of Disappointed Expectations
There are not a few typical
instances of such in the Word of God. Some of these are discerned
in ejaculatory and fragmentary expressions, such as that of Job,
"My purposes are broken off"; or of the two on the
Emmaus Road - "But we trusted..." or, again, of John
the Baptist - "Art thou he that cometh, or look we for
And then as to the man who has
come to be known as "The Rich Fool," there are two
fragments in the narrative - "He said... but God said."
In each case there was an
arriving at an end, a deadlock, a paralysis, and each represented
a false expectation.
Two of these at least (i.e.
John the Baptist and the Emmaus Road) were to be accounted for by
a mistaken conception. This conception is very far reaching today
and has become responsible for much deception; a deception which
works in two ways. On the one hand many give up in despair - like
John the Baptist - because the issues which they had come to
believe were immediately inseparable from a certain acceptance
and line of action have not developed; the results have not
followed, the success has not materialised. On the other hand
many have been ensnared by this false conception into thinking
that a certain kind of success, increase, popularity,
achievement, is THE thing, while - as a matter of fact - the
ultimate spiritual value is almost if not entirely lacking.
In these two cases there were
at least two further fundamental misconceptions which issued in
paralysis. One was the failure to recognise the initial, primary,
and essentially spiritual nature of Christ's mission and work. In
their minds the temporal and earthly bulked upon the horizon to
the exclusion of the spiritual and heavenly. We think it
unnecessary for us to show how much this was so. It is one of the
most obvious things in the Gospels, and was one of the Master's
greatest problems with His disciples. Again and again, He tried
to let in light to correct this misconception, and knew that it
would be the ground upon which at last they would all be
offended, the difficulty over which they would all stumble, when
they saw Him an apparently helpless victim on the Cross.
There was also a total
misconception of the order of events, as Acts 15:14-16 (R.V.)
clearly shows. There was a complete incapacity to recognise the
Divine purpose, method, means, time, instrument, basis, and
passion. This let in personal interests, concerns, ambitions, and
false anxieties. The thwarting of these, and the disillusionment
of the Cross smashed them and their whole scheme of things.
"But we trusted,"
said they; but their thought was earthbound. Something of
"the heavenly vision" is essential to life and
assurance and hope and ascendancy. We shall find increasingly
that before there can be an earth-and-world-manifestation of the
sovereignty of Christ in anything like a commensurate sense,
there will be an intense heavenliness and spirituality of life
and work on the part of those who are called to share the Throne.
Whatever else may have been in
John's mind leading to his pathetic and despairing message, it is
almost certain that his own condition presented a problem
occasioned by a mistaken idea. It would be something like this:
'If He really is the Christ, and all that has been prophesied of
Him is true - all those things about opening the prisons to the
prisoners, and letting the oppressed go free, etc. - why is it
that I, having served Him as I have and standing in such a
relationship to Him as I do, should be left in this dungeon?
There are reports of miracles and mighty works. Why am I left to
suffer thus?' This problem comes near to the heart of many of the
Lord's people. We know from the Master Himself that He was far
from ignoring or forgetting John. In John's case it is certain
that not for sin or in Divine forgetfulness was he left in his
trial undelivered. The reason was to be found elsewhere.
It might be as well to listen
to another who has a different expectation without despair:
"The Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds
and afflictions abide me." This one had much to say about
the spiritual fruitfulness of his bonds.
"I am an ambassador in
bonds for the mystery of the Gospel."
"My bonds in Christ are
manifest in all the palace and in all other places."
"Many of the brethren,
waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the
"Whom I have begotten in
It may hardly seem fair to make
this comparison between the two men, but one does it only because
one finds so many where John was; and who is to know but that
Paul sometimes was tempted to feel that way? The facts are that
there is often a larger service through a certain curtailment, a
fuller life through a deeper death, a richer gain by a keener
loss; and we have to look for the impact of the operation of God
in us in a realm where the eye of man cannot trace. The Master
said of John that he was the greatest of the prophets; and he, no
less than they, was to lay down his life and suffer unto death
for his testimony. There is evidently in the eyes of God a virtue
in certain sufferings of His servants which is of greater
importance to Him than the fleeting glory which might accrue to
Him by His deliverance of them. There is that peculiar
blessedness, to which the Lord referred in His reply to John,
which belongs to them who under severe trial are
"not offended in Him." In some strange way John was
related to the Cross and to "the Lamb of God," and
thus he was brought within the realm of "the offence of the
What do we expect in our
relationship to "the testimony of Jesus"? Supposing the
deepest purposes of God can only be realised by His hiding from
our flesh all that that flesh craves for its life, and - more -
supposing His work in us, whereby triumphant faith and obedience
reach their highest form, necessitates His concealing Himself and
accepting the risk of being considered to have been unfaithful?
