Expectations, comparison, discontentment—weapons in spiritual warfare.
If you know me, you know I have a huge interest in all things spiritual-warfare.
Lately, I have found myself somewhat discontent and as I have prayed through it I believe God has revealed that this discontentment is stemming from unmet expectations that I was unaware I had. Also, that these expectations subtly snuck their way into my life through small comparisons.
What do spiritual warfare and expectation/comparison have to do with each other?
Comparison is a tricky way I believe the enemy creates frustration and doubts. We look at what others have or what others experience and how they experience situations in life and see how "good" it is and then want that for ourselves. My all-time favorite story in the entire bible is Adam and Eve. It reveals SO many things relevant to our struggles and the enemies schemes of today if you look closely enough.
The very first sin was jealousy. Satan was jealous of God and wanted everyone to look to him instead of God, so he tried to take over and, well, we know how that went for him—not well. Since then, Satan tries anything and everything to turn us against God and/or make us doubt his goodness.
Don’t believe me? This is what he did to Eve. He convinced Eve that God was "holding out on her" by telling her not to eat the apple from the tree. Eve bit that bate hard (no pun intended) as she started to imagine all the "good" that she was missing out on by not eating the apple. So, she ate the apple.
SHE decided that she knew the outcome of her situation—that she would only receive good things by taking things into her own control. This is exactly what Satan wants us to think and do. He wiggles the bate—his lies—and we get a little curious, and maybe prideful, and decide we know better than God and then take things into our own hands instead of letting the Lord guide our steps (Proverbs 3:6).
However, similar to Eve, I can count the times I have been talking with a specific wise friend of mine when she suddenly points out how my discontentment and fear is stemming from a fear of losing something, or a fear of not receiving something. I have these fears because I am actually doubting that God will give me the good thing(s) I want—I feel as though God is "holding out" on me.
But that is a lie and exactly what Satan uses to tempt us and wants us to believe.
Side bar on how Satan works—he is the father of lies. And he knows that the best and most easily believed lies are actually distortions and twists of the truth. And this is one of his main tactics.
"He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies." John 8:44
Satan creates doubt out of distorting facts and truth just like he attempted to do with Jesus in the forest. And Satan is SO sly in doing this that he even used (and uses) scripture to try to create doubt in Jesus.
“ 'If you are the Son of God,' he said, 'throw yourself down. For it is written… ' (where he uses scripture)" Matt 4:6 (Matt. 4:1-11 whole story)
Satan is sneaky and knows that the best and most believable lies stem from the truth. ALSO—Satan is most interested in you when you are walking closely with God— this temptation happened to Jesus directly after Jesus was baptized and God declared “I love him, and with him I am pleased.” (Matt. 3:17)
Do you ever notice how something can be so perfect—a time in your life, relationship, etc. – and then suddenly it’s not? It’s tempted? It’s tried? It’s challenged and rocked? I definitely have noticed that lately in my life for sure.
Satan causes us to compare ourselves by planting distortions of the truth in our minds—a little twist on a whole lot of truth is all it takes.* For instance, sometimes we might see how “good” someone else's life is via Instagram, Facebook, or even through hearing them innocently talk about their lives.
That's where Satan steps in.
"God gave them that and made this so easy for them— why isn't he doing this for you? Isn't he supposed to 'work all things for your good'? (Romans 8:28)"
And then we start to doubt. Then we get anxious. And then we get frustrated. We get frustrated partly because of that fear or missing out. FOMO is alive and real and hits everyone in different ways. I wonder who coined and popularized the term FOMO anyway…
Doubt, anxiety, and fear of not receiving these good things create a ton of uncertainty in which Satan then comes in to plant "what if’s" and "probably’s." For instance, an unexpected health issue hits you or a loved one and suddenly the future you EXPECTED disappears and is replaced with unknown. This unknown and uncertainty is when we are called to lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5) and instead walk by faith and not sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
But Satan uses that uncertainty to say, "what if Bob dies?" "What if there's nothing that can be done?" "What if the doctors treatments don't work?" Or, my favorite, the probably’s- "Bob probably won't make it until Christmas." "That was probably the last time I'll see them." "This will probably end badly." This is us taking the bate and deciding for ourselves the outcome of a situation when we should instead be seeking God.
