God so often disappoints us. No, let’s not kid ourselves; we place our hopes in God and those hopes are all too often disappointed. The fault, though, is not with God. The fault is with our expectations, and with the God of our imagination (who is somewhat different from the real thing, let’s face it).
Someone recently reminded me of a sermon I gave a long time ago. He didn’t remember it perfectly, but it had made a profound impression on him. He recalled that I had said,
God does not call us to save us, but to spend us. In context, what I had originally said was that God’s objective in calling us is not merely to save our miserable hides, but to spend us in his service. I had said in another place,
God is not in the business of the preservation and perpetuation of human flesh. And I think it is in this error that we are so often disappointed. We think our aches and pains are as important to God as they are to us. They may be, but it will not be for the same reason at all. I want to illustrate this with a letter from the apostle Paul, that he wrote to the Corinthians.
For this thing I sought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest on me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
I must confess I am not there yet. I can’t take pleasure in my infirmities. Sometimes they hurt terribly. But I can understand what Paul means when he says,
when I am weak, then I am strong. Paul knew that he could not do what he did—that he could not know what he knew, go where he had gone, understand what he understood—and be whole in the flesh at the same time.