If you know me at all, you probably know that I’m a nerd for John Mayer. I can sing along with every song, play his most popular guitar licks, and I even collect his vinyls and concert posters to one day show off to my kids… I have to prove that I was cool at one point in my life, right?… Anyways, I’m a huge fan of John Mayer and in 2017 I had the chance to go back stage at one of his concerts. Let me tell you, I was ecstatic! I couldn’t contain my excitement to go back stage, see the band, and watch them set-up and tear down. It cost me a pretty penny, but I knew it was going to be worth it. The day finally arrived and we showed up at the stadium to get our tour. As we began our backstage adventure, we were told that there would be no photography, no videos, and that we had to make it quick. As we hurried through the tour, I began to realize that there was no one else back there.. there was no band, no crew, and no John Mayer! I can’t even begin to describe my disappointment. The expectations I had in my mind of this night were crushed, and there was no making it better.
I know I’m not the only one to experience something like this. Sure, maybe the expectations not met in your life were not as silly as mine at a concert. But we’ve all had a time in our life where we had a certain expectation only to be disappointed in the end when it was not met. Maybe it was a spouse or family member, a boss, or even yourself who let you down and did not meet your expectations. Let down happens and we get over it… maybe… But what if it is God whom you feel let you down? What if God failed to meet your expectations?
Let’s face it, we’ve all probably been there. You have a situation in your life that you need God to help with. Maybe it is in your marriage, your job, your personal life, or even your faith journey. No matter what it is, you set this expectation in your mind of how it will look like while He is dealing with it, and what it will look like after He handles it. You’ve prayed about it, you’ve fasted over it, but then the results come and you feel as if God didn’t answer your prayer in the way you wanted. Maybe you feel that He didn’t answer it at all.
Unmet expectations can stunt us, or strengthen us. We can choose to be bitter or choose to better our understanding of how God is working in our lives. But this can be incredibly difficult to do, especially when we hold our expectations in such high regard!
In John 11 we can read about the story of a man who was sick and whose family wanted Jesus to heal him. They expected Jesus to heal him, even. Little did they know that Jesus wasn’t going to meet their expectations. If you aren’t familiar with the story, you can check it out here… If you are familiar with it, I think that the story of Lazarus gives us four practical things to do to help us when we feel as if God didn’t meet our expectations. Check it out.
4 Things To Do
1. Be Transparent With God
“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” John 11:32-36
I’m not quite sure where the idea came from that we need to conceal our disappointment, our frustration, or even our anger from God. Maybe this idea was shaped by culture, or maybe it was religion that told us this. Regardless, the fact is that many of us have felt for too long that we need to approach God with a “mask” on to hide our real emotions. When we go to Him in prayer we hide what we’re disappointed with. We hide the real us. We aren’t transparent with God. But look at what Mary did here. She humbled herself and voiced her frustrations at the feet of Jesus! “If you had been there…” She had just lost her brother and she knew that while Lazarus was still alive Jesus had the power to heal him. In fact, she thought Jesus would come and heal him! Talk about her expectations not being met…Instead of hiding this disappointment; she brought this real and raw emotion right to the feet of the King!
I hope you know that God isn’t deterred by your negative emotions. He isn’t going to love you any less, or ignore you if you are open with him. He isn’t going to turn away from you if you tell him that you thought He would, in Mary’s words, “be there.” The truth is, God is moved by your plight and your sorrow! We see this later on where it says that Jesus was deeply moved by those weeping and that he even wept himself. Practice transparency and see how it heals you and deepens your relationship with Jesus. Humbly bring your disappointment to His feet, don’t hide it.
2. Keep Believing
20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” John 11:20-23
How easy would it have been for Martha to give up faith once her brother died? To know that the God who could save her brother didn’t and let him die instead? You and I have the benefit of seeing how this story ends. We know that Lazarus was raised to life. Martha was living in the middle of this story and had no clue how this would end, but she still believed!
I love what it says in Psalm 9:10. “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.” We need to keep this same faith in the omnipotence of God even when what we expected to happen doesn’t. He will never forsake you and He keeps all of His promises.
3. Shift Your Perspective
11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” John 11:38-40
Shifting our perspective is often the hardest thing we can do. We often view our perspective as the “right” point of view, and it can take a lifetime to begin to see things from a different perspective. We as Christians have been called to see things differently though. Here we see Jesus telling us that He did not go so that they (the disciples and others) may believe. That is a very different viewpoint than you or I would have! Check out this verse.
“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV
Are we looking at what is unseen? Are we looking at the events in our lives from a Heavenly perspective? Or are we looking at what is going on around us from an earthly one? Maybe you are like me and struggle with this. Ask the Holy Spirit to help open your eyes to see. When we start to view the world as God intends for us to see it, we then begin to align our selves with the will of God. It is in this place that we can begin to also align our expectations with Heavenly outcomes.
4. Take Off Your Grave Clothes
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” John 11:41-44
Can you imagine the power of this scene? As friends are family are standing there weeping, Jesus has the stone rolled away and calls out to this guy who has been in the tomb for four days. People look at him like he’s crazy and rush to cover their face to block the smell of death and decay from entering their nostrils. As Jesus calls out, they hear movement inside. A few moments later, Lazarus, covered in the cloth he was buried in, stumbles out as if he were only sleeping.
People for miles heard what Jesus did here. They heard that he brought this man back to life, and they believed in Him because of this! Let me ask you this. What if Jesus had simply healed Lazarus before he died? What if he prevented Lazarus from dying? Would the impact have been the same? That’s what Mary, Martha, and I’m sure even Lazarus expected him to do. If Jesus had met their expectations then there would have been no resurrection, and there would not have been the eternal impact on all those who witnessed it. There would have been no need for Jesus to tell Lazarus to remove the grave clothes in front of the crowd that had gather there.
You see, the grave clothes that Lazarus wore represent the unmet expectations Mary and Martha had. What they expected to be healed was allowed to die. But, the grave clothes represent something even greater than this. The grave clothes are the proof of the power of Christ in their life. They show that what was once dead can be brought back to life for His glory. What has God allowed to die in your life so that He could display His glory through it? Maybe your expectations haven’t been met, but rest in the fact that God is going to accomplish something even greater than your wildest expectations.
The outcome that you have been expecting may not have happened, but that doesn’t mean that God is still not accomplishing something in and through your life. No matter what, we each have a choice. We can stay wrapped up in our own expectations, or we can remove them and walk into the plan that Jesus has called us to. For all things are working together for your good and for His glory. Don’t get caught up in your own expectations. God is working to accomplish something greater than you can ever imagine.