There is a saying in my family, “Those who are flexible are not easily broken”. Whenever life has dished out circumstances I didn’t anticipate, my natural instinct has been to react negatively; getting upset at the change of plan, or frustrated with the person who didn’t behave in a way I expected them to. So it has been a real challenge for me, to swallow the family motto and be a bit more flexible.
Being flexible certainly has its perks. It enables you to encounter change of plans with grace and can be a real asset when needing to think open-mindedly or creatively about new things. However, our response to life’s curve balls and disappointments go a little deeper than just “being flexible”. It’s also about our expectations; the conscious or unconscious thoughts we’ve believed or held onto. It must be said that unrealistic expectations are a hidden snare on the pathway to contentment. Sometimes our unrealistic expectations are wrapped up in how we view God.
Recently, I was talking with a friend about a very challenging time in her faith, when she faced significant change. She said part of what made her begin to doubt, was her erroneous view of God. She had subconsciously viewed God as transactional (if I live a Godly life, then God will give me a life free from pain). Her awareness of this, enabled her to begin looking at life and God in new and deeper ways.
After speaking with her, I have reflected on my own thinking and the challenges that face me at the moment. I too am guilty of viewing God as transactional. Yes, I truely desire to live a life that is pleasing to God; longing to walk in his ways and in his will. However, when pain is present and life is hard, I begin to doubt…”Did I do something wrong? Is God teaching me a lesson? Why is this happening?” I can know in my head that God disciplines those he loves; but in my disappointment I internally cry, “I thought I was doing what God wanted me to do. I didn’t think the outcome would be this?” My vain hope that pain and disappointment could be avoided was a foolish expectation. My limited and sometimes inflexible view of how I imagine life to play out and how I imagine others to fit in, needs to be tempered by the truth of who God is and how he works.
In all my confusion I come back to a verse that has spoken words of wisdom and comfort to me. Isaiah 55 vs 6 – 9 says, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
It is only when I am reminded of the truth that God is all powerful, all loving and all wise that I begin to turn from my narrow, limited view. My expectations of God, myself and others begin to be reshaped. I surrender my pride, and humbly ask God to change me and my thinking. It’s in this surrender that I am able to adjust and rest content that God is working for my good.