When anticipation doesn't deliver the goods you expected

At the beginning of this year, I felt God give me the word “anticipation”. It came with a real sense of excitement and joy bubbling up in my spirit. I was ready to see what would happen. As we have waited for breakthrough in a number of areas of our life, I felt sure this sense of anticipation would deliver the goods in at least some of these.

As we near the end of the year and I reflect on what has been, I realise that sense of anticipation has not decreased. It has not dissipated the way so many other New Year’s hopes and dreams do as the year goes on. It has actually increased! However, we are still waiting for those breakthroughs in our personal life. Nothing seems to have shifted; we seem no closer to an outcome, yet I can say with conviction that hope still has not disappointed me.


I am reminded, though, of what the Jewish nation was going through a little over 2000 years ago. Under harsh Roman rule, they scoured the Scriptures, trying to see if they could further pinpoint when their Saviour, the Messiah, would appear. In all their deliberations and calculations, they were quite certain that it should be soon. They were on the lookout.

But so many of them missed it.

Their anticipation and expectations were not fulfilled. At least, not in the way they were thinking it would happen.

They looked for a king who would come in military might to overthrow the Romans and bring Israel back to the glory days of David and Solomon. They looked for freedom from tyranny and the salvation of their nation from annihilation.

But what they got was a baby, a helpless, crying baby from an impoverished, low class background, with questionable paternity.

They had no concept of how this could possibly lead to their salvation and restoration, how this baby could be a King,

so they missed the signs, missed the joy and missed the celebration.

Anticipation is a term for many contexts, good and, well, not so good. Sometimes it is helpful to us - especially when we are anticipating someone doing something they shouldn’t on the road in front of us! But at others, anticipation can lead us to downright disappointment. I remember as a child, the sense of anticipation in the lead up to Christmas. Would I get that longed for gift? And even when I had no idea of what the gifts might be, there was always the excitement and hope associated with getting any gift. And, yes, sometimes there was disappointment when the longed-for gift didn’t eventuate or wasn’t quite what was wanted, the disappointment of hope deferred.

Heading into Christmas this year, I was aware that the childlike sense of anticipation has dissipated for many of us. Perhaps one too many disappointments has eroded our capacity to engage with hope anymore. And maybe life is just not as simple as it was in the past; a long year may have left us weary and possibly a little more jaded.

Maybe, like me (and the Israelites) you have been waiting for a long time to see a hoped for change or breakthrough. Maybe, like Sarah, Rachael, Hannah and others, you wonder if you missed a turn off, made a mistake, or simply didn’t hear quite right. Perhaps you wonder if you should have or could have done something different to bring about the promise: thoughts we have had a number of times in the last few years.

And yet, as I turn my focus from what I want to what I see, from my longings to what is happening around me, I realise that there is a bigger picture. Just as the arrival of Messiah had way bigger ramifications for the Jewish people - past them to a global perspective; past their time to all ages - my longings and desires must come into line with the bigger plan God has and His timings for it all. It is the place I find myself returning to again and again. It is the place where I find the grace to take the next step in my waiting. It is the place where I learn again to celebrate ALL He is doing. And here, I find - amazingly - I can look with anticipation and GREAT JOY toward all He has for us in the New Year and in the years to come.

Tired of the same old song? Maybe it's time for a NEW SONG!

As we rush towards the half way mark of this year, I have been reflecting back on some of what God has been saying to me over the last six months. 

I began the year in anticipation, which was accompanied by about three months of drought. (You can check out my thoughts on this period on previous blogs here.)

My last blog was written at the time a significant shift occurred with a day of rain. I believe it heralded a shift in the spiritual world as well. Doors are opening that have the possibility to bring great changes in God’s people, the Church and beyond. 

The word I got at that time was disruption Get ready for disruption! As I look around, I would have to say that this has happened. There has been a number of disruptions in various ways and may be more to come. Some of this has been obviously good, some has been more difficult. All of it means we have to shift and change our ways of doing things to manage. Sometimes we have to let go of other stuff to do what is really important. While it might disrupt the status quo - the ‘normal’, what God is doing in the midst of it has the potential to grow and transform us and our community.

