“Great” Expectations

For nearly a week now, multitudes of us have been praying for the innocent victims of the hellish attack that took place in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Compassion makes us wonder what it would have been like if  we had been one of those involved, either as a direct victim or as one being forced to watch helplessly as a friend, loved one, or one of our own children, was being mangled right in front of us. There are no words to adequately express the impact of an event like that, and we search for some way to deal with it. People sometimes suggest that we ought to “expect the unexpected”, but no one ever wants to expect anything like that.

A Welcome Message ~
Recurrent periods of rebellion frequently made suffering all too familiar to God’s people. Their present misery and warnings about ‘more to come’ made Isaiah’s message of hope particularly welcome. He prophesied that God would ultimately come to redeem His people and bring about a radicalExpectations.4 transformation. Hundreds of years later, Jesus proclaimed that He had come to make God’s promise of deliverance and freedom from suffering available to all of us. When tragedies strike, we try to imagine what it would be like to experience the reality of Isaiah’s words, words which declare that God can give … 

… beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3b NKJV)

In the midst of our suffering, we often long for God to invade this world and transform everything, just as Isaiah’s prophesied. We wonder what it would feel like if all the sources of our pain and grief were finally removed. We try to imagine fear and anxiety melting away and being replaced by the peace and love we want more than anything. But until that ultimate fulfillment comes, this sin-cursed earth often finds us struggling with the kind of transformation that happened in Waukesha, a transformation that works in the opposite direction.

Changed in a Moment ~
Isaiah described beauty spontaneously emerging from the ashes of our suffering, but in one dreadful Expectations.3moment last Sunday, the opposite happened. Everything beautiful was consumed and reduced to ashes by a blast furnace of evil ignited by one man’s incomprehensible disregard for life. Music faded as all evidence of joy was replaced by screams of astonished disbelief and mournful wails. Voices of praise were suddenly silenced, choked out and smothered beneath the ponderous weight of inexpressible horror. 

Eloquent promises of future blessings can seem distant and powerless when human depravity seems to be erupting all around us and spewing a cloud of evil that overshadows everything,  So what do we do when some awful event leaves us speechless in stunned disbelief and fuels a growing sense of outrage that seems irrepressible? We cry out for justice to be restored – but not the undefined, manipulative buzzword shouted by Marxist rioters as validation for looting stores and destroying property. The justice our hearts long for is the kind where laws are equally applied and violators are held accountable regardless of their class, race, political affiliation, or economic status. But even as we pray for justice to prevail, we’re aware that something more is needed. 

Justice Isn’t Enough ~
Justice alone can’t restore life. Righteous responses can’t replace body parts that are permanently damaged or ripped away. Justice can’t offer peace to hearts wracked with uncontrollable grief. Heart-rending bad news isn’t magically transformed into good news because perpetrators were heldEx[ectations.5 accountable. It isn’t the application of justice that brings beauty out of ashes. When the soul struggles to bear an unbearable loss, the mournful ache inside isn’t transformed into joy because some violator goes to prison. Retribution alone doesn’t remove the immobilizing weight our spirit feels when irreplaceable things are suddenly snatched away. Justice is a good thing, but we aren’t set free from our burden of grief and cloaked with a garment of praise because somebody else is punished. If good news is to be found at times like that, it takes something more. Inescapable tragedies can’t be reframed to look like something good, but they can lead us to the One who can heal every hurt we feel and restore all we’ve lost. 

The ashes of our lives will always be cold, empty ashes. Nothing can change that, but there’s One who can grow beauty out of them. Mourning will always follow when death steals those we love, but the One who robbed death itself can turn mourning into endless joy. The burdens heaped upon us by a deceitful and seductive world system might weigh us down, but there’s One who can lift it off our shoulders. The weight of every sin ever committed was heaped on Jesus until it finally crushed His tortured body and took His last breath of life. But three days later He rolled it all away forever along with the stone that had sealed His tomb. 

