As mentioned in Part 1 of this topic, despite the depravity of the human heart, we tend to go on heaping expectations on each other. And these expectations often go unmet, and we respond with shock, bitterness, anger, etc. about practically everything.
Why do we do this? I think the answer can be seen in two main areas.
1.) We don’t understand the severity of our own sin. It’s much easier to look at the sin of those around us than to deal with the habitual and/or hidden sin in our own hearts.
2.) Our expectations are misplaced. This is a result of selfishness. We are so focused with the temporary surrounding us that we have misplaced our expectations that should only be directed vertically.
So what do we do?
We need to replace our expectations in horizontal relationships with a biblical hope in our vertical relationship with Christ alone.
When I began to look up the use of the word “expectation” in scripture, it is often used in a negative sense to describe the wicked. By contrast, the word hope is used to describe the righteous.
“The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish” (Proverbs 10:28).
“The desire of the righteous ends only in good, the expectation of the wicked in wrath” (Proverbs 11:23).
Define biblical hope: the confident expectation of what God has promised and its strength is in His faithfulness.
See the difference? When we expect people to fulfill our expectations, even expectations that they will keep what they promise to us, we are often placing a weight on them that the human being cannot bear.
But when we instead keep our expectations on God and what he has promised, we will not be disappointed.
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Do you see the common themes in these verses that are found in so many other places in scripture? When we align our hearts with the Lord’s will and desire, we experience joy, peace and gladness, as well as direction for the path we should walk. How sweet of a promise is that!
Now, it’s worth mentioning here that hope in God does not mean hope that he will do everything we want him to do, but instead it’s a hope that he will do what he has promised to do. Sometimes there’s a difference, especially when we move away from his presence and focus on idols rather than on him.
But if we are holding to his promises, we can be confident that He is faithful and will do what he says. He will accomplish his purposes. He will move for His glory and our good – always!
So how do we live in light of this? In everything!
Your husband doesn’t come home from work when he said he would, or when you expected. So what? Rather than wallowing in self-pity because you have to manage your home (ahem, the duty given you by God) for longer than you expected before getting some relief, instead – Praise God for a hard-working spouse that bears a tremendous weight, and let the changed circumstances be an opportunity for you to pray for wisdom and strength for your husband as he bears it.
Your children don’t obey and respect you when you ask them to do something? So what? Rather than gathering up all your wrath to pour out onto them (which, by the way, is usually not the righteous anger of God like we tend to claim, but selfish, human malice), instead – Praise God that you have another opportunity to discipline them in love, with kindness. You have another opportunity to open scripture with them and show them how their obedience to you is obedience to God and brings him glory – and this is what they were designed to do!
All you wanted was a close friend, like it seems like so many others have – someone to hang out with often, text frequently with inside jokes, etc. But the person you thought to be this for you hasn’t lived up to what you were hoping for. Is it wrong that you want community? Is it wrong that you want to connect with others in real life versus the facade of friendship that social media promises? So what? Instead of wallowing in self-pity and listing all the ways others have failed you, praise God that his friendship is perfect, and seek to reflect him to those around you by serving others, not so that you will be served, but so that you can love others the way God commands us to love, with a desire to serve him, rather than in order to receive something in return. God’s presence and friendship is enough and is sufficient, and when we look elsewhere for what we can only find in him, we will always be disappointed. Let’s stop asking for less, and see what we’ve been given as good and perfect and far more than we deserve.
So when those horizontal relationships around us fail us and don’t meet our expectations, when we begin the feelings of bitterness and frustration, we need to catch ourselves. We pause, we look upward, we remember the promises of God that will never fail, and we redirect our expectations into hope.
“Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:7).