Expectations. We all have them. Expectations of God. Expectations of friends, family, co-workers, casual acquaintances, even strangers. We expect something to work in a certain way. We expect a particular level of service in a business transaction. We expect specific responses to our actions. Yes, it is safe to say we have expectations. And, probably, it is also safe to say that we often have negative reactions when our expectations are not met.
Based on their long history together, Abram may have had an expectation of what acreage his nephew Lot would choose when they agreed to divide the grazing land they shared. His expectation would have been based on many factors. Abram had watched over Lot after Lot’s father died. He had protected and guided him, shared his riches with him, and shown him love and friendship. Abram was also the leader of the family in a culture that honored its elders. It would have been logical for Abram to expect Lot to choose the second-best land and leave the best for Abram.
But Lot chose the best for himself.
Abram had a choice, too. He could choose how he would react to what was probably an unexpected outcome. He could have felt cheated by Lot’s choice and become angry. He could have attempted to influence Lot to make a different choice. He could have demanded his right to have the best land.
Although we are not told about Abram’s thoughts, we are told about his reaction. And Abram’s reaction is a good model for us when our expectations are not met. After Lot chose the best land, Abram seemed to harbor no ill-will toward Lot. He displayed no resentment. He spent no energy trying to assert his rights. He acted on the belief that he did not have to look out for his own best interests…he could trust God to do that.
God was the silent witness to Lot and Abram’s conversation and to Lot’s choice of land. And God honored Abram’s selfless reaction to Lot’s choice and to having his own expectations go unmet. Abram may not have had the “fertile plains of the Jordan Valley” (Gen. 13:10), but God had land for him. “After Lot was gone, the Lord said to Abram, ‘Look as far as you can see in every direction. I am going to give all this land to you and your offspring as a permanent possession’” (Gen. 13:14-15).
In this story, we see two of God’s most important messages, ones that are found again and again in the Bible. The first message is that we can trust God to meet our needs—as He did for Abram in providing good grazing land. The second message is that we should treat others as we want to be treated—even when their actions or decisions do not conform to our expectations.
Our sense of annoyance when our expectations are not being met can serve as a trigger to focus on God and what His expectations are for us in these situations. Who knows how God will use these times of frustration in our lives? The one thing we can know is that as we put our trust in God, we can expect His help in dealing with our unmet expectations.
© 2010 Arlina Yates