Posted by: karanoel | January 29, 2019

Failed expectations

While reading through Acts, I came across this story from chapter 3:

lame manOne day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.

I’ve read this story many times and even still sing a catchy song about it that I learned as a kid at Bible camp, but I’ve never before paused in the middle of it… breathed a moment of the thick air of failed expectation, when Peter had demanded the lame man’s attention, stoking his hopes for money before declaring that he had no money to give.

In another story, Lazarus was sick so his sisters sent for Jesus. They knew of His love and His power. If He could get there to pray for their brother, all would be well. But Jesus delayed and Lazarus died. Their expectations were crushed. “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Of course there is the story of Jesus’ own ministry that looked nothing like what God’s people were expecting from the Messiah. They were anticipating the restoration of their temporal kingdom, which He utterly failed to accomplish. And then there were His disciples whose expectations were based on Him living – not dying – to fulfill the purposes He came for.

These unfinished parts of stories look like failed expectations. Prayers gone sideways. Things that didn’t happen like they should. But each failed expectation was necessary. If it had been fulfilled (according to the limited understanding of men), the greater and far more lasting thing God wanted to do (according to His infinite wisdom) would have been left undone. The lame man would have received a few coins for a perishable meal in a broken body instead of a feast of healing and freedom. Mary and Martha would have seen Jesus’ power over sickness, when there was still hope to be had, but would have missed seeing His power over death, when all hope had been lost. God’s people would have rested in a restored earthly government instead of the revealing of a heavenly Kingdom for all people and all times. The disciples would have witnessed more of Jesus’ ministry instead of being empowered by the Holy Spirit to become His ministry and change the course of history… not to mention the minor detail of the forgiveness of sins for all who believe, which could only come by a perfect sacrifice: Jesus.

I’m guessing most of us are walking out some kind of failed expectation. An unanswered prayer. A deep disappointment. I knew Cole was struggling, but I fully expected that God was going to restore his hope and life. Here. While he was still on this earth. It didn’t happen that way.

But what if our stories are not yet finished? What if we are breathing in the thick air of the lame man when his request for money was denied before he was given healing… Outside the tomb of Lazarus for four hopeless days before he was raised from the dead… Watching Jesus die on the cross, along with all of our hopes, before His resurrection fulfilled every hope?

I’m still in that pause, holding in my hands this failed expectation; this loss of a son. I can’t see the rest of my story yet. But I am increasingly convinced that I have been given something greater and more lasting than what I prayed for; so much more significant than my imagination could have conceived to ask. Because that’s the way God works.

So my prayer is that we could set aside the pain and disappointments of our unfinished stories and “look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Heb 12:2). Instead of self-pitying “Why’s?”, maybe we can ask what it is He wants to accomplish from this place.. what He wants to impart that is greater than what we were asking… how we can partner with Him in it. Because, in the hands of this redemptive Author, our stories of brokenness and sorrow can’t help but be transformed. I’m pretty sure they will all end with: “They went into the temple courts, walking and leaping and praising God.”


Responses

  1. Hi. I’ve been following your blog. A good friend of mine shared it with me last year. My very dear cousin and her husband ended their lives 3 1/2 years ago. She was more than a cousin. We grew up close. Though she moved away and we lost touch for some years we regained our friendship several years back. She was a believer, loved Jesus, served in the church, etc.
    so I’m still hurting and i wonder if things will ever be better. This event was a critical event in my life and it has deeply damaged me. I can’t worship like I used to. Something is gone. I write these things as perhaps you too have felt them.

    • Hi Deborah. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. It is no small thing the way our worlds are rocked by these losses. I have bumped up against that sense of damage and brokenness that seems beyond repair. What has been a game changer for me is praising anyway – by an act of my will, not my emotions. I will find a song that speaks truth to my pain and saturate myself in it and sing it out when I can. Sometimes I speak out what is true so my ears can hear it above what the enemy is saying to me. There have been times the oppression is so strong, I have to shout the truth and wrestle down what doesn’t line up with what the Lord says. But when I persist, the heaviness breaks – every time – and I am able to praise freely again. I pray that the Lord breathes new life into your heart, envelopes you with His love and gives you a new song to sing of His goodness.

  2. All I can say is WOW and AMEN!!!! Ok, who am I kidding. I can say more. I LOVE that you can read a verse 100 times and then on the 101st time you see something in it you have never seen before; or better yet, God reveals to you it’s meaning. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE, that you are ever so obedient in your walk with Him and that he is ever so faithful to return such goodness! The Glorious Unfolding! AMAZING!

  3. Another really strong one, Kara. You know how to pick great themes, often ignored. Way to go!!

    • Thank you for your encouragement Paul! It was so wonderful to meet you and your lovely wife and daughter!


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