Great Expectations: The other day I saw a book that implied something along the lines of “Expect the best and it will happen.” Nice idea…
A Dose of Reality: But often reality destroys my expectations like a wrecking ball against a flimsy sheet of glass. Does it mean I did something wrong? Is God mad at me?
Harsh realities can hit us from all directions. Perhaps you thought you would have the same best friend forever, but things changed. Maybe you fell in love and expected it to be forever, but it wasn’t. Perhaps you thought your parents could work out their problems, but they divorced. Maybe you had something important planned, but you got sick or failed somehow to follow through.
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When I finished my training as a speech-language pathologist, I had big expectations, worthy expectations. I planned to help children and families improve their lives through speech therapy. And I did. At first.
But everything changed when my second child Rachel was born. She was developmentally delayed, nonverbal, and severely autistic. I had expected to help other families with special needs. Instead, I stood on the other side, unable to help my own child.
My reality was a cold winter storm with no shelter. I couldn’t control what was happening to Rachel. No amount of positive thinking and expectations changed my reality. God had another plan for us. It’s been tough, but there are more blessings on this path than we can count.
Sometimes we think we can control the world around us, but the truth is we can’t.
Sometimes bad things happen, things we cannot control or plan away.
I believe this idea of personal power rises out of our culture. The American way is to work hard, build up expectations, and make a path where there was none. Amazing innovation has come out of people who don’t let roadblocks stop them. But there’s another side to this “can-do attitude.” Perhaps we’ve bought into the idea of karma: if we do good, good will happen to us. If we think positive thoughts, great things will come our way. Add to this the ever-popular, “God helps those who help themselves” (which is not actually in the Bible).
The Bible says we are to expect troubles.
Tom Nelson, pastor of Denton Bible Church, said, “The mark of a New Testament saint is suffering.” I don’t grab pom poms and cheer when I hear that, but it is comforting. Facing trouble is part of life. That should be our expectation. As stated in 1 Peter 5:8: “Be serious! Be alert! Your adversary the Devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.”
Meet A Faithful Disciple . . .
Simon Peter, nicknamed “The Rock” by Jesus, penned the above words after suffering the crushing blow of a reality he did not expect. He and the other disciples had the idea that Jesus would usher in a new earthly kingdom and reign on earth with justice and mercy. They were expecting a military victory over all enemies, but experienced the opposite when Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified for the sins of the world. Peter, the rock-steady follower of Jesus, further crashed into the wall of painful reality when he did something that did not match up with his expectations: he denied Jesus.
When Facing Trouble . . .
Just before his death, Jesus told Peter in Luke 22:31-32 (HCSB), “‘Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Just a few words, but with so much meaning.
First, notice how Jesus uses the name Simon instead of Peter (the Rock). I think this indicates something interesting. Simon Peter had to go through the trial to gain strength, to once again be “The Rock.”
Trials, failed expectations, and harsh realities strengthen us.
Second, Jesus is in control. Satan needed permission to test Simon Peter. There is no authority higher or stronger than God. This truth is comforting, but it can also raise questions. Why would God allow hardship? Because it is in the trials of fire that heroes are forged. Consider athletes. No one can be an Olympic figure skater without devoting a lifetime to fitness and training. It’s tough, grueling work, but it makes the athlete strong, fit, and able to do something beautiful.
Third, I love that Jesus prayed for Peter. It shows that Jesus cares about our trials, and He intercedes on our behalf. It also demonstrates that prayer is important and powerful.
Fourth, Jesus tells Peter to strengthen his brothers. Our trials equip us to minister to others. I can state this from experience. Each time I encourage a family who has a special needs child, I am comforted, too.
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