What happens when God doesn’t meet your relationship expectations?
If you’ve been single for any amount of time, then you’ve probably had to face this question before. When we were younger, many of us bought into the belief that God had a special person predestined for us, and we would inevitably meet them and fall in love by a certain age. But by now, many of us have come to realize that that’s not always how it happens.
As we get older, we continue to form hopes and expectations every time we decide to try again or begin seeking out a new relationship. We may try to go into things with an open mind, but on some level the expectations are always there. We convince ourselves that this time will be different from all the other times. Maybe we even have good reasons for it. Maybe the other person has actually initiated things and shown some interest this time, giving us more hope than usual. Maybe we’ve even seen some special signals or unique happenings that we’ve interpreted as positive signs from God.
Maybe this time it will really work.
But even all of those things don’t really guarantee a relationship’s success. So what do we do when everything we thought was going to happen doesn’t work out after all, and we face disappointment yet again?
1. Move on peaceably.
When this happens to you, the first thing to do is to move on, as quickly and cleanly as possible. Don’t get bogged down or tempted to wallow in the mire of your latest relationship disappointment. If you do, you won’t be ready for whatever comes next.
However, this is not to say that you cut off all your ties with the other person and just walk away, acting like you’re not hurt at all. Rather, do everything in your power to resolve your conflicts or misunderstandings. Be mature and talk things out with the other person. Actively seek peace, closure and continued fellowship if at all possible. Give and accept forgiveness. God says “blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9) and tells us to live peaceably with others (Romans 12:18). When one relationship doesn’t work out, first come to peace with the other person, with yourself and with all parties involved. Then you can move on to bigger and better things.
2. Remember that God is faithful.
If we expect things to work out a certain way, or even expect God to do something particular for us, then we may be disappointed when that doesn’t happen. We need to remember that God is faithful and that He has not failed to deliver anything that He has promised us.
Contrary to what some may believe, God’s Word does not promise a happy marriage for every Christian. Even if He has that for you someday, in most cases He doesn’t give us a specific timetable or a flashing neon sign with your future partner’s name. Just because things haven’t worked out for you this time doesn’t mean that God or His plans have failed in any way. Even if what you thought was God’s will doesn’t come to pass, God still has a good plan.
In The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis, Puddleglum at one point remarks that “Aslan didn’t tell Pole what would happen. He only told her what to do.” In the same way, God tells us how we should live, but not always what will happen each step of the way. Our job is just to follow and do our part to live well.
3. Don’t lose hope.
This is a tough one for me, or for anyone who’s faced rejection and disappointment more than a few times. But it’s essential. If we don’t have hope for the future, then we don’t really have any reason to keep trying to make it through life.
1 Corinthians 13:7 tells us that “love hopes all things.” If your relationship didn’t work out this time around, then you can have genuine hope that God has something better in mind for you. That may be a different relationship eventually. Or it may be something else — a job, a ministry, another opportunity that God has prepared for your life. Again, we don’t know the specifics. But if we know who we’re placing our faith in, then we can have legitimate and well-placed confidence that things really aren’t as bad as they may seem for a time.
All of us will encounter relationship disappointment at some time or another. But if we seek peace, have faith and keep hope, then it’s never the end of the story.