I’m chronically disappointed by the hardships of life. Which is a pretty brutal one-two punch. Things already aren’t going well and then I get crushed by my own unfounded disappointment. It just makes the spiral worse. And I fall for it all the time.
A big part of the problem is my expectations. There’s a part of my heart that wants and expects God to make everything in my life easy, comfortable and safe. I want Him to go to work on noisy neighbors, long commutes and insurmountable to-do lists. I want Him to make it all better. I want Him to do it my way and on my time table. And I get so bothered when He doesn’t.
To make it worse, I hold onto those expectations even when the Bible is clearly trying to adjust them. Consider just one example, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12) In some ways, it’s comforting to know the early church had the same misaligned expectations I do. On the other hand, I realize I would be better served by internalizing these words rather than feeling vindicated that others need them as much as I do.
The problem with my misaligned expectations is that when something goes wrong, I feel like God is letting me down. When that happens, all hope of me responding in a Christ-like manner is out the window. To be honest, it’s usually a struggle to respond to people in a Christlike manner even when everything is going really well. When things are hard, forget about it.
Yet, we’re never more like Jesus than when we’re loving well even though everything is going wrong. Again, 1 Peter helps us with this, “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” (1 Peter 2:19-20) The gospel lays out the pattern for suffering service. Life is conspiring against me but I’m working for your good. Things aren’t going my way but I want to bless you in the mess. I’m under fire but you’re going to get grace from me. If we actually lived this way, the world would see how beautifully jarring grace really is.
So, I don’t love the difficulties of life and I doubt I ever will. But I’m trying to do a better job of expecting them. And I’m praying for the grace to see them as opportunities. It’s in those moments that I’m most able to display the character and love of Jesus. It’s in those moments where my life has the greatest redemptive potential in the hands of God.