I was speaking with someone recently who had disappointments in life because he reached a point where he looked around with his wife and concluded that others were further ahead of him and therefore he should be further ahead in his ministry. They believed that they should have something right now and so manipulated the situation to get what they felt entitled to now rather than wait any longer.

As he was speaking, I thought of Ishmael who was a product of this very thinking. God promised Abraham and Sarah they would parent a nation. They waited patiently and then they concluded ‘it shoulda happened by now’ and then made it happen according to their own vision. What happened then proved to be a colossal failure with included pain and agony. Sarah gives her servant to her husband to sleep with (what?) who becomes pregnant leading Sarah to resent and ultimately mistreat both Hagar (her servant) and the new baby (who didn’t ask to be born into this mess).

The pain and agony we bring on ourselves because we conclude that ‘it shoulda happened by now’ can be intense. We feel entitled to what we believe we are promised now. I don’t believe God gave Abraham a specific date He would fulfill his promise to him. What pleased God was Abraham’s willingness to continue to believe in the promise even when it wasn’t fulfilled as expected. God did fulfill His promise and the timing was amazing. Abraham and Sarah did have a son (named Isaac) in their old age and a nation was born (the Jewish nation of Israel).

What are we to take from this? Wait, wait, wait. Catch yourself believing things like ‘it shoulda happened by now’. Are you in a position to really make that conclusion? There are great consequences to those conclusions we all live with all of the time. Expanding your business too quickly or buying a house too soon or retiring too young or even having a baby because you conclude NOW is the time.

In my business of counseling, it is not uncommon for someone to even put pressure on themselves to get better sooner than what it takes. The couple who expect changes to happen too quickly stop working on their marriage too quickly. The individual who expects to recover from an addiction too quickly relapses more often. The grieving person who believes they should ‘be over this by now’ doesn’t get over it and adds the pain of unfulfilled expectations to the pain of their loss.

Adjust your perspective. Imagine looking into the sun directly. It causes you to squint and gives you a headache and ultimately if you stare too long—blindness. Isn’t this ironic? When you stare into the light you go dark but if you turn your perspective to where the light shines, you see better. Get the picture? What are you focused on? What you don’t have but think you should have? That will lead to more Ishmaels—more pain and disillusionment. Focus instead on where you are at and what you do have that is good. Choose to trust God to get you where He plans for you to be at the time He thinks it should happen.

Written by Scott Hendrickson, MACP