Redeeming failed expectations

BY SHERRY THOMAS, GUEST CONTRIBUTOR

Toward the end of our first year of marriage, my husband and I made an agreement that forever changed our relationship. We decided that no matter how angry we felt, we would never again suggest we had married the wrong person.

Until that point, it was the ultimate weapon in heated arguments. Making this declaration in an argument did tend to bring things to a halt, but never in a good way. It sowed seeds of doubtIt led to the question, “Were we destined to be stuck in a loveless marriage?”

Thankfully, the Lord graciously intervened and shifted our perspectives. The reality was, we both lacked. We both had expectations of one another, some good and some unreasonable. I was not that nurturer that my husband thought his future wife would be, and he didn’t offer to help when I was doing something I detested then, such as cooking. He had a habit of holding grudges, while I tended to overreact and say things I shouldn’t.

Along with other personal differences, we seemed then to be incompatible. Yet, to call our marriage a mistake would have been to declare that God had made a mistake. After all, our commitment to each other was made in His presence, with His binding.

Therefore, what God has joined together, let no man separate. – Mark 10:9

God had done the joining. Maybe we had been idealistic in our expectations, but God had a plan and purpose for our union. He allowed us to say, “I do,” recognizing all the things we didn’t.

The Thomas Family

The Lord’s design for our union was not based on ignorance, but on His complete awareness of our strengths and weaknesses, our individual pasts and our united future.

As we continue to study the life of Jacob in Genesis, we come back to the same conclusion: God’s plan of redemption outweighs every failed expectation. 

One marriage, three broken hearts

When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?  – Genesis 29:25 

The lives of Jacob, Leah and Rachel were fraught with tension and insecurityPolygamy was never part of God’s design for marriage and the sisters lived in constant competition. They struggled for the attention of their husband and gloated over each other’s miseries. Did Jacob wonder if Rachel’s closed womb was a result of his decision to marry her when he was already married to Leah? Did he ever blame God for allowing Laban to deceive him? What if his circumstances were a consequence of his own sinful past?

Though I’ve studied this Scripture multiple times, I only recently realized that their story is my story. I don’t have the same sordid events in my own history, but I have felt what they felt. In life, I have experienced Jacob’s sense of betrayal, confusion, regret and guilt. 

Like Leah, I too have been plagued by my own insecurities. The sting of rejection is a familiar feeling. Rachel’s disappointment, hopelessness and frustration are emotions that frequently threaten to steal my joyFrom that perspective, their story is probably your story, too.  

God had done the joining. Maybe we had been idealistic in our expectations, but God had a plan and purpose …

Jacob’s family life was not ideal, but it also wasn’t hopeless. The Lord blessed Leah with Judah, from whose line the Messiah eventually came. He also blessed Rachel with Joseph, who would later preserve that same line. What Jacob saw as a great injustice was used by God to bless him and, ultimately, the world. 

While God used prophecies and visions in Genesis to direct His people on a future course, He never allowed anyone to go back and change the past. No wrongdoing can ever be undone. However, every sinner and situation can be redeemed. Without contradicting His own nature, God brings blessing into seemingly hopeless situations. There is a righteous path forward for the child of God to take at every crossroad. 

Rut or redemption?

What areas of your life or relationships seem beyond hope? Are you tempted to assume that your own choices or the choices made by others have forever ruined any chance of fulfillment? When your marriage or spouse fails to meet the standard you had envisioned, do you mourn the loss of a dream, or do you look to the Redeemer for help and the right way forward? 

Once my husband and I understood that the Lord had His own purpose and plan for our marriage, things began to change. Over time, He grew our love for Him and each other through the study and practice of His Word. He used trials and struggles to bring us together and He increased our dependence on Him. We learned that He likes to use spouses in His sanctification process, to point out sin and to practice grace. Those early unmet expectations were part of His bigger plan to direct our attention to Him. 18 years later, He has deepened our love for one another to a degree that we couldn’t perceive as newlyweds. As we look to the future, we know to expect difficulties and disagreements, but not without hope. God is faithful to continue His redemptive work in our lives until His good and perfect will has been accomplished.

… Every sinner and situation can be redeemed. Without contradicting His own nature, God brings blessing into seemingly hopeless situations.

God’s complete redemption is offered to every person who comes to the realization that only God can fix damaged things. Will you continue to carry around the brokenness or are you ready to offer it to the Great Redeemer? 