While I won’t go into all the details here, a number of things are happening and growing around me in ways I haven’t seen before, particularly in the unity and collaboration of Christians across denominations and backgrounds to do Kingdom work. In the middle of all this, God is speaking ever deeper to my heart about His heart. Here are three things that stand out.
The first is that He has been talking to me about REST. Not rest in the sense of an absence of activity, but rest in the sense of a lack of worry and anxiety. He has shown me that rest is closely related to TRUST. Anything we worry, have anxiety, or a lack of REST about is a place where we need an upgrade in our TRUST in God. 

When we are going through change, it is easy to get worried about so much. For me, it is the sense of “will I cope” or “what if this is bigger than my ability/strength/capabilities?” “What if it is all too much for me?” Learning not to run ahead of the Holy Spirit is part of dealing with this. Remembering that He will provide all our needs in the places He takes us also helps.

The second focus is about our role as the Bride of Christ. Ephesians 5 talks of the preparation of the Church as the Bride of Jesus through cleansing and purification. The question is whether we are willing to be prepared? Are we willing to lay down our old life, the ‘life’ the world promises for life with Him? (You can listen to more on these topics in a message I gave at my local church recently titled “Peace and Safety: Living in uncertain times”).

The third was a word I felt God give me at a retreat a couple of weeks back about it being time for us, His people, to sing a new song. It wasn’t necessarily about music or words, but about our attitude, heart and foundations. The sense is that God is calling us to become a people of worship; that our worship of Him is to become the foundation of our lives, the base line for all we do and how we live. No matter the circumstances of our lives or around us, we are to start with worship and to live through worship with all our being. 

10 Points extra if you can correctly name this song!

10 Points extra if you can correctly name this song!

Psalm 137:4 comes to mind. When the Israelites were in exile in Babylon and their captors wanted them to sing their response was

“How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?”

When we are going through tough times, times of brokenness, pain or loss, it can be a very foreign place to sing God’s praises. It is counterintuitive.

Sometimes we would rather get mad at Him!

I was recently reminded though, that we are created to worship. Whether it is God or something else, we are always worshipping.

What is it that claims your time and attention?

What are you devoted to? What do you focus on? What is more important – your comfort and safety or God’s will? The answers to these questions give a good indication of what is most important to you, and hence, what you tend to worship. Challenging, isn’t it!

When we have lived out of our circumstances, maybe complaining or wanting to fight the injustices we see, or in offence or fear, whether personal or toward others, we have shifted our focus from Creator to created. However, I sense that Father God is calling us back to Himself, calling our focus back to Him, off ourselves, our needs, our feelings and back onto Who He is in a big way. He is not content with a little bit of us or our time, but wants ALL of us, ALL the time. It’s not about faking it until we make it, but about being real with Him, listening to Him, waiting on Him.

Do you feel that new song rising up in you? Let it rise, let it come out in a new and deeper way of worshipping God, body, mind and spirit. Open yourself up, be completely vulnerable with Him – let Him in to all those places you want to hide, bringing His healing and His cleansing, His purification and worship will fill each of those places anew. And as we each do this, those around us will also be drawn to worship God. As He is given all the glory due to Him, more will be drawn to worship Him. Imagine if we became known as “The People of The Song”, and as we sing His praise more and more people want to join in, bringing glory to God in an ever increasing spiral upwards.

Psalm 96 (NIV) is a great starting place:

Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
Sing to the Lord, praise His name;
proclaim His salvation day after day.
Declare His glory among the nations,
His marvellous deeds among all peoples.

For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
He is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendour and majesty are before Him;
strength and glory are in His sanctuary.

Ascribe to the Lord, all you families of nations,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name;
bring an offering and come into His courts.
Worship the Lord in the splendour of His holiness;
tremble before Him, all the earth.
Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns.”
The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved;
He will judge the peoples with equity.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them;
let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for He comes,
He comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples in His faithfulness.