There is no doubt that most of those who have been called into
some of the most vital expressions of "the eternal
purpose" have been trained in the school of apparent Divine
contradiction, delay, withdrawal, and darkness. Paul wrote to the
Thessalonian saints that "no man should be moved by these
afflictions for... we are appointed thereunto."
Job, who cried "My
purposes are broken off," learned that that did not matter
very much seeing that God's greater purposes stood fast. It all
depends upon whether we know that we are in "His
purpose" and in His way of fulfilment, whether in the day of
the ordeal we shall triumph or be paralysed.
Job found strength in
recognising that "He performeth the thing that is appointed
for me, and many such things are with him," in spite of those
things being quite foreign to his own expectation.
A right and true relationship
to the Lord is a basis upon which there is absolute confidence,
assurance, and hope when our purposes or expectations
are shattered. It was not so in the case of the "rich
fool." "He said..." He had purposes of his own
unrelated to God. "But God said..." and that was the
end of all purpose.
If we have God's life in us we
can survive anything. The Lord is not out to peevishly frustrate
our hopes or disappoint our expectations, but to either change
them for His own or fulfil them in a higher and larger realm.
May we just add a word in this
general connection? Many unexpected things, and things quite
contrary to expectation, will come to us in the realms of both
spiritual experience and Christian service, but one of the
bitterest and often most fatal forms of this paralysis comes
through disappointed expectations with regard to people. David
said in his haste "all men are a lie";
and many others have come perilously near to feeling that they
dare not put any confidence in anyone. David's experience of the
breakdown and worse of the familiar friend who went to the house
of God with him has been that of many others. Trusted and highly
esteemed leaders, conspicuous and greatly used men of God, such
as we had come to trust and look up to and count upon and regard
as authorities or counsellors, saints and deeply taught: these
all in one or more of many ways may cause us to reel under the
shock of a disillusionment - a manifestation of ill-temper,
irritability, jealousy, personal interest, pride, respect of
persons, suspicion; concern for place, prestige, approval; being
influenced by hearsay, report, criticism; prejudice, partiality,
compromise: all these or others, and some very much worse. Anyone
who reads this will understand what is meant and will be well
able to appreciate the acute suffering and resultant numbness and
paralysis of such an experience as it strikes at the vitals of
faith, fellowship and trust. There are so many embittered and
sceptical, soured and suspicious, because of such disappointed
expectations, and too often they allow it to strike at their
faith in God.
Now the first thing to say is
that the Lord has prescribed very carefully for this form of
paralysis, both for prevention and cure. He has pointed out the
antidote both in word and deed. As to the word, at how much pains
has God been to warn against "putting trust in man."
Again and again the danger and folly of making man a prop and a
basis of confidence has been emphasised. As to the practical
side, why - if not for this very purpose - has not the Lord
prevented the disappointing and, sometimes, shameful breakdown of
His best servants from being placed on record? If the Bible is
inspired of God, then we have to place the record to the
intention of God. It is strange that we so often extract the
comfort for ourselves from this fact, but are shocked when we
discover the "like passions" in certain others.
We had better settle it once
and for all that, be grateful as we should and must for all the
grace of God in His children, value all the help through them,
and esteem them very highly for their work's sake, the Lord will
never allow us to go for long on human props or crutches, but
will free us to see that He alone is our Rock, that our spiritual
education and growth must ever and only rest upon personal and
direct knowledge of Himself. The greater the usefulness to
God of any life, the deeper the loneliness in experience. He takes
us often where no others can enter, interpret, understand, help.
Rather, by their mental play upon our strange experience, and
their interpretations given to it, they create even greater
painfulness and distress for us. Sooner or later we are bound to
be disappointed in man but this may lead to a rich and deep
knowledge of God if we are not soured and paralysed by it.
It will also be the occasion of
a great and healthy self-distrust on the one hand, and a deep
sympathy and solicitude for the suffering on the other hand. The
Master in the hour of anguish "looked for some to take pity,
but there was none." We may be allowed just to sip the cup
in order to know something of the help of God which no other can