Scripture is replete with stories of pain caused by sin, but they are also marked by His abounding mercy and love. Just as God protected Jacob, looked upon Leah and remembered Rachel, He continues to see us when we seek Him. Through His Son Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, God is faithful to redeem every failed expectation.

Sherry Thomas learned about Jesus Christ as a child, but as an adult she grasped the concept of a growing relationship with Him through Bible study and prayer. She joined Bible Study Fellowship more than 10 years ago after the Lord called her out of her corporate job to become a stay-at-home mom. Sherry is happily married to her husband Jacob, who is an International Controller for Bible Study Fellowship. Today, she is a homeschooling mom with five children and an Assistant Children’s Supervisor in her BSF class.  She is also involved in women’s ministry at her church and is a guest contributor on ButGod.net.

301 Comments

  1. Thank you Lord for your redemption plan for all mankind

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  2. Thank you Sherry. What a perfect title: Redeeming Failed Expectations! It is usually my expectations that are the beginning of my hurt in a relationship. Praise God! He can remove those expectations and redeem our relationships. Praying He will do just that in some family relationships.

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  3. Such a beautiful story.

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  4. Thank you Sherry, this is a great encouragement to me in my 28 years of marriage. I am a stay at home mom .I have realized that God loves me and has a plan for my career.

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  5. Thanks Sherry, your article is very uplifting to me. Sometimes I think my marriage is doomed and we stay in it because we got to, either for the kids or because we don’t want to break our vows. It’s true that my expectation was for my husband to care for me, yet we both get angry and I say things I shouldn’t and he does things he regrets after the damage is done. We live like strangers in the same house. Every regrettable incident we’ve had kills the trust and we got to start from scratch rebuilding over again. I admit we’re not very bright people, and act foolishly in the heat of the moment. We’ve been married for 13 years and together for 16, and the only person I trust is God. I depend on him daily, love to spend time time with my savour for He is the one who accepts me 100%. I don’t loose hope that God has a purpose, and a good one, for this marriage. Thank you.

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  6. 🙏🏻🌈 I finally got the opportunity to read this beautiful article from Sherry Thomas! It confirmed to me that we all are on the same journey with unique situations but with the same goal! BSF continues to enrich my simple mind with the truth of our Lord Jesus. He has taken away the “seven” year rule enabling me to continue until He says it is time to stop or He takes me home to His house! Blessings and appreciation to Kimberly Foster who never gave up in her invitation to attend BSF in the fall of 2001. I joined in March 2002 and LOVE it! Much love and blessings to everyone at BSF for their dedication and prayers!!!

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  7. Amen to your story Sherry. It speaks directly to me in my 23 year old marriage. Times I cry out to God wondering when he shall bring me to the place of rest concerning our incompatibility with my husband. Your testimony assures me that God is at work, and he will start off by securing Michael through salvation for his glory and then draw him closer to him. His grace has been sufficient and yes, I will deepen my trust in him alone. I know that he is also watching over me and changing me by the day to see my marriage with His lens.

    I am five years in BSF and a work in progress to fully depend on God for every single situation. Times I take things up in my own stride to resolve them. I pray that the Spirt of God will indwell in me and my inner ears will be sensitive to his instructions.

    I look forward to share my testimony, on the Lords doing at His appointed time

    Thanks Sherry

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  8. Thank you for sharing your journey I e God’s amazing grace doing in both you and your husband what you are not able to do yourselves re modifying your expectations towards each other. Praise God from whom all blessings flow and who is able to do exceedingly above and beyond all we can as it think.

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  9. What a wonderful testimony of God’s grace and of how much He can accomplish in us when we let Him.

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  10. Great reflection. Thank you for sharing your story full of Grace. One we can all learn by.

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    • Thank you vero much for sharing your testimone!

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  11. Yours is a beautiful story of God’s redemptive work! Thank you for sharing it with the BSF community.

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  12. This situation is do well explained. I especially like—God’s plan of redemption outweighs every failed expectation.
    I recently divorced my husband of 29 years due to alcoholism. I grieve the death of my expected dream and death of relationship. I came to realize I could only change myself. I believe God directed me to make the change, although, I realize divorce is a sin. Many people do not understand. I grieve that I don’t have a Christian companion to share my life.

