Expectations are a good thing. Without them society would be doomed.
But expectations don’t always get met: perhaps you didn’t get the joy you prayed earnestly for. Maybe long-anticipated plans were cancelled when you had to pull out the cough remedies (again.) Maybe your children take turns waking you up at night and you can’t remember what it feels like to not be tired. Maybe the trials aren’t little things. Maybe they are large and looming.
Although expectations are a good thing, we need to be careful to have our expectations grounded in Christ. To remember that His sovereignty extends to the details of our lives. Then we can choose joy in the face of unmet expectations.
Joy despite unmet expectations
I have been blessed by a “cloud of witnesses” in my life that point me to Christ. Friends and family who show me trust and joy in the midst of trials. One of them is my brother’s beautiful bride, Amber.
On our most recent trip to see extended family, we dropped by Amber’s house. She was busily getting ready to fly out of town with my brother, but they had offered their home to a family in need of a place to stay while they left.
The house was spotless, she had cookies on the table and “Welcome” and “Rules of the House” notes on the table. [Rules like “God loves children. So do we. Everything in the house is replaceable. Let your kids be kids.”]
It was obvious she had poured hours into preparing for their arrival. Just before we left, my brother got a call saying the family didn’t want to come after all.
I watched Amber. Her face didn’t betray a trace of disappointment or being upset for all her “wasted time.” So I asked, “Aren’t you disappointed?”
“I wanted them to come, yes. But, Anna, I believe God is sovereign. He knows what is best,” she answered. She wasn’t just saying it because that’s what a good Christian should say. She believed it and was just acting on it. Now of course, company canceling is not a major, life-altering trial. But sometimes it’s the little wrinkles in my plans that frustrate me the most.
God is sovereign. I believe that. But sometimes I don’t act like I believe it.
God said He has “a wonderful plan for our lives,” and it’s easy to expect that to mean a decent job, a house, a car, and food on the table at least three times a day. After all, Jeremiah says, “I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you hope and a future.” (Jer. 29:11 ESV)
Unfortunately, this promise is made right in the middle of a prophecy of captivity. Seventy years of captivity.
God doesn’t promise His followers an easy life. He does pour out abundant blessings, but His wonderful plan for his followers often includes poverty, not a new Mercedes.
His wonderful plan for Mary was complete with a warning that “a sword would pierce [her] own heart.” (Luke 2:35) Yet she submissively welcomed His plan, knowing it would be painful. But also believing that it would give “hope and a future” to mankind.
Finding joy despite unmet expectations
None of our lives will carry the epic weight that Mary’s did, but we, like her, are still called to wait upon God and have our expectations satisfied in Him:
- To hold our plans with open hands
- To not expect a full night’s sleep, perfect health, a new house or for our laundry-list-of-Western-wants to be satisfied, but to expect God’s mercy to lead us on the right road.
- To expect trials and joy, knowing that He is sovereign over all.
When our expectations are grounded in Jesus, then we can find His joy despite unmet expectations, whether they’re little details of our day or huge disappointments.