by Gerard Terry
Yesterday, I met a man who had engaged in unlawful sexual behavior involving pornography for a decade. He described his anger at God for not providing him a wife after years of prayer. Today, I sat thinking of a woman I met two years ago who engaged in unlawful sexual behavior following anger at God for not providing her a husband. Both felt justified in their “self help” conduct to feel better when their expectations of God went unfulfilled. I often feel the same way.
My Unmet Expectations, My Sin
I next considered how my disappointment with God has played a role in my pornography use. While I cannot identify a 1-1 correlation, I can recall a much stronger tendency to involve myself in sexual sin when God’s provision has not met my expectations. I recall thinking “why not sin and feel better?” In this “self help” mode, I felt that God was unlikely to punish me worse. Conversely, when I had joy in seeing the expectations of my wants and needs met, I avoided pornography because I didn’t want God to withdraw the blessing.
Unmet Expectations May Occur For a Greater Purpose
When our expectations of God or life are unmet, we first assume we are being punished or that we’ve been abandoned by God – that He does not care. The Bible doesn’t support this assumption. First, our loving Father disciplines those he loves – not punishes. Jesus already took the full punishment for our sins on the cross, once and for all. Next, God’s discipline is a loving “care” for us, not an abandonment of our well-being. We can’t always see behind the scenes. Look at the bigger purpose behind Job’s tremendous loss and suffering. Stephen was not being disciplined when stoned for his faith, was he? Joseph was sold into slavery while doing nothing bad. At another point in his life, he was put in prison for running (literally) from sin with Potiphar’s wife. Looking back now, we can see God’s plan to save a nation through Joseph.
The Bird’s Eye View
You and I rationalize sinful conduct to feel better in our circumstances. We think that our anger and pornography use is justified because God has not given us a spouse, or because He took one away. When chewed out by a boss or lied to by a close friend, we justify conduct to make us feel better. Yet, only by trusting in Jesus to accomplish His good purpose in both our joy and our distress will we keep our sanity. Like Joseph, we simply don’t have the bird’s eye view to see where God is taking us through our “good” and “bad” experiences.
I have known several clients who lost their jobs after being falsely accused of wrongdoing. In most every instance, after a period of suffering, they drew closer to God in dependence. Then, they ended up with even better jobs than before. What outsiders might have seen as discipline for wrongdoing, looking back, I now see discipline for the sake of refinement and eventual blessing. In some cases though, like Stephen’s stoning or the death of a child from cancer, we may never know God’s purpose.
Expectations of God and Others
My wife recently told me that my frustration with family members and friends is based on my expectations of them. She counseled me to have lower expectations of others in order to experience less disappointment. She was right on track. With changed expectations, I have less disappointment and hurt.
Can we apply this principle to God? Is it fair to have expectations of what our creator should and should not do?
“But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'" Romans 9:20
While we have promises from God in the Bible, they are not real specific. Perhaps we will suffer less distress and disappointment if we only expect His great love for us. Beyond that, we get into deep disappointment when we impose our expectations on Him. In this disappointment, we tend to lose perspective on life. Then, in an attempt to feel better, we engage in harmful behaviors like pornography. As the man and woman I mentioned above, long-term disappointment with God can result in progressive anger toward Him. Carrying prolonged anger can even result in our justifying unlawful sexual behavior to make us feel better.
I want to suggest that our expectations of God and others creates a good share of the disappointment we experience. In many cases, these expectations are unfair to the freedom others enjoy to manage their lives as they see fit (both good and bad). They are also inconsistent with God’s authority over us, His creation. When we come to accept this and adjust our internal expectations accordingly, we will have a lot less disappointment and pain in life. With less pain and disappointment, we will find less need to medicate with pornography or other destructive habits.