The college student dreams of a day with no more term papers, no more tests, no more pop quizzes, and no more tuition payments. "Once I get my degree I'll have the world by the tail on a downhill pull." Then, reality sets in. Work becomes an every day all day event. No skipping out on work to "just hang out with friends." No more being able to sleep late every day. Our expectations may exceed our reality.
A couple gets married filled with expectations of what married life will be like. One envisions a quiet dinner by candlelight every night. One imagines frequent leisurely strolls along the beach holding hands as the sun slowly sinks into the horizon with regularity. One dreams of evenings filled with endless meaningful conversation. One fantasizes of constant and amazing sexual experiences ... every night. One imagines a bank account that never runs low on funds. Bills are always paid on time or in advance. Our expectations may exceed our reality.
Before the baby is born parent's expectations are plentiful. "Our baby will probably sleep through the night, potty train herself, and never speak a defiant word." "Our child will never throw a fit in the middle of the grocery store." "Our child will be healthy, good looking, and the smartest in the class." Our expectations may exceed our reality.
What was expected to be a long-term relationship ended another disappointment. No explanation. No real reason. It just ended. The relationship did not live up to our expectations.
The job we expected to take us to the top of the corporate ladder led to the destruction of our family and ruined our health. The career did not meet our expectations.
We invest our energy — our time, our hopes, our dreams, and our very selves — in what we believe will provide us with fulfillment and a meaningful life. Later we discover that we feel more alone and confused than before.
What does this tell us about expectations? Are there lessons we can learn?
First, try to love people and expect very little in return. Don't expect them to love you in return. Just love them. Don't expect a "Thank you!" Don't demand they respect you or honor you for your deeds. Don't expect to be praised for your good deed. Don't expect to hear from them years later telling you how much your gift of love meant to them. Just love them and expect very little in return.
Second, don't expect things to give meaning to your life. Things don't last. Stuff will wear-out. Life is not always fair, and we don't always get what we think we deserve. Good is not always rewarded. Bad will not always be punished.
Third, put your expectations in the Lord. The Psalmist said:
Give ear to my words, O Lord,
consider my sighing.
Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation (Psalm 5:1-3 NIV).
Fourth, let God surprise you. He may do more than we expect:
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV).
Be wise in your expectations. Don't set them too high. Don't keep them low to play it safe. Put your expectations in the One who can handle them. God expects us to lay our requests before Him, and He expects us to wait in expectation for Him to act.
I expect you will be pleased with the results.