There are two opposing realities that every Christian will experience. On the one hand, we feel the joy of knowing God, and knowing that He satisfies our deepest hunger and thirst. Yet on the other hand, He will not always meet our expectations or fulfill what we thought were our truest desires. In this relationship, He does not conform to our will, but rather we conform to His. In truth, it’s not always comfortable. We are eternally satisfied to the core by God, and yet we are sometimes temporarily uncomfortable and even pained or confused when our feeble expectations meet His vast reality.

Large crowds often followed Jesus because of the miracles He performed, especially His healing the sick. The gospel of John records that when He multiplied food to feed thousands in an uninhabited place, the crowds even became convinced He was the Prophet they’d been waiting for, the Messiah and King to save Israel. In an attempt to make Jesus conform to their expectations, the crowds prepared to take Him by force and crown Him king. At that moment, Jesus withdrew from them, because as they clamored for the fulfillment of their expectations, they missed what He was really offering, something infinitely better than what they thought He’d come to do for them.

When the crowds found Jesus, He told them the truth—that they only wanted Him because he filled their bellies with bread. When He told them that He is the living bread from heaven, and that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood, many of these disciples “turned back and no longer walked with him.” (John 6:66) Jesus would not settle for anything less than the hearts of the people, because feeding their mouths and delivering them from Roman occupation would have done nothing for their perishing souls. He loved them far too much to give them anything other than Himself—the true and living God.

God loves you too much to leave you feeling comfortable—to always give you what you think you want. He has his eyes set on giving you Himself, which necessarily means surprising you. The God of our imagination is perfectly predictable, offering no surprises, but the God of reality is more glorious than the highest realms our imaginations can reach. Who would have imagined that Jesus was promising to have his body broken and his blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins when he said “…whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life?” (John 6:54a)

The next time God subverts your expectations, remember that behind every painful truth in Scripture, every gut-wrenching life circumstance, is a promise—a promise that God will not settle to tell you what you think you want to hear or give you what you in your limited wisdom think you need; no, He will continue to satisfy you by giving you nothing less than Himself. What else could you want but the loving God who desires to forgive us and give Himself to us? When the journey of discipleship feels too weighty, and you think, I didn’t sign up for this, consider that question.

Near the end of the story in John 6, the deserted Messiah gives His closest followers a chance to leave too. Peter responds with the childlike wisdom of a man whom the Holy Spirit has shown something that can’t be unseen—that there is no satisfaction for our souls outside Jesus.

“So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’” (John 6:67-69)

To whom shall we go?