Calibrating Expectations

Trusting God during distress can be difficult, if he failed to live up to our previous 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 correctly 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 Not Earned

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

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

However, God does not award temporal blessings pursuant to the strength of our faith or to 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 an easy life. 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 fervency.

Even Jesus submitted a request to God that was not answered in accordance with 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 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 completely trustworthy.

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

The same is true for us.

God may choose to alleviate our distress in accordance with our preferences. We should pray for this outcome as long as the possibility exists. 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 to produce goodness from it. He remains utterly trustworthy, even in tough times.

We can, therefore, by faith, 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 suffering into the means to achieve something good in our lives and in the lives of those around us.