Instead, we trust our own thoughts (or the lies the enemy's planted) because we have seen or heard similar situations (via social media or direct conversations) and start to unknowingly compare, which leads to us believing we know the outcome because we are familiar with the “formula” or process of that situation. But we are called as believers to walk by faith and NOT by sight. To walk in faith knowing God has this situation all figured out and has been working in in even before we entered into it. We are called to walk by faith and trust in His ability to do abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). We are called to walk by faith and NOT by the things we see or have seen or experienced in the past. In fact, God tells us to forget the past! Isaiah 40:18-20 tells us He IS making all things new—we need not dwell on the [hurts] of the past. He is making a way for all of His promises to us to come to pass.
"You know with all your heart and soul that no one of the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed." Joshua 23:14
While we love figuring out how things are going to play out, that’s because we are broken and naturally have wants and desires and think it's our job to make those wants and desires happen. Sometimes we rely on our own understanding which is based on what we "know" from experience. But scripture reveals to us how much God does not like formulas. God is in complete control of everything— I can guarantee you won't read about him healing two people the same way. God created the entire universe and all the things in it— he is far too creative to rely on using the same formula time after time.
[One of my favorite stories on God’s dislike of formulas is in Numbers 20]*
Comparison begins from us thinking we know how things will play out based on past experience in either our own lives or the lives of others—from us thinking we have seen this before and that we know the “formula.” Formulas give people a false representation of how God works by leading people to think they've "figured out" how to fix XYZ on their own; therefore, their dependence on God decreases. God’s gotta keep us on our toes and guessing and he does this by giving us that chance to choose to have faith that he WILL provide—in his own way and own timing.
Just to recap so far:
- We are broken, so naturally we have desires and wants.
- This is most likely what leads us to innocently scroll through Instagram for hours.
- Which then leads to comparisons we may not even notice.
- Which produces expectations that stem from illusions of others lives (the highlight reels)
- And when those expectations are not met and things don’t happen how we want or think they should, we get frustrated, doubtful, and anxious.
- Frustration, doubt, and anxiety create uncertainly—“why is this not happening for me?”
- And that is where the enemy wants us. That is where is easy for him to step in and twist Gods truths, distort facts, and feed us fears.
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of my frustrations and disappointments stem from expectations I didn't even know I had set. Often times I don't even realize I'm upset from an unmet expectation until way later. In the initial moment of disappointment all I know is that I'm upset because I wanted a certain outcome. Upset that XYZ didn't work out the way I wanted or upset that so-and-so didn't react the way I wanted.
The feelings that flood my mind and heart when I don't get things how or when I want are usually disappointment, frustration, fear, doubt, anxiety, discouragement, and confusion to name a few.
Which leads me to what I am now seeing is the real message I am trying to explain, and that goes back to spiritual warfare.
You see, not one of these emotions I listed are emotions or feelings that come from God-- especially that last one: confusion.
1 Corinthians 14:33 tells us that "God is not the author of confusion, but of peace..."
If we are confused we should ask for wisdom.
"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." (James 1:5)
James 3:13-18 go on to assure us that "the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace recap a harvest or righteousness.” (James 3:17-18)
All of this confirms that confusion (let alone those other feelings listed) is not something from God. Period.
Here in James it is also explained that there are two kinds of wisdom as well as where or who these different wisdoms come from.
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.
But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth.
Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic.
For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice." (James 3:13-16)
1 John 4:6 further confirms that there is in fact a Spirit of Truth AND a Spirit of Falsehood, but that if we know the Lord we can recognize the difference.
How can we recognize who is feeding us such "wisdom"?
John 14:16-17 tells us that God gave us the Spirit of Truth to live in us and counsel us. But that's not all, God also gave us the Spirit of Truth to turn to instead of learning on our own understanding (or expectation based on our worldly understanding) (Proverbs 3:5).
