In a recent blog post, I mentioned that there are people who believe God can help them, but probably won’t and likely doesn’t even want to.
I was discussing Francis MacNutt’s book Healing (Ave Maria Press, 1974), and his ideas about the three basic ways people think God acts when they desperately need something—in that case, healing—from him.
MacNutt summed up the philosophy of one group of people as, “Blessed are those who expect nothing, for they shall not be disappointed.” But, as MacNutt pointed out, that is not the right philosophy.
God doesn't mean for us to live disheartened and disillusioned.
Well, that sounds fine. But isn’t saying that just so much religious frosting? At its core, doesn’t that just mean God wants me to pretend like I’m not disappointed—like the way it is is actually okay? Isn’t that just some kind of windtalker code for “expect nothing”?
And, after all, isn’t sucking it up the mature thing to do, when I can’t seem to change things and God apparently isn’t intervening to change them, either?
No. To all of that.
Stay with me. It will be worth it. I promise.
This is Not What I Expected
This talk I heard a couple of years ago got me the first part of the way to a new place with all of this, to a place where disappointment with God and what he is doing (or not doing) in my life is truly not on my radar:
Expectant by Steve Carter
(This talk begins at 40:08 into the free video.)
From this talk, I grasped the foundational concept that God wants my understanding of reality to grow so that I can adjust my expectations to match what he is doing.
I have never forgotten the imagery of John the Baptist sitting in a jail cell, trying to figure out how his situation could possibly be considered a match with what he had thought Jesus was doing.
That image—considering John’s story in that way—was a foundational concept for me.
There were many other excellent points in the talk, as well. In fact, hearing that talk was a watershed event for me, and I hope it can be for you. Listen and soak it in. I listened to it about three times in one weekend the first time I heard it, and I have listened to it several times since.
As important as that message was for me, though, it didn’t take me the whole way I needed to go. Something else later took me the next leg of this journey, and I want to share that with you now.
This is Not What I Thought It Was
Sometimes, you get a glimpse of something eternal. You get some understanding, some deep sense of the real that is outside you—that is outside this world, even. You might be hard-pressed to put it into words, but you know it is totally real.
That’s how it was when, while working on a book project I’m writing, I found a truth in Scripture that rocked my world.
I had always kind of thought that God knew in advance that mankind was going to stumble and fall soon after creation, but that he had somehow decided that we were worth the hassle, and so he created this world anyway.
Imagine my surprise to learn from Scripture that that is not at all how it was.
God didn’t create us even though he knew we were going to need rescued.
The Bible says God created us because we were going to need rescued.
God didn't create us even though he knew we were going to need rescued.
He created us because we were going to need rescued.
Yeah. Get your mind around that.
I’ll be talking about that in one of my upcoming books. But, in the meantime, I was thrilled to recently come across an already-published book that ran with that idea in a very unique way.
Several chapters into The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge—bam—the book took a sharp right turn into exactly this terrain. The trip there began with the common human idea, If God knew all this bad, hard stuff was going to happen to humanity—to me—and that it would cost him so much to rescue even some of us, then why even start the whole ball of creation rolling in the first place? What made God think that was a good idea? How in the world—or even outside the world—is it all even worth it? How are we worth it? What was he thinking?
But then Curtis' and Eldredge’s book burns off a layer of fog to reveal some scenery that was there all the time, but that usually isn’t visible. They talk about what is really going on. The big, big, big picture. And it’s bigger than those questions in the previous paragraph even suggest. It’s plausible, fearful, reassuring, and many other things. It’s truth.
When you run after this and get your heart all the way around the big, big, big picture, then you can then be done with being disappointed with what you think God is—and isn’t—doing in your life.
And no, you didn’t miss it. I haven’t said what the big, big, big picture is. I won’t do you the disservice of trying to cram that into a sentence or two here. But I promise you will find it in their book.
The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge (Thomas Nelson, 1997) – This is the book mentioned above. It has sold over half a million copies in the past 21 years, and I just heard of it. So, there you go. Now you know about it, too, if you didn’t already know about it 20 years ago and read it then, like I didn’t.
Blessed are those “who do not stumble over the mystery of God’s dealings with their lives,” writes F.B. Meyer (Our Daily Walk, 1982), as quoted by Leanne Payne (The Healing Presence, 1989, page 207).
It’s their interpretation of Matthew 11:6, (a Scripture that Carter also talks about in the message I linked to above): “And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me” (NASB).
Payne writes that there is “blessedness of those who, though they do not understand the trial, yet ‘rest in what they know of his heart.’”
And, you know, I think she is right. Even when I don’t understand the trial, I can be blessed if I rest secure in what God’s heart is toward me—but that only works when what I know of God’s heart is large enough and secure enough for me to rest in.
People are disappointed not because we don’t understand our trial. The trial itself is not the source of our main disappointment—whether or not we think we understand it. I think we are primarily disappointed because what we are experiencing doesn’t seem to match what we thought we knew of God’s heart. It only takes getting dropped about once on the trust fall exercise before you aren’t so eager to try it again.
We are primarily disappointed because what we are experiencing doesn’t seem to match what we thought we knew of God’s heart.
Am I speaking your language right now? Did those words just press on that sore spot in your own heart that hasn’t gone away on its own?
Then hear these words: I know you’ve tried to rest in what you know of God’s heart. You have. But the very fact that your heart is even a little sore, even slightly bitter right there, is the very indicator that what you know of God’s heart isn’t yet big enough.
There is good news: His heart is big enough. It’s your understanding of his heart that is still too small. I know, because I have only very recently gained enough space there in which to rest.
You don’t have to stay locked in that condition. Here are some keys to get you free.
See you on the outside.
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AmyLu Riley is the author of
Jesus as Healer: Miracles and Meditations in Luke.
Visit amylu-riley.com/new-book-coming for information about upcoming books.