There are few things as disappointing as having an event or a person or an experience not live up to our expectations. When we put our hope in something or someone, it can be quite debilitating if we find that hope to be misplaced. Most of us learn this lesson at a young age when we become so excited about a trip we are going to take or an event we are going to only to be greeted with the less than glamourous reality of hours spent in the car getting there or waiting in line, tired legs from having to walk, and sweaty clothes from the heat. Suddenly, our long anticipated trip doesn’t have the same appeal as it did when we were dreaming it up in our minds. The same concept continues into adulthood. It just presents itself in different forms: instead of the dashed dreams of a perfect day at an amusement park, we face the daily grind of a job that doesn’t make us feel as accomplished as we had hoped or children who seem to be rebelling against us at every turn or a walk with God that is not as easy or consistent as we expected. A big part of the problem here is that we are not having the proper expectations to begin with because we tend to strive for the fulfilling, the awe-inspiring, the comfortable, and the profitable. However, God teaches us most of our lessons through the difficult things and in the small moments.
Naaman in this passage in 2 Kings is having to learn this lesson, and in doing so, he sets a great example for us all on trusting God and keeping our expectations in check. When Naaman left, he had these high hopes of being healed, and he expected it to be done with a certain amount of grandeur. Therefore, when he was told to simply go wash himself seven times in the Jordan river, he was greatly disappointed. Notice that he was not disappointed because he was turned away, because no one would speak to him, or because they told him he could not be helped. He was being told that he would get exactly what he wanted, but he was not satisfied because it was not being given to him in the way that he expected. In this way, his faulty expectations for his healing to be done with flair caused him to walk away angry and ungrateful from a situation that should have left him filled with joy and thankfulness. It can be easy to read this passage and judge Naaman for his sinful desire to be healed in a prestigious way. However, all we have to do is apply this passage to events in our own lives to be convicted of the same tendency in our own hearts.
The same questioning, anger, and bitterness can be seen in the Christian who longs to move up in a company but resents the low level job he/she has to do in order to do so, or in the mother who wants to raise her children to be obedient, kind Christian adults but struggles to find the purpose in the small frustrating moments of discipline or repeated instruction, or in the student who wants to feel fulfilled in his or her life/future career but slacks off on the seemingly less important homework assignments. We all have things that we hope for and strive towards in this life, and sometimes, even when we truly believe God to be in control and have a purpose, we lose sight of the fact that our faith is proven in the small moments of life when no one is looking and when we receive no glory for following God. The worker who does his/her best even at the less rewarding low level job simply because it is the right thing to do and who puts his/her trust in the ultimate plan God has will probably get promoted and move up to a more fulfilling job. The mother who pushed through the seemingly endless days of raising and caring for children even in the hard moments of defiance and disorder will probably get to see those children grow into competent and believing adults. The Christian who pushes through the lows in the Christian walk and trusts God even when the end is not in sight will probably see the end to the trial and get to enjoy the highs that come after the lows.
However, the great thing about being a believer in the one true God is that even if none of those things happen, even if the worker does not get promoted, the mother does not see her children grow into great people, and the Christian never gets to see the other side of his/her struggle or trial; we still have God and the promise of a perfect eternity with Him. Therefore, our purpose and fulfillment is found in that reality and not in whatever reality we find ourselves in at the moment. When we are tempted like Naaman to grumble in frustration and confusion at the path God has put us on, we must remember that the Christian walk is lived mostly in the small moments. We do not need these majestic moments of awe and greatness in order to be healed. We simply need to trust in a God who has it all figured out and who takes great pleasure in our ordinary acts of faith.