He doesn’t live up to our expectations. God doesn’t act the way we think he should. He doesn’t love like we imagine. He doesn’t redeem, forgive, or set free like we had hoped. And this is a good thing. So what does the Bible say about expectations of God?
God Exceeds Our Expectations Because We Often Humanize Him
So many times we try to lock ourselves into a humanized version of God, but God, out of his love for us, seeks to always crush these little thoughts of ours. He doesn’t act the way we think he should because he is far greater than our minds could ever understand.
He forgives when he shouldn’t, he love’s when it seems impossible, he remains when he has every right to abandon. God is not like what we imagine.
We often distrust God’s lavish grace because we humanize him and imagine him to be like us, and we are all painfully aware of our own graceless towards others and even towards ourselves. When we begin to question God’s faithfulness after we run, his desire to forgive when we fall again and again, and when we doubt his love through the spiritual droughts our hearts endure on this long journey with all its highs and lows, we must not question our God but rather our beliefs about our God.
God Can’t Live Up to Our Expectations Or Else He Would Not Be God
One of the prerequisites for being God is that you are greater than your creations. If man could fully comprehend God in every way, this would prove that God was not actually the sovereign Lord who created everyone and everything.
The Bible says that our expectations of God are always too small because they must be, or God is not God. No matter what you think you know about God, when God fully reveals himself it will certainly be greater than anything our human minds can comprehend at this point in the larger story or redemptive history.
Seek the LORD while he may be found;
call upon him while he is near;
7 let the wicked forsake his way,
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him,
and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:6-9)
What’s often overlooked in this passage is that God’s thoughts and ways are higher than our thoughts in ways specifically in his desire and ability to “have compassion” and “abundantly pardon” the wicked person who returns to the God (Isaiah 55:7).
What we expect about God’s love is never as great as God’s real love freely given to those who seek it.
The Bible Says God Won’t Live Up to Our Expectations Because His Love Surpasses Human Knowledge
So what do you do when your view of God is too small? You do what Paul did – pray for heart knowledge:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:16-21)
At first glance, it’s a curious thing for Paul to pray that we would “know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19). How can we “know” something if it “surpasses knowledge”? Apparently there is a different type of knowing that humans cannot experience without the power of God. Paul prays that we would have the Holy Spirit’s power because we cannot know the love of God through our human intellectual powers. Unless God gives us supernatural heart knowledge through his Spirit in our inner being (Ephesians 3:16), the Bible says our expectations of God will always be too low.
The problem many of us have is that we are looking for a love that doesn’t require the power of God to comprehend it, a love that doesn’t surpass understanding. We are seeking those things which in our human strength we can say, “I get it!” And so we are left with a view of God that is reflective of the sinful people who impact our lives rather than reflective of the one and only perfect God.
Only when we can say of God’s love, “It’s so lavish! I don’t get it!” are we finally starting to really “get it.” If all we are trying to do is wrap our minds around God’s love in our human capacity, the Bible says our expectations of God are not as “wide and long and high and deep” as the love of Christ truly is (Ephesians 3:18).
We need something more than what we can “get.” We need the love of God that crushes our expectations, the love of God that rises above anything we could dream up ourselves, the love of God that remains with us even when we think it shouldn’t.
God seeks to reveal his greatness to us in a way that is immeasurably more than all we asked for or imagined (Ephesians 3:20). But to have this we must throw ourselves upon him in prayer, asking for his power to know his love that rises above knowledge of the mind and goes deep into the heart (Ephesians 3:19).
One of the great, surprising joys of the Christian journey is when you realize God does not treat us as we would expect. The Bible says God won’t ever live up to our human expectations . . . because he always surpasses them.