Ever surprised at where you find yourself in life? Ever confused about what God is—or isn’t doing—in your life? Ever just feel lost, like you are trying figure out what path God is trying to lead you on, but you are sure it can’t be this one?
Expectations. When it comes to relating to God and his activity in our life they seem to do little more than get in the way; too often they just distract us. I am continually looking at my own life, my own circumstances and think, “I never expected this—to be here, to do this—like this, right now.
There is a guy named Naaman in the Old Testament who has given me much to consider regarding my own expectations with God.
Now Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram. He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy. Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 2 Kings 5:1-3
So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. Elisha sent a messenger to say to him, “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. 2 Kings 5:9-11
The prophet Naaman goes to see is Elijah. He is seeking healing from god’s prophet. But he goes away angry.
“I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.”
Look at the list of his expectations and how specific they are! “I thought it would be different.” That’s essentially what he is saying here. I expected something else.
I appreciate his honesty. When I am disappointed with God, feel let down or even just surprised, I am rarely this forthright. And besides, who doesn’t want to be healed with the waving of a hand!
Most of the time I’m probably unaware that it has been my emotions that have thrown me off, left me feeling let down. I tend to assume it’s God letting me down; or that I’ve done something wrong. I often fail to even consider if maybe the only thing out of whack is what I expected versus what is happening.
To Naaman’s benefit, he had some good people around him who gave him perspective.
Naaman’s servants went to him and said, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more, then, when he tells you, ‘Wash and be cleansed’!” 2 Kings 5:13
The task he had been given was to go wash in the river. He seemed to see this as beneath him. Isn’t this so like us?! We can sometimes hold on to elements of pride even when asking God to help us. We are willing to be healed by God, or rescued by him, so long as it fits what we deem to be appropriate or workable.
We would never say that, of course. Typically I don’t think we even realize it. But our actions reveal it.
The thing is that God seems to be in the business of tailoring our experience with him to our specific needs. Naaman needed to be humbled, so his connection with God, his healing from God’s prophet involved a menial, not-so-great task.
Naaman was so fortunate to have his officers, otherwise he would have completely missed what God was offering. I think this is what strikes me most about the story. It is so easy—too easy—for us to miss God’s offer to experience him. It makes me think of the words of Jacob in Genesis:
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” Genesis 28:16
This story of Naaman and his pursuit of healing gives us an opportunity to look at our own life through, to look at our own expectations. Let’s not miss what God is doing just because we thought he was doing something else.
Father may we be more open. May we be less filled with expectations and more with a simple sense of expectancy. For we are learning that expectations are little more than lists to be done. Expectancy is an open awareness that you will do something—and we want to be ready, whatever it is.