Calibrating Expectations

Trusting God during distress can be difficult if he previously failed to live up to our expectations during earlier trials. Since God’s ideas and methods are always perfect, faulty expectations are the reason for our dismay.

Walking in harmony with God amid affliction requires us to align our expectations with his intentions.

No Exemptions From Hardship

Nowhere in the Bible does God promise to protect us from all pain and sorrow. He never guarantees our health, wealth, success, safety, and satisfaction.

In fact, Jesus said just the opposite.

He warned that personal tribulation would be a permanent part of our lives in this fallen world.

Blessings Are Unearned

We wish God’s aid were transactional so we could influence its delivery.

In return for believing God exists, doing our best to abide by his principles and precepts, and praying fervently, he would agree to arrange our lives so that we found happiness in all our endeavors and never encountered affliction.

However, God does not award temporal blessings according to the strength of our faith or the steadfastness of our righteousness.

The apostle Paul proves this point.

Paul was a godly man and a successful missionary, but God did not reward his faithfulness by giving him a comfortable life. Instead, he endured hunger, beatings, shipwrecks, prison, and other miseries.

God’s Priorities And Our Preferences

God never promises to answer every prayer as we wish, regardless of our zeal.

Even Jesus submitted a request to God that was not answered according to his preferences.

The night before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” He was asking God to implement an alternate salvation plan that did not require his suffering and death if such an option existed.

As we know, there was no alternative. Jesus suffered immensely over the next several hours and eventually died. But God used his affliction to save the world.

God’s Will Supersedes Ours

The second sentence Jesus prayed that night is the key to surviving distress intact.

He said, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” This statement implicitly acknowledged that God is sovereign. His perfect ways are higher than ours. He is entirely trustworthy.

Knowing this, Jesus could, by faith, subordinate his preference to the will of God. He understood that if allowed to suffer, God would repurpose his pain and agony into a means that produced a great good.

The same is true for us.

God may choose to alleviate our distress according to our preferences. We should pray for this outcome as long as it is possible. However, as with Jesus, he may not answer our prayers as we wish, at least initially.

Nevertheless, God is perfect. His unfailing love motivates him to care for us amid affliction and produce goodness from it. He remains utterly trustworthy, even in tough times.

Therefore, by faith, we can subordinate our preferences to his intentions.

Like Jesus, we can caveat our petition for a positive outcome with the phrase, “Yet not as I will, but as you will,” knowing that if God allows us to suffer, he intends to repurpose our pain and agony into an instrument of goodness, either in our lives, in the lives of those around us, or both.

Read About What We Can Expect From God

God does not always shield us from distress and bless us as we wish, but there are several things that we can rightfully expect from him.