Words seem cheap. When we experience a “No” from God, we grasp for the platitudes and pillow stitched verses. People in their kindness attempt to provide hope. The simple clichés never speak to the angst and the amount of effort we have asked God to intervene. You and I petition God for the healing, removal of the pain and struggle, and He answers us with a “No.”

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If each of us had the opportunity to share of unmet expectations in prayer, we would recall the painful situations. Some of us would reflect on the beauty from the ashes. Others of us would still interrogate God on the question of “Why?” The pain of a broken world does not exempt us from unmet expectations, especially in our prayers.

Isolation becomes the lie we believe in these circumstances. God says “Yes” to everyone else. People reticently amplify the good news of answered prayers. Perhaps, we have lost the ability to weep with those who weep. In the all good news, does anyone want to tell the truth of the bad news? Disappointment happens to all of us.

I wonder if we need to hear more stories. Not for advice, but to experience the “me too” of life. Debunking the lie of isolation falls flat when we encounter someone in a similar situation.

Seth Haines in Coming Clean courageously and eloquently shares about his journey. The book outlines the ninety days of recovery from alcohol while his young child Titus fights for his life in a hospital with a rare disease.

In one of the most remarkable sections, Haines speaks of unmet expectations. He reminds us that David received a “No” in losing a son in 2 Samuel 12 and so did Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked not to suffer. If you and I receive a “No”, we’re in good company. I would encourage you to read the whole book, but Haines sums up this section by saying this about prayer and unmet expectations:

The invitation to make our will known to God, to beg for his intervention, is an invitation to act like the blood-sweating Jesus in the garden. Bending the will, though, requires the Christlike willingness to endure the cup of unmet expectation. Bending the will requires Christlike faith, a faith that says, “Father knows best.” Bending requires Christlike knowledge that even in the shadow of every valley, God works all things together for good (Romans 8:28) pg. 158

A perspective like this does not negate the agony of unmet expectations. Rather, we need the reminders of faith. Many of walked through these dark valleys and that includes Jesus. It moves us from faith in circumstances to one directed towards God.

I look back at my prayers that resulted in unmet expectations. In the bending of my will, I learned to know Him in a different way. His promises met me in surprising ways. In my disappointments after the weeping, I began to realize that Jesus walked into the same dark places. Our Savior hears our prayers as someone who sympathizes and emphasizes.

Today, you might be in the midst of hearing a “No” from God. My prayer for you today is that you sense Christ in the dark places and that you could find the hope of joy in the morning. May you feel the prayers of the saints and may their presence encourage you to sense God’s presence.

Photo credit by Elliott Engelman.