A Week of Disappointments

. . . the whole crowd of disciples began to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen (Luke 19:37).

Few places are harder to live in than the gap between what we expect and what we get, that intolerable chasm that separates what we think we deserve and what our lives have actually delivered to us.

The pain we feel in that gap is something we generally label ‘disappointment.’ We can barely tolerate being there and we’ll do just about anything to find a way out.

Sometimes that means we adjust our expectations. The pain of disappointment is alleviated by lowering our sights. But with every downward adjustment hope is diminished, and eventually we find we’ve stopped dreaming altogether.

Another strategy moves in the opposite direction. Sometimes the tension between what we expect and what we get means we push ourselves harder, lashing out at whoever or whatever gets in the way of what we insist is rightly ours. Quite often we ricochet back and forth between both of those responses: resignation or anger, passive acceptance, or violent force.

Shattered Expectations

Holy Week is bracketed by shouting crowds. On the front end of Holy Week we remember the day Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem. Luke tells us that the crowd that welcomed him that day “praised God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen” (19:37). Their shouts were grounded in past events that had shaped their expectations of what would soon be. The miracle-working Jesus was their long-awaited King.

By the time we get to the end of the week those expectations are thoroughly shattered. This celebrated King has failed to deliver and now the crowds are shouting something different. “Hosanna” has morphed to “Crucify.” Even Jesus’ closest followers struggled during those final days of his life. By Friday afternoon, all of the disciples have scattered.   

Holy Week is the story of what it means to walk with Jesus in the midst of unmet expectations. 

Welcome to Jerusalem

As for us – plenty of us live every day with unmet expectations. Some of them are minor: a driver in front of you failed to use his turn signal; the kitchen completely messed up your order when you happened to be on a tight schedule. 

Some of our expectations, however, are weighty. They go to the core of who we are and our vision of what life should be. The planned-for retirement brings a deadening boredom and feelings of uselessness. The new purchase becomes a draining burden rather than the status symbol it was supposed to be. The promotion proves to be a wrong fit for your best skills. In short, things are not working out like you had hoped they would.

That gap between what we expected and what we actually experience is the place where faith wanes. Said another way, our disappointments can make it hard to say, “I believe.”

When the tension between what you hoped for and what you’ve received feel unbearable, hear the invitation of Jesus. Stay with him. Listen to his words. Watch what he’s doing. Don’t get swept up the noisy demands and expectations of the culture. God is at work. You may not see it now, but God is at work. Holy Week is an invitation to walk with Jesus even in the midst of our deepest disappointments, especially our disappointment with God.

To all who feel the ache of something that hasn’t worked out according to plan, welcome to Jerusalem. Welcome to Holy Week.    

Consideration / Conversation: What separates ordinary disappointments (a canceled flight or rained-out game) from disappointment with God?



Lord Jesus, keep us close to you in the final days of this Lenten journey. Our expectations so easily become demands. We stop praying and start giving direction. Keep us attentive to what you are doing, especially when life unfolds in ways we didn’t expect or ask for. Teach us trust, even in the shadow of the cross. Amen.     

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