30. How To Manage Expectations

by Oct 16, 20232023

So, what did you expect? Great question, and one I don’t believe is asked enough. I fear it’s properly answered even less! I imagine we “feel” the question – or at least we feel the sting of unmet expectations. Yet a common response is to squash our disappointments, put our head down, and press forward. Perhaps still seeking the fulfillment of expectations not even identified or defined. 

Our expectations are expressions of how we think life should work. They define how we think we should be treated. In short, they are our theology of life. And as we’ve discussed in prior episodes, our personal “theology of life” is formed by our beliefs and values. Thus, before we can identify and define our expectations, we must understand what we really believe. 

How Theology Influences Expectations

According to Webster’s Dictionary, theology includes the study of God and of God’s relation to the world. This definition supports asking ourselves two questions to help define our beliefs:

  1. What do I believe about God? 
  2. How does that belief affect my expectations? 

Since I’m asking a lot of questions, it’s only fair to share some of my own persuasions. To begin, I don’t believe I’m entitled to or owed anything! Nor do I believe my every attempt at accomplishing something will end in getting what I hope for.  In the book of Job, we see a man who had everything a person could desire or achieve.  Yet when the Lord allowed it all to be taken away, Job’s response in Job 1:21, was “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” I believe THIS is a foundation that establishes an accurate expectation. God is sovereign, and in His providence, determines all that will touch our lives – ALL! 

I DO believe God is good and that knowing Him allows me to know His love, His forgiveness, and His presence in my life. It also allows me to experience joy and fulfillment as I seek to obey and please Him.  It is THIS that can allow for the response found in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 that instructs us to “give thanks in all circumstances”  – whether we personally define it as good or bad. 

Realistic Expectations and God’s Sovereignty

Does it surprise you to read that I expect trouble? This expectation is not because I’m a negative person or lack faith. Instead, I expect trouble because Scripture informs me it is part of living life in this broken world (John 16:33). I’m not perfect, nor are my wife, children, or grandchildren. Neither are the circumstances of my life. So, what do I expect?

It troubles me to hear some express what I recognize as an inaccurate description of the Bible’s promises. Yes, God gives amazing promises and blessings too numerous to count. And we do not escape the troubles of life because we are His children. As silly as this may sound, rabbits eat our plants and flowers too! Believers in Jesus get flat tires!

More seriously, we do become sick, get hurt, and suffer alongside the rest of creation. And amidst it ALL, God is sovereign! He measures out our life, giving us a mixture of experiences in keeping with His wisdom and in line with His perfect will.

What We Can Expect

So, what DO we get? We receive God Himself! He promises to walk with us through every encounter of disappointment. The most understanding and loving Savior of the world is always by our side.  We find this promise spoken by Jesus Himself in Matthew 28:20, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” He comforts and strengthens us and teaches us how to trust Him. And through it all, he allows us to bring glory to God in and through our deepest griefs and most difficult struggles.

THAT is my expectation and I pray I will always yield my hopes and dreams to His loving care.  Will you expect the same? None of us will get the perfect life, but ALL of us can receive His perfect love.