I admit I was a bit lost at first when asked to teach on the subject of unmet expectations. But it wasn’t long before the suggestion took on shades of pure genius. I have wrestled with a few unmet expectations myself and I figured other women must have had similar struggles. It seemed like the perfect topic to tackle!
I couldn’t wait to dig into the Scriptures and see what God had to say about unmet expectations. As I thought, studied, and prayed, I made some encouraging and soul-searching discoveries. Before long, I felt as though I was an archeologist, unearthing expectations everywhere I dug. Some expectations were easy to find and identify, lying readily upon the surface of my heart, while others were buried deeper. My amateur digging soon exhumed different expectations I had about life, the Lord, my family, myself, the best route to the grocery store, and so on. Expectations were coming to light by the spadeful.
There’s nothing wrong with expectations in and of themselves. And it’s easy to see, when digging around in the soil of our hearts, that we have all kinds of thoughts and plans for our lives. All well and good. Expectations aren’t the problem. But when we come face to face with thwarted plans, dismantled hopes, and unanswered prayers, what then? Will we respond with gentle faith and trusting submission to God’s unfolding plans for our lives? Or will bitterness, anger, self-pity, fear, or depression emerge from the miry clay of unbelief?
We have so many thoughts about how things could be different, fine-tuned, tugged into place, fixed, or changed, that when things turn out differently than we anticipated, we may find our hearts waging quite a battle. It’s possible that the cantankerous beginnings of the contentious woman mentioned in Proverbs were the result of her unmet expectations. In fact, it’s more than possible that she grew into her peevish little self, when her life turned out differently than she thought it should. Before she even realized it, her husband preferred to live on their rooftop— in the desert— rather than stay in the same room with her continual nagging. If only she had sought counsel in God’s Word. If she had, she would have been known as the “contented woman” rather than the contentious one.
I doubt that you want to be known as a contentious woman. I sure don’t. And I’m not saying that experiencing unmet expectations automatically make us grumpy and difficult to live with, but the possibility is there. Thankfully, the key to responding well lies in the Word of God. And that’s where we’re headed, straight for the help that only God can provide for those times when we find it difficult to accept our circumstances as God-ordained and good.
When I was around eight or nine years old, I would walk to and from school. It probably wasn’t very far, maybe a few blocks, but it felt like a long way, especially on cold, wintry days in Idaho, when the wind would sting my cheeks and rush right through my jacket. Yet my little journey became bearable when I would imagine I was a pioneer girl, trudging across the prairie, seeking help for Ma and Pa, who lay sick at home in our sod house. Then the walk home from school became an adventure, instead of something to dread.
So, here’s my proposal. Will you go on a pioneer-girl journey with me? As we study God’s Word together, we’ll discover that, though life may turn out differently than we expected, God always intends our good. We’ll look at unmet expectations from a biblical perspective, consider ways we’ve engaged in wrong thinking, repent of sinful responses, and look to the Scriptures to provide the sure footing we need to continue our trek. As we do so, we’ll gain a deeper and better understanding of the Lord and His perfect ways. Just like the pioneers, who were forever changed by their expedition west, we too will be changed through the study of God’s Word.
You may well be thinking, “Wait, wait. Hold it. I don’t want to do the pioneer-girl thing! I don’t have a problem with expectations. They’re not something I struggle with.” Don’t worry. You don’t have to put on a bonnet just yet, but I’d love to have you join me in the adventure, just the same. As we get underway, you may discover— as I did— areas of sinful struggle stemming from unmet expectations. It’s my hope and prayer that, as we press on together, we’ll gain encouragement and strength from the Lord Himself to respond with obedient faith and growing love for His faithful work in our lives.
Let’s embark on a journey together, a journey of growth, discovery, and change. I can’t guarantee it will be easy; real heart-growth rarely is. It is my hope that you’re not the kind to give up easily and my prayer that your love for the Lord will drive you to discover how you can give Him the most honor and glory possible, no matter what your circumstances. Are you ready?
Excerpted from Unmet Expectations: Reshaping Our Thinking in Disappointments, Trials, and Delays by Lisa Hughes, now available to order from Shepherd Press.