Life Lessons on Expectations

Thank you to those who have been following Good Word Project since we launched in January. It’s been truly amazing to see how God has given each of our four writers different perspectives on the same word each month. We pray our work blesses you and helps us all to dive deeper into the meaning and power of words in our lives.

This month, we will be exploring the word, EXPECTATION. It’s a great word, right? Because we ALL have them!

As I reflect on this word, I can also see how my perspective has shifted throughout my life thus far. When I was very young, I recall my expectations matching up with my dreams. It was youthful optimism combined with a whole lot of marketing messages and fairy tales that made me believe all my dreams could come true. My expectation of what was yet to come in my life didn’t include much, if any, hardship or conflict. We’re talking rainbows, unicorns and princess stories all the way; not reality and not setting myself up with a reasonable life expectation…

As I matured, graduated from college and began life as a young adult, my expectation was a little more realistic, although very much tied to control. My control. Over pretty much every aspect of my life. (So, actually, maybe not all that realistic.) I had gotten very good grades in school and was met with quick success after college, so I *thought* I had it all together and could steer the rest of my life to continue along this lovely lane I was traveling. Again, my goals (and expectations) were tied to success – financial, career, marriage – and, of course, not to ANY failures, slow-downs or detours. I had been smart enough to get myself here; it only made perfect sense that I could get myself there. With plenty of research, thought and hard work, I just knew I could turn all my expectations into realities…

Now, as I’m in this life stage of more seasoned adulthood, I’ve thankfully shifted my mindset again. Through time, experience and much grace, I’ve learned three important lessons:

1: Our Hearts Can’t Be Trusted

Dreams are our heart’s wishes (Cinderella even sings this,) but hearts are not always the best guide in life. Jeremiah 17:9 says The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Our hearts are not trustworthy and often leads us in wrong directions that might not be wise or according to God’s plans for us. Jeremiah even calls our hearts sick. Desperately sick! Likewise, Proverbs 3:5-6 encourages us to trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. It doesn’t say to trust in our hearts, but in HIM, so that HE can guide and direct us in HIS ways. If we submit our hearts to him, he will fill our hearts in ways we could never even imagine on our own.

2: God Knows WAY More

Not only am I NOT in control (no matter how hard I try,) I also don’t see the whole picture in the same way God does. What I think is best – even after lots of research and contemplation may not actually be best. In essence, I surely don’t know it all. HA! Most importantly, any truly smart decision I make still lacks the perspective that God has. He knows how everything works together and turns out in the end. I don’t. It’s as simple as that. Omniscience is His, so it makes the smartest sense to seek His will and guidance, versus my own. I couldn’t possibly know better, so my desire to control things, versus trusting God with them is totally ridiculous and almost laughable when put into this perspective.

3: His Ways Are Not Our Ways

Not only does God know more and have better perspective, He also thinks differently (or maybe it just seems that way, because He is working from the aforementioned place of knowing and seeing it all!)

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

God Himself tells us that our minds don’t process things the same way, so we should expect his approach to look differently as well. He even sweetly and assuringly goes on to explain that his ways and thoughts are not only different, but also infinitely better than ours. I love the visual of the gap he gives us between the comparison: the space between the heavens and earth. Translation: it’s NOT a small gap. We actually can’t even realistically compare the way our limited human minds work to the way the Creator of the universe can ponder, evaluate and take action.

Now, as I continue to experience life, I try to hold expectation much more loosely. Thankfully, I can do so with an understanding that my feelings, thoughts and perspectives are not as trustworthy as my hope and faith in the Lord. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. I might not always see exactly what God is doing in a particular moment. In some cases, it’s taken years for me to see redemption and blessed sweetness come out of circumstances I didn’t understand. In other cases, I’m still waiting…but I can do so with faith that the story is still being written. It’s not over yet, and God is still working in a way that He can see and understand, even if I can’t.

Although we live in a fallen world, and our lives are sure to have trouble, we can still have a confident expectation through faith in Christ.

 For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. (Hebrews 3:14)

We are co-heirs with Christ; children of God who will share in his glory. Can you even imagine? We can share in ALL that belongs to Christ; all of God’s GLORY. That, my friends, is our expectation. That is what the Lord has in store for us!

So, as we make plans and have expectations for life, we can rest assured that although it might not make sense in our minds, it’s a process that God is working in us. We can have both faith and hope that he is transforming us for our good and his glory and that ultimately, if we simply hold fast and tight to him, we will receive an inheritance.

In the end, all the dreaming I did as a little girl can’t even compare. I have a hope and expectation that God will deliver on his promises, and what he has for me is even better than any fairytale story.

“But now, Lord, what do I look for?
    My hope is in you. (Psalm 39:7)

Will you pray with me?

Lord, thank you that we can have hope in you. Please help us feel your peaceful presence when things don’t make sense in our minds. Grant us patience and perseverance as we wait in great expectation of what you’re doing in our lives, and help us always to keep an eye on the ultimate expectation of faith: living together in your fullness of glory. Thank you that you love us so much that you made that possible through your Son, Jesus. It’s in His name that we ask and believe. Amen.

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