Again, God promises us that if we ask for wisdom He will give it to us. (James 1:5)
"But I've prayed and prayed and still am so confused!"
This makes a nice circle back to expectations.
Are you expecting God to show you or give you wisdom in a certain way? Maybe you are and are not even aware that you have been tunnel-vision-focused on gaining wisdom in a specific way that you are completely blind to the wisdom God has already bestowed upon you.
DO NOT let experiences from past circumstances or worldly experiences set your expectations. This will distract you by making you focus on/ look for/ wait to see that same “formula” again. If you do this you will miss Jesus standing right in front of you and actually giving you what you’re asking for, just in a way you didn’t expect.
I believe that expectations are a tactic that Satan has been perfecting for hundreds of years.
Unmet expectations lead to a dump truck full of feelings that always FEEL so real when they aren’t. Let me rephrase that—feelings ARE real, just NOT reliable. But lucky for us, God is greater than anything we may feel.
“Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything.” (1 John 3:20)
Through the Spirit, God has given us the power to discern those feelings and Satan’s subtle lies and distortions of the truth. Yet again, God promises us that if we ask for wisdom He will give it to us. (James 1:5) When God gives us wisdom we are then able to discern his voice and truths over the enemy's false thoughts and feelings (John 10:27). When we can distinguish His voice we can then hear him direct and make firm our steps (Psalm 37:23). When we are asking God, that means we are trusting God, and that means we are delighting in him. God promises that when we delight in Him and seek him that he will make his desires our desires (Psalm 37:4).
But again— something is required on our end once we have those desires laid on our hearts. He wants us to ask him for those desires. Asking is a show of faith and God promises is that if we ask for anything in his name we will receive it (John 16:24) because if we believe and do not doubt, then we will receive anything we ask for in prayer that aligns with his will.
We are directed to ask. Just like our parents provided a home with everything we needed, if we needed help finding or reaching something or completing a task, we had to ask our parents to help us.
But not only must we pray and ask in faith, but, as mentioned before, we must pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17)— most prayers never get answered because we pray EXPECTING it to be answered on our watch and not God's perfect timing.
Pray without ceasing, seek God (Matt. 6:33)-- this is how we renew our minds. And when we renew our minds and instead of relying on the things we "know" and have "seen" in the world, then we will have the wisdom and discernment to hear God's voice as he directs our steps (Psalm 37:23).
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)
God promises that IF we ask, we will receive, if we seek, we will find, and if we knock, the door will be opened. (Matt. 7:8)
Note the multiple "if's" because we have a choice here- we can pray persistently, boldly, and expectantly having faith that God will not withhold good things (Psalm 84:11) or we can be fearful of uncertainty and go through the motions of prayer but have doubt that it will happen; therefore, self-fulfilling prophesying what we are praying for.
Just like we have the choice to ask for the things God already wants to give us, we also have the choice to equip ourselves against these attacks of the enemy. When we accepted Christ, we then received the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, as mentioned early in John 14:16-17. The Holy Spirit is our direct line to Christ and exactly how we have access to the promises of God once we ask for them. God tells us we have armor against the enemy called the Armor of God (Eph. 6:11)
I will let you look up the six pieces of armor described in Ephesians 6:11 on your own, but I will explain that just as we have to ask for the desires God gives us and the things God has promised us, we also have to dress ourselves in this armor—God provides is, but he is not going to dress us. That is another choice we have as believers. We have knowledge and access to so many things as believers, but I hope you are getting the point that we still have to choose to walk and live in those things.
Just like you go to the doctor for medicine when you are sick, the doctor writes you a prescription, but you still have to fill it, pick it up, and take it.
Bottom line is that God have given us everything we need for this life (2 Peter 1:3), but we still have to do our part in faith and ask.
Because this post is now reading six pages I think I’ll end here and pray everything you’ve read is received exactly how God intends.
Thank you so so so much for reading this and feel free to email me with to talk deeper about anything I have said!