When Expectations Go Unmet

Writing isn’t something I grew up thinking about. I didn’t hide with a notebook as a little girl sketching ideas for my future books. Nor did I study it in college. Even up until a few years ago, besides the weekly grocery list hanging inside my pantry and the occasional prayer in my journal, it wasn’t something I considered much.

Devotional Scripture: Exodus 5:3 – 23
Key Verse: “For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” Psalm 107:9

So when God made it clear He wanted me to write, starting with a weekly devotional I posted online, I honestly expected it to be easy. After all it was His idea, not mine.

Surely, I wouldn’t have to fight tooth and nail for the time to get it done. Surely, I wouldn’t get discouraged. Surely, the readers would come flocking by the crowd full. I’d be filled to the brim with ideas. Agents and publishers would beat my door down. And Deeper Devos would catapult to the New York Time’s Best Seller list in no time. (Ahem. Please excuse me while I give myself an eyeroll.)

By the way, while we’re on the subject, pretty sure I had the same preconceived notions about motherhood, minus the best seller list. But absolutely lots of praise and appreciation and a few Best Mother Ever trophies to place on my shelf. (Side note: My four-year-old is currently crying over a massive bowl of Lucky Charms, refusing to eat those luscious marshmallows and I have no idea why.)

Unmet expectations. We’re OK with it, probably even anticipate it, when it comes to things like government and health insurance and movies and continental breakfasts. But when it comes to God’s will, and our acceptance of it, we’re completely blindsided when things go wrong and expectations go unmet.

We like to assume, if it’s God’s plan, there will be a wide, beautiful, well carved path, already in place. A scenic one with lovely trees and lovely people and maybe even a bench we can sit and rest at, while everything we need perfectly falls into place.

I think it’s what Moses anticipated too. If he was to bring the people out of Egypt then surely there’d be a nice, wide, lovely, path with a few benches. So when the journey began and their first step to freedom lead them right into a giant pot hole, I think it’s safe to say everyone, even Moses, was taken by surprise.

You see, apparently, when the people heard of God’s impending rescue, they no longer felt the urgency to work. (I can’t say I blame them.) But their idleness angered Pharaoh, who of course blamed Moses and Aaron for the people’s sudden laziness (v. 4). As a result, Pharaoh took away the straw the Israelites needed to make bricks and told them to go and gather it on their own. The catch was, they still had to make the same number of bricks.

Unfair? Yes, extremely unfair. The Hebrew foreman, beaten by their taskmasters when quotas weren’t met, went to Pharaoh in hopes of changing his mind, but Pharaoh refused. “You are idle, you are idle…. Go now and work. No straw will be given you, but you must still deliver the same number of bricks” (v. 17-18).

Unnerved by the new requirements the Israelites let loose on Moses and Aaron, “The LORD look on you and judge, because you have made us stink in the sight of Pharaoh and his servants, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us” (v. 21).

Stunned by the sudden large pot hole they’d sunk into, Moses went to the LORD, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all” (v.22-23).

Unmet expectations? I think so. Not only does Moses blame God for this unforeseen trouble, but also for not delivering the people as He’d promised! But isn’t that just like us! To blame God for not doing things exactly as we thought he should. For not fulfilling his promises in the way we thought best. And frankly, letting us down.

I’ve felt it. The tug of disappointment when life didn’t sail as I thought. Up until 1am trying to finish a devotional I was just sure God had totally abandoned me on. Warn down from an unending virus circulating through our house. Fighting what seems to be an upheaval of demands on me as a mother, wife, committee member, employee, (fill in whatever title you’d like). Wondering if I took a wrong turn or did something wrong.

They (whoever they are) say the first step is always the hardest. But I beg to differ. The hardest steps are the one’s right in the middle. When doubt threatens to take over and fatigue sets in and we’re bombarded by the enemy in subtle, yet significant ways we hadn’t anticipated. Believing then God’s still in it, when our expectations go unmet, that’s the hard part.

Moses, however, did the right thing. He took his concerns to the LORD and then he held on. He stuck with it. He believed the LORD and in turn, saw the miraculous hand of God in ways he never could have fathomed. The plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the manna from Heaven, the giving of the law, the indwelling of the Tabernacle, the passing of God’s glory, the long conversations with Jesus.

All of it, I’m just certain he’d say, was worth the unexpected pot holes.

And as far as unmet expectations, when all was said and done, think Moses still had any? Do you think he got to the end of his life and thought, “You know LORD, you could have done better.” No. Not a chance.

“For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.” Psalm 107:9

In his presence is fullness of joy and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore (Ps. 16:11). Even in the scorched places. The places our hearts are scarred with disappointment and unmet expectations – there is joy and satisfaction in Christ. (Isaiah 58:11)

So don’t give up on Jesus. Instead, draw near. Do what Moses did and ask the hard questions. And then, wait. Because unmet expectations aren’t an indication of God’s absence. But an opportunity for God’s presence. A filling more desirable than anything we could have ever dreamed of.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What unmet expectations have you dealt with? How might those expectations be filled in Christ?
When and where have you seen God do far more abundantly than you ever could have imagined?

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6 thoughts on “When Expectations Go Unmet

  1. Thanks for the devotions Stacey!! Such a joy to listen to you speak at Rothbury Community this past weekend. I’ve been anxious since Sat. To get up early to read your devotion.

    • Thank you Lynn! The ladies of Rothbury Community were wonderful!! Such a blessing to spend the evening with you all. So glad to have you along on this journey with me!

  2. Hi Friend! Just want to tell you that this week’s devotion touches on what I’ve been trying to communicate with Austin. Thank you(and God) so much for giving me more great verses (and your commentary) to expand on the conversations he and I are having! Love you, neighbor!

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