Recently, I arrived at a church to preach at a men’s event when I spotted a familiar face. For a moment, I couldn’t place the guy’s name even though I knew him. He waved to me and walked over to say hello. I guess I didn't do a good enough job hiding my momentary confusion because he kindly re-introduced himself, reminding me that he used to be on staff at another church.
I instantly remembered him and remembered preaching at a youth event at his former church. I knew him, but I was thrown off because I wasn't expecting to see him. In my mind, he was associated with another church several states away. Once I moved beyond my flawed expectations, we had a great conversation.
I believe this same concept is often true in our relationship with God. We look for God in so many different ways. We look for Him to show up in the midst of trials. We seek Him for comfort or reassurance. We bring requests to God and expect Him to meet them according to our expectations, and often, God shows up exactly where we need Him to be. But I am convinced there are many times I look for God and miss Him because I’m looking for Him on my terms or according to my expectations about how He should act.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the story of Naaman. Remember him? It’s OK if you need a little reminder. Naaman was a commander in the Syrian Army. He was well regarded because of his military prowess, but he was afflicted with leprosy. Syria was an enemy of Israel, and on one of his raids, Naaman captured an Israelite girl who was put in service of Naaman’s wife. One day the little girl made an offhand remark: If only Naaman were in Israel, the prophet there (Elisha) would heal him of his leprosy. This was shocking news to Naaman, who immediately got permission to go and see this prophet.
Fast forward a bit. Naaman and his vast entourage show up at Elisha's house, bearing wealth and gifts. But the prophet doesn't act like Naaman expects. Instead of coming out of the house and greeting him, Elisha sends a messenger to tell Naaman to wash in the Jordan seven times, and then he will be healed. It sounds like a good deal, right? Except that Naaman is furious.
“ But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, ‘Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?’ So he turned and went away in a rage.” - 2 Kings 5:11–12
“. . . I thought that surely . . .” Those are the words of expectation speaking. Naaman had a picture in his mind of how God would move. He had expectations. And instead of trusting God’s plan, Naaman got frustrated and stormed off. He (almost) missed out on a chance to see God work. Fortunately, his advisors talked some sense into him, and he eventually went back and followed Elisha’s advice. He experienced God’s healing. But only because he moved beyond his expectations.
I wonder how much of God we miss because we let our preconceived expectations flavor the way we encounter Him.
There is a lesson for us here if we will see it. We must trust that God knows best. We must trust that He is in control of all things. We must trust that He is perfectly good and incapable of wrongdoing. And we must trust that He loves us. If each of these things is true, which they 100% are, we cannot bring a request to God with any expectation other than the expectation that He will act according to His glory and our best interest.
God will act. He always does. But we must surrender the HOW to Him. We cannot allow our expectations to dim our sight, or we may miss God moving right in front of us.