When God Doesn’t Live Up to Your Expectations

By Mark D. Roberts

January 4, 2017

Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Mark 11:9-10


A child sitting alone in disappointment.Has God ever failed to live up to your expectations? If you’ve been a Christian for a while, I expect your answer is “Yes.” Now, to be sure, sometimes we are reticent to admit it. And some of our Christian communities do not give us the freedom to be honest about our relationship with God. If we have to put on a good show of faith, we won’t admit our true feelings about God. But, in fact, the people of God have often and throughout history experienced God as falling short of what they had expected.

Consider the case of the Jewish people in Mark 11. As Jesus rode into Jerusalem, they greeted him with a royal welcome, spreading their cloaks on the ground and waving palm branches. They cried out “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” (11:9-10). Notice what they were expecting: Jesus to be the one who comes in the name of the Lord to bring the “kingdom of our father David.” Specifically, they were expecting Jesus to be a powerful military leader and king who would expel the Romans from Judea and establish a dominant and lasting political kingdom.

We know that Jesus didn’t do this. He failed to live up to the expectations of the people. And not just Jesus, but God also did not live up to their anticipation. Jesus did not usher in the kingdom they had expected. In fact, he died on a Roman cross, a devastating symbol of what seemed to be his ultimate defeat.

If we pause for a moment, we might reflect on what must have been devastating disappointment for those who had lauded Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. They truly believed that earthly, political deliverance was at hand, only to see their divine deliverer be slaughtered by the Roman authorities. Their hopes were dashed at the foot of the cross.

Of course our hopes rest on that same footing. We who know where the story of Jesus leads anticipate the resurrection and the presence of the kingdom through the Spirit and the church, even as we wait for the fullness of the kingdom yet to come. We know that God had a much better plan than the one envisioned by the crowds who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem. Yet, when our expectations for God don’t pan out, it can be hard to have confidence in God. It can feel as if God has abandoned us. We worry that God isn’t working out the very best for us.

In times like these, we would do well to remember that God’s ways are not our ways, and that sometimes God’s ways seem to make no sense at all. But, the truth is that God is not only sovereign, but also immeasurably wise, abundantly gracious, and all loving. God can and will work through all things for the best, even when we can’t see it or imagine it.


Can you think of a time when God did not live up to your expectations for him? How did you respond to this?

What helps you to have confidence in God even when God is hard to understand?

How have you experienced the kingdom of God in your life? In your work?


Gracious God, you are indeed sovereign and you are indeed good, utterly good. You want the best for me. I believe this. I really do. But sometimes, Lord, it’s hard to believe, especially when you don’t fulfill my expectations, and especially when my expectations seem so sensible. Help me, I pray, to trust you, to confess your goodness, to rely on you in all times and all seasons of life.

Lord, I believe that you are working in all things for good, for a good that far exceeds anything I can imagine. Help me, I pray, to trust you more, to serve you more, to love you more. Amen.


Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentaryPlease Lord, Save Us!


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Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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