disappointments shut down our ability to hope” and mercilessly rob us of possibility.
Simply said, it is our attitude toward God that reduces our faith.
We don’t have to understand Him and His ways—we won’t. But I do think it’s important to ask ourselves why we so easily accept what we see and don’t contemplate the things unseen or why we can accept one part of Christ (the parts that make us feel good), but not other parts of Him.
Live curious, my friend. Live with your eyes wide open—open to hope and possibility, open to the unexpected and mystery. And as for our scars left in the wake of our disappointments in Christ, let them serve as a reminder that there is more to the story than what is skin deep, that resurrection for us is coming.