There are some things we can always expect from God, but there are some expectations that we place on Him, and that’s where the “danger” lies. When we place our own expectations on God and those expectations aren’t met or they’re met in a way we didn’t imagine, we become upset, frustrated and even angry. At that point, it’s very difficult for us to see how God is blessing and providing for us because all we can see are our unmet expectations.
So, what CAN we expect from God?
We can expect Him to remain true to His character. In other words, we can expect His goodness, faithfulness, justice, etc. (Psalm 18:30, Psalm 89:14, Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8)
We can expect His will to be accomplished. (Psalm 119:89, Psalm 135:6, Ephesians 1:11-12, 2 Peter 3:9)
We can expect His best for us. (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28, Hebrews 10:35-36, James 1:5)
What CAN’T we expect from God?
We can’t expect Him to give us everything we want or even the way we want it. He’s not a magic genie to grant our every wish. Thank goodness! There are definitely some wishes disguised as prayers that I’ve sent up to Him in the past, and looking back, all I can say is, “Thank You, Lord, for NOT giving me what I wanted!”
We can’t expect Him to move on our timeline. He isn’t bound by time like we are. He’s never early and He’s never late. He only seems that way to us when we’ve placed a timeline expectation on Him and we’ve expected Him to keep it, and when He hasn’t, we’ve felt He was late. (Just as Mary and Martha did in John 11.)
We can’t expect Him to give in to us. Sometimes, we think we can manipulate God. We cry, beg, whine, and sometimes, we try bargaining or even demanding that God give us what we want. God cannot be manipulated. If He could be, He wouldn’t be God. (Think about it: Would you really want a god you could control and manipulate?) Yes, prayer is powerful and God does move and respond to our prayers, but He always responds according to His will and timing, and He never responds to manipulation, bargaining or demands.
So placing our own expectations on God can cause major disappointment, discontentment, discouragement and anger for us, and it can also cause us to lose sight of our blessings and how God may be trying to work. I know I’ve definitely done this in the past, and it is not a good place to be.
Several years ago, I had a big, life-altering situation I was facing, and I spent time every day praying over it and asking God to work it out. The problem was I had already created the perfect answer in my own mind without even acknowledging the fact that God already had the answer before I had even prayed the prayer, and I became very upset when He didn’t answer my prayers the way I’d expected. My joy disappeared into thin air, and my gratitude attitude went out the window. All I could see were my unmet expectations and how God had let me down.
It took awhile for me to bring myself back into obedience and allow the Lord to work in my heart again. In the meantime, I wasted precious time wallowing in self-pity and frustration from my unmet expectations instead of allowing God to work in my heart and teach me what He wanted me to learn. I also delayed a blessing He had waiting for me that I could’ve received so much sooner if I had just surrendered my request to Him in the first place instead of holding on to my own expectations of what His answer would be. So I’m speaking from experience when I say: Please don’t allow that to happen to you!
By the way, I want to be clear that I’m not saying we can’t make specific requests in our prayers; we can and should be doing exactly that! However, we must make a request and then leave that request with Him and trust Him to answer it in the way that’s best for us. He is all-knowing, all-wise, and all-loving so He knows what’s best.
Let’s stay focused on Who He is and what He has said, what He’s doing and what He’s promised. Let’s expect His goodness, His faithfulness, His provision, and His perfect timing. Let’s expect Him to work all things together for our good, and then let’s step back and allow Him to do exactly that!