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In our blog series so far, you’ve learned 4 truths to apply faith to fear.
In blog #2, you saw how God loves you dearly so you can entrust yourself and your loved ones into His hands.
In blog #3, you learned that God is bigger than your weaknesses.
In blog #4, you learned that God is good all the time and what His goodness looks like in our lives.
In blog #5, you learned about the two aspects of trusting God as you do your part His way and wait for Him to do the part that only He can do.
In this blog, we’ll continue our look at Truth #4 on our walk from fear to faith: You can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do. This time, we’ll be focusing on accepting whatever God chooses to do.
The headline stated this,“Sinkholes leave Florida neighborhood looking like cratered wasteland.” People of a Central Florida neighborhood are stuck in a nightmare after a dozen sinkholes opened, forcing the evacuation of a bunch of homes. Residents said the holes burst open as water started exploding into what looked like a geyser shooting out of a now-empty pond.
Central Florida is sinkhole alley with porous limestone resembling Swiss cheese close to the surface. The holes in the limestone existed long before the neighborhood was built. Apparently, no one called in geologists to extensively examine the underlying soil and rock before all those houses were constructed. What strikes me is that Florida sinkholes are notorious yet people bought those houses and moved in anyway, probably expecting the solidness of the housing construction to keep them safe. One resident said that he’s hoping the city engineers fix it so he doesn’t have to “worry about those sinkholes happening anymore.” But, the bedrock hasn’t changed. It’s limestone! Limestone dissolves. And, porous limestone dissolves faster. I learned this in geology classes in college. Those expectations of a permanent fix need to be released, or the residents will be continually disappointed.
Expectations can become sinkholes for us.
Those sinkholes remind me of a topic of conversation at a women’s retreat recently. We were talking about the storms of life and how we respond to them. The speaker shared that there are really two types of storms that hit us—those caused by our own disobedience and those that hit through no fault of our own. Hurricane Harvey hit my Christian friends hard on the Gulf Coast. An otherwise healthy and very godly young mom is battling cancer that just won’t go away. A happily married couple, who love Jesus, can’t get pregnant.
When we go through such difficulties of life, we all have what we would consider acceptable outcomes. Expectations. But, those expectations can become sinkholes if we try to hold onto them too tightly.
In our small group discussion at the retreat, one woman brought up the concept of obedience to the Lord and expecting a reward from Him for that obedience. That seems to be biblical. God commands our obedience. He certainly implies that we will be rewarded in some way for our love and obedience. We feel His pleasure and His joy as we follow Him closely.
Then, troubles hit. Two people who kept themselves pure for marriage experience infertility. That doesn’t fit the expected outcome of sexual purity before marriage. A pastor suddenly deserts his wife and three children. She is stunned. Wasn’t she being obedient to the Lord with her life? That desertion doesn’t fit the expected outcome. How hard it is to release those expected outcomes and find joy in the trial.
Joy requires us to release our expectation of acceptable outcomes.
I read an article recently that stunned me with this statement:
“Joy requires us to release our expectation of what is an acceptable outcome.” (Jenny Heckman, Just Between Us, Spring 2018, p. 44)
I think expectations of acceptable outcomes are like sinkholes waiting to happen. When we approach troubles with expectations of what we think are acceptable outcomes and then something else happens, our disappointment and anger can explode like geysers shooting out of a “now-empty pond.” It’s okay to ask for specific answers to prayer. But, we need to hold onto those expected answers with open fingers. We must release them to Jesus, and let Him decide what to do. That’s releasing expectations.
Our Bible Study of Philippians, Knowing Jesus…Knowing Joy, really brings this out. In Philippians 1:12-18, we see a great example of how Paul released his expectations of acceptable outcomes. He was in prison as he wrote that letter. His readers might have thought that Paul’s imprisonment had hampered the building of the church of Jesus Christ. Paul announced that the things that happened to him were actually advancing God’s program. It didn’t depend on Paul. He had released that expectation.
Because of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, many people had heard the gospel who would not otherwise have heard it, including Roman imperial guards. And, other Christians had become more outspoken in sharing the gospel, inspired by Paul’s courage. Some weren’t doing it out of pure motives. But, Paul believed that it was better for people with impure motives to preach Christ than that they not preach Him at all. It’s all good and glorifying to God. Paul released the expectation that he had to be the one leading the charge.
And, we see in the next verses, that Paul released his expectation of only one acceptable outcome. Getting out of prison would be great. But, if God chose to leave him there or to have him executed, Paul considered those as acceptable outcomes as well. And, he rejoiced about it.
[Paul] could maintain a truly joyful attitude, even in unpleasant circumstances, because he derived his joy from seeing God glorified—rather than from seeing himself exalted. (Dr. Tom Constable, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary)
Paul could rejoice at any one of God’s acceptable outcomes. You and I can do that, too.
Rejoice at God’s acceptable outcome.
When you release your expectation of acceptable outcomes, you can rejoice at what God is going to do instead of complaining about what God did not do.
That reminds me of how both Martha and Mary responded to Jesus in John chapter 11. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” That was their only acceptable outcome. But, Jesus had a greater purpose.
What floors me is that John 11 verse 5 says that Jesus loved them. Loved them, and still let them go through that pain. They did nothing wrong. He wept with them. But, He had a greater purpose.
When Martha and Mary saw Him, they had to trust His goodness in whatever He would do for them in their trial. What would be His acceptable outcome? Bringing a four-day dead Lazarus back to life was a far better outcome than the sisters had in mind.
By faith, we can avoid the sinkholes of unreleased expectations. We do that by releasing them. We can know with certainty that God loves us and knows what is going on in our lives. We can have confidence in His power to do something about it. But, the way to release expectations is to trust in His goodness in whatever He chooses to do in that situation.
It’s okay to ask for your heart’s desire. But, leave the decision in His hand. Accept the outcome that He provides. And, let Him fill your heart with joy in whatever He chooses to do.
What trials are you going through right now? What in your mind do you expect to happen as acceptable outcomes? Maybe it’s time to release those expectations and stay on solid ground with these 4 truths:
- #1: God loves you.
- #2: He knows what is going on in your life.
- #3: He can do something about it.
- #4: You can trust His goodness in whatever He chooses to do!
Dear friends, God may not choose to rescue you from everything that is threatening you. But, in any and all situations, you can choose to apply faith to your fear!
The following Bible Studies and podcasts will give you more biblical insight into how to walk from fear to faith in your life.
- Everyday Women, Ever-Faithful God Bible Study (Old Testament women)
- The Walk from Fear to Faith Bible Study (Old Testament women)
- Satisfied Series 1 Podcasts (Old Testament women series)
- Profiles of Perseverance Bible Study (Joseph, David, Elijah, and Nehemiah)
- Satisfied Series 4 Podcasts (Old Testament men series)
Image credit: Myriams-Fotos, sourced at pixabay.com (hand-1599898__340.jpg).