It Could Be ‘Us’ ~
We weren’t in that parade last Sunday, but the day may come when we’re the ones standing among the ashes left in the wake of some tragic event. We might be the ones mourning the loss of our dreams and feeling powerless to carry the load of it all. No psychological tricks or twisting of language can turn evilExpectations.6 into good, but the promise of Jesus Christ is that when we turn to Him, He can turn the heaviness we cannot endure into praise we cannot contain. There is no loss His grace can’t eventually restore. There is no grief His love can’t reconcile, and there is no death that isn’t rendered powerless by the life He offers.

Expecting the unexpected is a futile directive. The very fact that a thing is “un”expected makes it impossible to anticipate and prepare for it. The statement only serves to remind us that things we never thought would happen may be waiting for us at any given point. Life is “un”certain, “un”predictable, and “un”fair. That makes many tragedies that come our way “un”avoidable, but that doesn’t mean that we have to face them “un”prepared. 

Jesus made it clear that bad things are going to happen to us, and one of them may usher us out of this world. He didn’t offer a way to avoid them, but He offered something far better. When that event happens, if we have trusted Jesus as Savior, we have “more” than just an expectation. We have something that no thief can steal and no tragedy can erase. What He said to His followers just before they faced the trauma of His crucifixion is meant for us as well: 

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. (John 14:1–3 NKJV)


“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below.  Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .

    • “Inescapable tragedies can’t be reframed to look like something good, but they can lead us to the One who can heal every hurt we feel and restore all we’ve lost … the One who can grow beauty out of the ashes of our lives.”@GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
    • Mourning will always follow when death steals those we love, but the One who robbed death itself can turn mourning into endless joy.”@GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
    • “The weight of every sin ever committed was heaped on Jesus until it finally crushed His tortured body and took His last breath of life. But three days later, He rolled it all away forever, along with the stone that had sealed His tomb.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
    • “There is no loss the grace of Jesus Christ can’t eventually restore, no grief His love can’t reconcile, no death that isn’t rendered powerless by the life He offers.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)  

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© 2021 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S.  All rights reserved.

About Ron Gallagher, Ed.S

Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher, Humorist, Satirist, Blogger ... "Right Side Up Thinking ~ In an Upside Down World" For Ron's full bio, go to GallaghersPen.com/about/
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6 Responses to “Great” Expectations

  1. Darlene Hopkins says:

    Once again, your words speak truth that always confirms His Peace that passes all understanding. I have experienced His Peace in my heart and in my daily life and I am so thankful I can trust Him with all things…even those unexpected circumstances. Thank you, Ron, for your wonderful gift of storytelling to share our Lord and Savior with all who will listen.

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    • Sorry to be slow getting back to you, Darlene, but just seeing your name brought a bright spot in our hearts. Thank you for taking the time to share your gracious and encouraging response, and for highlighting the peace that the Prince of Peace has given you. We’re getting more used to all the new things as this new chapter in our lives unfolds down here, but we miss all our friends and spiritual family back home. We continue to think about you and pray that your life is filled with fresh reasons to praise the Lord even in the midst of the most challenging days we’ve ever seen. Please pass our love around and share a long distance hug from us.

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  2. JD Wininger says:

    Had to pray a few minutes before responding to this one my friend. You spoke so many truths into our lives this morning. Yes, we can never be fully prepared for the unexpected, by its very nature. We can, however, be prepared to protect our loved ones and ourselves to the extent we can; but all the preparation in the world will likely fail when the unexpected evil that comes along in this world finds us. That’s why our greatest preparation is placing our trust, fears, and future in God’s hands. Have learned that if I try and control this world (or my very small part of it), then I’m going to fail miserably and worry myself sick in the process. If I hold God’s promise of Romans 8:28 and so many other promises in my heart, then I won’t fear anything this world can bring to my doorstep. Will I fight to protect what God has placed in my care and blessed me with? You better know it? You see, no where in God’s word does He tell us not to defend ourselves. Turn the other cheek? Yes. Roll over and let them steal, kill, and destroy. Not a chance Sparky! Will God see me through the storm when it comes? Absolutely. I can guarantee you I won’t like it, but I always try and remember that this life is but a vapor and all the hurts, pain, and anguish I feel in this life will be wiped away in the twinkling of His eye.
    Now, if you’ll kindly indulge me, I’m going to borrow your soapbox for just a moment or two. Please stand here beside me because we need your wisdom. I watch very little television and news these days because I’m fed up with the media’s focus on the negative. It’s all around us, this world is swimming in evil, and I do my best to keep it at arm’s length and away from my heart and home. However, “anti-social” media (the Twitter’s and Facebook’s) are often the breeding grounds for hatred and division. They are not the cause, but merely reflect what this world allows. And this is my sorrow. When I hear of these events, often after they’ve occurred, my mind pictures Satan throwing his head back, clapping his hands together, and howling with laughter. He is loving how he’s been so successful in bringing this world to the brink of destruction. He knows that he’s defeated and he’s fighting a slash and burn campaign, which is intensifying as the day of the Lord draws nearer. His desire is not to win souls to praise him, but to steal souls that might praise and worship the Lord God Almighty. Simply put, he doesn’t want to suffer alone. His focus is on destroying Christian testimonies so we are ineffective at best as he makes his retreat into the depths of hell. I pray that those who call themselves Christians realize that Satan is not wasting his time on making things miserable for those who have already rejected Christ’s offer, but on weakening the testimony of those who claim to follow Christ so they cannot win more souls for Christ. He’s attempting to minimize his losses as he knows that soon he will no longer be prince of this world, as this world will cease to exist.
    Thank you for this clarion call for each of us to strap on the Armor of God and prepare to do battle until that glorious day my friend. Let us heed your words and place the fight in God’s hands, where we are assured the ultimate victory. God’s blessings sir.

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    • Wow… another time when I should just post your response as a guest blog. I love it when you just rear back and unload your heart like that,J.D. What an encouraging, inspiring, and powerful message. The “Amens are flying out of me right and left and I feel so incredibly blessed to be in the ranks with you. God is using your testimony and faithful ministry both to strengthen those who are fighting alongside you and to call those who are lost to saving faith in Jesus. The devil hates the way you unveil his tactics and I’m glad you pull his disguises off. He delights to see us powerless and wallowing in our guilt and shame and courageous guys like you make it harder for him to deceive us. Diane and I pray for you and your Diane continually. We’re trusting God to provide everything that you,Diane, and the extended Cross-Dubbya family need. May He continue to reveal His truth to you and use ordinary things surrounding you to open windows into His heart. We believe that you have been uniquely prepared for this time and that God is actively working to fulfill His purpose in you. We’re confident that whatever battles and blessings the days ahead bring, the outcomes will glorify Him, benefit you, and make life a little more pleasant and hopeful for those around you, including a crusty old antique and his bride in Tennessee. Thank you for the nourishment of your fellowship, my friend.

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  3. Linda C. Hobbs says:

    Ron, I cannot tell you how great it was to have your newest writings in my email this morning!
    A much needed message in this turbulent world we are living in. More and more of Revelation unfolding daily.
    Miss you both and please let me know if you are to be in my little corner of Gods world as I will make every effort to see you!
    May God continue to bless you and Diane in your ministries and a special blessing on your writings!
    Much love in Christ,
    Linda

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    • What a blessing to hear from you, Linda. We miss you and rejoice for the reminder of one of the most joyful periods of our lives. Your reminder that these days are challenging, but crucial. It’s a time when the followers of Jesus must stop playing church games and take the mission He sent us to fulfill seriously. It’s so encouraging to know you’re still out there keeping the light shining and the truth going out. Please pass our love around and let everyone know that we love you all and pray for God to make all of us more fruitful than ever.

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