4 Ways to Respond to Unmet Expectations
Since April 18, 1980, I have made my expectations known. As a tiny, six pound baby I expected my mom to respond to my every whim. As a two-year-old, I threw tantrums when I didn’t get my way. I was certainly the boss as a toddler. I really like things the way that I like them! Later in life, I found ways to ensure that my expectations were met. Choose the right friends, get the right car, have the right job, the best clothes. Expectations are a part of who we are. Shaped somewhat by society, but also by what we believe we deserve.
I expected to be married. I expected to be a mom. I expected to own a home. I expected to be happy every day. I expected to have everything that I want.
We rarely consider that our list of expectations are not necessarily what God has dreamed up for us. Does God want us to be satisfied in life? YES. Does God want us to feel like all of OUR expectations have been met in life? NO. God never promised me a husband. He never promised that I would be a mom. He never even promised that I would be blissfully happy every day of my life. In fact, His Word is clear that life will bring trials. Expect those to come.
So where do these lofty- and perhaps unrealistic- expectations come from?
Our mental checklist of the way “things should be” is influenced directly by Satan himself. Ever since the Garden of Eden Satan has been working to get God’s people to doubt that God is capable. The serpent says to Eve in Genesis chapter 3: “Did God actually say you shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” Satan does his best to discredit God at any available opportunity. When we begin to believe that God owes us something- we fall to Satan’s deceit.
Eve ate of the tree because it was “a delight to her eyes”. We see things- we want them. We take them, or we make them happen. It’s in our sinful nature to go right ahead and pass God by to fulfill our expectations. It’s in our sinful nature to expect to BE God.
One day I realized that God was going to allow my husband to leave forever. One day I realized that I was going to foreclose on my home. One day I realized that being divorced would always be a part of my identity. One day I realized that I wasn't going to be rich or have every single thing I wanted.
None of these moments were found on the top 10 list of my life expectations. Some days I just shake my head and wonder how I got here. I did everything “right”. I went to Christian college, married the Bible major, served dutifully as the pastor’s wife, and almost never complained about my life. Yet I ended up divorced, and my life is nothing like I planned.
So what does God expect from ME? How does he expect ME to respond to my dashed hopes and shattered dreams? To recover from all of my unfulfilled- often selfish- expectations?
1. RESPOND OPENLY: After Adam and Eve ate of the fruit in Genesis 3, God doesn’t turn his back on them. They seek to follow their own plans. To go their own way and meet their own expectations. But GOD finds them. He says, where are you? God expects the truth. He expects you to be open and honest with Him so that you can enjoy an open fellowship. Don’t be afraid to tell God how you really feel. Are you angry? Tell Him. Disappointed? TELL HIM. He already knows how you feel! You can’t take God by surprise. Come to him openly and pour out your complaints before Him in an effort to draw near to His healing hand.
2. RESPOND FAITHFULLY: In 1 Kings 19, Elijah (God’s chosen servant) asks God to let him die. Up until this point, God has faithfully taken care of Elijah. In 1 Kings 17 God commands ravens to feed him. Later, God provides a never-ending supply of food for Elijah, the widow, and her son. In spite of all of God’s obvious faithfulness, by chapter 19 Elijah has completely lost faith. His expectations have not been met. He believed that God was done using him because it didn’t look the way he thought it would. He was threatened by Jezebel’s desire to have him killed and didn’t believe that God had a plan- even in that. Elijah runs to a cave, and just like with Adam and Eve, God follows him there and says “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9) Thankfully God reminds Elijah that He still has plans for him. Elijah chooses to obey God faithfully once again. God desires our faithfulness. To see His plan in ALL things- to BELIEVE that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
3. RESPOND HOPEFULLY: When we mourn the loss of our expected life, we tend to lose every shred of hope the way that Elijah did. We long for Heaven where we know that God will wipe away our tears. But that’s not what God has for us at this present time. Heaven is our ultimate hope and because we know God has built a place for us there, that should cause us to hope here on Earth even in the midst of unmet expectations. God promised his people who had been exiled by Nebuchadnezzar that even they would have a hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11- For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Even if we don’t fully realize the magnitude of that hope here on earth, we know that God’s prepared place will exceed any expectations that we have ever imagined.
4. RESPOND PEACEFULLY: Every time my worldly expectations aren’t met I pout like a five year old. I can just hear the teacher voice in my head saying, knock it off. But I can’t. I pout. I protest. I resist God’s clear leading because I want to be stubborn and do things MY way. This type of rebellion is anything but peaceful. It’s physically and emotionally draining to fight God when you know His way is best. You know in your heart if you would just let go and let God have His way that you could be somewhat content with what He has. But somehow you just keep hanging on- resisting peace like a small baby that won’t fall asleep. Fight it. Push back against it. OR just give God the rule and let the PEACE set in!
John 16:33- I have said these things to you, that in ME you might have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
God has known all along that we would be in this place right now. A tough place. A place with unmet expectations. He knew we would have a choice to make. How will we respond? What does God expect from me- His daughter? Just like any parent, God expects obedience. Trust. To know that He has things all under control. To sit back and say, “God, I know you’ve got this.”
Psalm 139:16 elaborates on how well God knows us. He knows the words on our tongue before we know them. He knows our thoughts that we haven’t even thought yet.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Trust God. He knows ALL of our days before they even exist. He can handle this imposter life, or set of unexpected circumstances that have come your way. Let Him show you the power of His gentle care and His ultimate plan. Expect God's best.