A friend commented to me recently, “We don’t even realize that we have expectations until they are not met!” I don’t know about you, but I am certainly finding this to be true of late.
This stressful season in our lives has caused me to reassess what kind of expectations have developed within me due to my circumstances, my family, my heritage, my culture and the various sub-cultures I am part of. In our imperfect state, we tend to place right expectations on the wrong things and the wrong people a lot of the time. We can also place wrong expectations on the right people quite frequently. How confusing!
Can we ever expect to sort out what we should expect from ourselves and from others in times of crisis? How many of my expectations are real and how many are unreal? How many are true and what is false within me? What are reasonable, realistic expectations and what expectations are in fact unreasonable and unrealistic? Again, the only secure and sure thing to do is to go back to the Source of Truth and see what Scripture says …
In the majority of biblical narratives we ascertain that something we can expect is that we will let each other and ourselves down frequently! We see a pattern emerge – disappointment and unmet expectations (that often lead to conflict and misunderstanding) are found everywhere in the lives of biblical characters – go check it out for yourself to see what I mean! So, the Bible indicates that disappointment and unmet expectations are part of human life in a fallen world and we can expect them to affect our personal, corporate and ministry worlds. I could finish at this point and just say, “Well just expect disappointment and get over it!” Or, “Toughen up princess!”
But the Bible does not end there and neither should we. Taking our lead from the biblical model, we do need to accept and work through difficult unmet expectations because we have all seen the results of people who do not. Yes, disappointment is the stuff of human life but instead of it leading to bitterness, disappointment can be used to strengthen us and change us for good. It can be used to help us love other imperfect people more – including ourselves! Disappointment can become something that refines us, rather that something that defines us.
Our dear friends Lizette and Bernie received a blow in life that they did not expect. The heartbreaking loss of precious Raqui to Sudden, Unexpected Death in Children was NOT what they expected. Yet in looking to God, Raqui’s parents have come to know their Saviour in a deep way. They never expected to be in this disappointing place but God has exceeded their expectations as they have turned to Him in their pain. Hence, they have not become bitter. God continues to use them in unexpected ways and I look forward to seeing how He is going to bring beauty from the ashes of their devastating loss as they travel on their unexpected path.
What about when we have been injured and disappointed not by an enemy or tragic event, but by a friend? King David wrote a song about this many years ago. You can read about it in Psalm 55. I think the betrayal of a friend – especially one you have prayed with and shared your dreams with – is a very hard burden to bear. It can break your heart, especially when this is a person who also made a life covenant of marriage with you. How does King David deal with it? There is no doubt from the strong language that he was in deep despair over whatever had happened. In verse 16 he declares that he will call on God. Not only that, but in verse 22 we see that he encourages us to give all our burdens to the Lord because He has promised that He will take care of us. The apostle Peter quotes from these words thousands of years later (1 Peter 5:7) and here I am a couple of thousand years later encouraging you to do the same! Let us once and for all cast those rotten disappointments away, and lay them at the cross of Christ where He alone can deal with them. “Lord, thank you that I can expect you to take them up, just as you have promised!” (Matthew 11:28-29)
Psalm 130:5 says, “I wait expectantly, trusting God to help, for He has promised!” Even in the midst of our deepest pain and confusion, God is indeed calling us to BE Expectant. Not expectant in our circumstances, not placing all our trust in others and not depending on our own resources but expectant in Him alone! I expect this is a hard call for many of us but this my friends is true hope that will one day give birth to all God has for us when the delivery date is right!
Songs to encourage you:
Hope of the World by Hillsong United
Cornerstone by Hillsong
Hope Will Lead Us On by Barlow Girl
A book to build you up:
The Hope Habit by Terry Law and Jim Gilbert