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    • Karen, praying for you during this difficult time! So thankful to serve a God who sees and hears His people

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    • Dear Karen, I went through my divorce 25 years ago. I, too , grieved the loss of expectations. Though my husband was an alcoholic and adulterer, I remained in the marriage for many years. As the situation got worse, and it did, causing hurt to our children, I made an appointment with the pastor of our large church. He did not know me personally. He told me that no where in the Bible was there a commandment that said “Thou shall NOT divorce.” He reminded me that Jesus told the religious leaders that Moses, yes, Moses, had permitted divorce because “of the hardness of men’s hearts.” (Matthew 19:8) While God HATES divorce, He knows that we are but dust, and fail to meet the beauty He created us to know. I finally came to have courage to go forward with the divorce while laying on my bed, in anguish, reading Malachi Chapter 2:10-16 and hearing a voice in my spirit tell me that leaving the marriage was His protection for me. You are right to say that you can only change (be responsible) for yourself. Remember that “Satan” means accuser. Do not let him lead you to guilt and despair. Remember the LORD is guiding you. Psalm 37:4. I will be praying for you.
      Your sister in Christ, Reta

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  13. Such wise counsel for life, and especially for growing a marriage! Thank you for sharing.

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  14. Thank you for sharing this! I appreciate your thoughtful and honest insight.

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  15. Lovely story and encouraging too. Thanks for sharing

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  16. Thank you for sharing your encouraging testimony!

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  17. Excellent article… extremely well written and insightful. You used your own story to bring out the love of God for us all through redemption. Thank you!

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  18. Such a beautiful teaching/testimony Sherry! I, and I am sure many others have been there.

    I felt like, Leah, Just like Jacob, received the Blessing that was thought to be given to another..

    The Lord moves in mysterious ways.
    God Bless you, and keep you, may His Light shine brightly upon you!

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  19. I am praying for you and your family. I pray that He will guide you in your daily walk with Him, and that he will bless your family.

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  20. WOW! What a blessing! I really needed this today! I am in such a rut! This was so good I took notes! Sharing during my BSF fellowship time this week.

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    • I thank God for the book of Genesis, especially the chapter I just red, chapter 29. That thought me to be careful in whatever am doing and to be more faithful in God , finally to do His will and run away from sin because of consequences.

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  21. Great story. Thank you for sharing.As a single man ,this shaped my expectations of what marriage is going to be like.I am simply a broken instrument in the hand of a perfect and loving God.

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  22. Waw……. What would I have done without the word of God. Am so encouraged to learn that God has his own plan and purpose for us. Everything works for good for those who love the Lord. Jacob was fleeing from his brother Esau, and now see what happens, His wives will later give birth to Judah and Joseph from whose line the Messiah will come from.

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  23. i feel inspired ‘only God can fix damaged things’

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  24. I enjoyed reading this and it was helpful in my life.

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  25. Sherry – thanks so very much for the authentic and transparent sharing of your story. It’s such an encouragement to see your example of marriage God’s way. He uses imperfect beings to accomplish His perfect will. Awesome God!

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  26. Thank you for this message. Many of us have soldiered on by trial and error!!! I am sharing this with my children, praying and believing that God will use it with great results!!! Thank you again for allowing yourselves to be used so effectively by the Lord. God Bless, Sarah.

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  27. I can relate to this story…my husband and I will celebrate 40 years of marriage on August 15, 2021…it hasn’t been easy, but we decided early on that divorce was not an option…after becoming Christians, it was easier, to give things to God and let Him handle it…(not always the way I wanted to do things, but thankfully God showed us early on in our marriage that He was in control and we just needed to get out of the way!) God is amazing! He loves us even when we are unlovable…when we try to handle things on our own…God is good!

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  28. Thank you sherry for such a powerful testimony. It’s encouraging to know that God is able to mend any brokenness when we present it to Him in total surrender. God bless you.

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  29. Thank you I always need good stories to help me lean on God more

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  30. Thank you for sharing your encouraging story.

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  31. Thank you for sharing your story Sherry. I’m encouraged by the thought that, “God is faithful to continue His redemptive work in our lives until His good and perfect will has been accomplished.

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  32. I am encouraged by this story.
    I now understood God’s sovereignty over my marriage.
    God is God!
    Thank you for sharing.

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  33. ,My husband and I were married over 63 years.We were married young but came to know the Lord before we were married.At one time I saw the need for my husband to change.Then I read Evelyn Christensens book,Lord change me.Then I learned all I was responsible for was what kind of wife I was.It made all the difference in our marriage.He has been in heaven for over 6 years and I miss him yet.You have helpful material.

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