When Life Doesn't Meet Our Expectations

By Alisha Pish, Women’s Ministry & Adult Communities Coordinator

"But God..."...that has been my anthem in recent years. It has been my lifeline as I walked through some big disappointments in life. Like most people, I had a plan for my life from an early age, full of expectations. My plans after high school included a college degree that would afford me a comfortable lifestyle and fulfilling career, a husband who was a spiritual leader in our home, at least one child by my late 20’s, and a healthy, active life free of serious injury or illness. Not too much to ask, especially for a “good Christian girl”, right? Nowhere in my plan was there a place for extended singleness, infertility, an unfaithful spouse and divorce, single parenting, or cancer. Those things did not fit with my expectations, and surely God would not allow things like that in my life as long as I faithfully followed Him, right? Wrong. In fact, I have walked through each of those painful seasons, and God has used them to teach me more about who He is and who I am in Him than in any of the “easy times” in my life.

Most recently, I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2015, just 3 weeks after marrying the amazing man that God had ushered into me and my girls’ lives in His unfathomable grace and mercy, bringing such beauty from the ashes of our past. I want to share with you a few things from my journal during that time:

“With every piece of new information or scary result, there is the initial wave of emotions - fear, anxiety, dread. And often tears.  Then, amidst the swirling thoughts, something else always takes place...the 'But God'.  It is always my favorite part of every story of victory, both big and small.  That unexpected moment when the Hero steps in and saves the day. That against-all-odds shift in the course of events that is nothing short of supernatural. That "wow" moment when the impossible suddenly is the only option available. That breathtaking realization that God Himself has once again crafted the perfect plan that could only have been conceived of in the heavenly realms.  I love the 'But God' moments of life.

Here's the part that is a little harder to swallow: I have come to realize that just before the 'But God' moment, there must be tension.  There must be some source of turmoil or strife that puts us in a vulnerable position, in need of something or someone outside of ourselves. And we have no control over the extent, severity, or duration of that turmoil. I'm not good at being "needy" or "vulnerable" or...."weak."  I know that is all born out of a place of pride or fear...a place I would like to pretend does not exist.  But, it does exist.  And it is a constant battle within me...to admit that I don't have it all together....to admit that I need help. I am used to being the helper, not the one in need. But God is determined to break me of that....to teach me that His body of believers are to support one another, to come alongside one another, to bear one another's burdens.  It is a beautiful picture...even if I'm the one needing the support.  Especially if I'm the one needing the support.  I know that truth. I believe that truth.  I am blessed to live out that truth.”

As in every difficult season of my life, there were so many "But God" moments during my cancer journey, where His hand was clearly evident in each detail and His ways were so much greater than any of my expectations. I learned to rest in Him and trust Him to handle the “how?” even when I didn’t understand the “why?” I have learned that although life may disappoint us, God NEVER does. And THAT is our source of hope when life falls far short of our expectations and we feel lost in the wilderness.

Romans 5:1-5 says, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Whatever season you find yourself in right now, you can know with confidence that God is at work. He is up to something. And He uses ALL things…the good, the bad, and the ugly…to work together for our ultimate good and His glory. Draw near to Him, talk to Him about your hurts and fears and disappointments. The psalmist assures us in Psalm 66:19 that when we come to God openly and honestly, with a pure heart, He “certainly” hears and “gives heed to the voice of [our] prayers.” He IS listening and He IS working. He is EL ROI…the God who sees me.

When life fails to meet your expectations, and you are drowning in disappointment, take comfort in God’s gentle reminder that, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways…For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Is 55:8-9)

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