They get us in trouble, don’t they?
I expect to be treated a certain way by my loved ones. But then they do that thing or say those words that hurt me and I am devastated.
I expect my vacation to go a certain way. But then the traffic was snarled on the way there, the hotel wasn’t as nice as the pictures and the beach was too crowded.
I expect my day to go the way I planned. But then the to-do list gets blown to smithereens by constant interruptions, my coworkers drop the ball, or I discover that I have dropped multiple balls.
I expect God to act a certain way. But then the bottom drops out of my world; the answer to my prayer is “no”; the unthinkable happens and there is pain.
When people don’t act the way I think they should.
When circumstances don’t line up the way I want them to.
When God seems to have failed – or at least to have turned His back.
John the Baptist had expectations – with good reason!
He knew the circumstances of his miraculous birth to aging parents who had given up hope.
He knew the calling of God on his life to prepare the way for his cousin, the Messiah.
He knew what he had seen, what he had experienced with Jesus – the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus while the Father declared His pleasure.
And he even was wise enough to get out of God’s way. He said about Jesus, “He must increase while I must decrease.” (John 3)
But then the unthinkable happened.
He was jailed for doing the right thing.
He called sin, sin.
He did that all the time.
But when he did it to King Herod – called him out on his sin of killing his brother so he could have his wife – he got thrown in prison.
Smashed to smithereens.
And he was honest with Jesus in the midst of his disappointment.
He sent a message. From his jail cell.
“Um, Jesus? Did we get this right? Did I understand correctly? You are the Messiah, right? Or should we look for someone else?”
In other words, “Jesus, you are not meeting my expectations! I don’t deserve this. This isn’t fair. Are you sure you are God? Because God wouldn’t act this way!”
And I love what Jesus did NOT do.
He did not rebuke him.
“Oh, suck it up, buttercup! After all, one of us is going to bear the sin of the whole world. And guess what – that is not you!”
He didn’t shake his head and chastise him.
“Oh, John, John, John. What am I going to do with you? You need to manage those expectations better, my friend.”
He didn’t get angry.
“Hey, Bucko! I am God and you are not. Get over it!”
Instead, he sent back a message to John that said, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’” (Matthew 11, NLT)
In other words, Jesus said, “Look at the BIG picture, John. I am the one who was prophesied about. Just like it says in Isaiah 61, the blind are seeing, the lame are walking, the sick are being healed, the dead are being raised. I am at work because I am The I AM. And I know that you don’t understand what is happening in your life – but you will be blessed if you hang in there with me. Take a step back, take it all in, and choose to believe the best about Me. It will all be worth it in the end.”
Verse 6 in other translations:
“And blessed[joyful, favored by God] is he who does not take offense at Me [accepting Me as the Messiah and trusting confidently in My message of salvation].” (Amplified Version)
“Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” (NIV)
“And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.” (KJV)
When people do not meet my expectations, I have choices. I can be offended and then choose to forgive. Or I can be offended and then choose not to forgive (which, of course, would be sin). Or, I can choose to not be offended at all, remembering that we are all flawed sinners and choosing to believe the best about that person. (And yes, sometimes I have to call the other person on their behavior – but most of the time the offense committed falls under, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” But that is a topic for another day.)
But when GOD does not meet my expectations, I have only one correct choice.
And that is to trust Him.
To believe that He has the big picture in mind.
To remember that this world is incredibly temporary.
To “set my mind on things above” (Colossians 3), remembering that in the not too distant future, I will be at Home with him and all of these troubles will be what Paul calls them – “light and momentary” (2 Corinthians 4).
To believe He is for me and not against me. (Romans 8)
To remember that He is Sovereign over all things. (Colossians 1)
And to choose to recall that this life is about Him, not me.
Because, as CS Lewis wrote about God when he wrote about Aslan, the picture of Christ in the Chronicles of Narnia, “He is not a tame lion – but He is good.”