A clear understanding or misunderstanding of expectations can make or break us in life.
We often fail to distinguish between God’s expectations and ours. I think much of this is due to our inability to distinguish between spirit and soul (Heb. 4:12). Our expectations are most often based on past experiences and successes and/or a wishful hope that things will turn out the way we have conceived and planned them in our minds (soul).
Sometimes this soulish thing works, and sometimes it doesn’t. If our expectations are high and certain, and they emanate from our own souls, and if the thing doesn’t work out, discouragement, despair and sometimes hopelessness — and even suicide for some — often follow. And even if we have a clear word from God, delays, detours and “things going south,” will kill the hope we once held so tightly in our grip. So much for human hope. On the other hand, a clear realization, grounded in our spirits, can save us a great deal of trouble. We can remain steadfast in trouble rather than coming apart at the seams. Jesus put it this way: “In your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:19).
Life is filled with people who have had grandiose expectations only to find themselves in the soup line of despair. “It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” we often hear. Face it, hard work and skill don’t necessarily provide a ticket to successful living, nor does prayer and “living right” guarantee a country garden in the shade. Today’s economy, an unexpected or inexplicable illness, job loss or an inheritance that somehow eluded us can spell emotional, financial and physical disaster.
Many people, and often Christians themselves, have somehow missed the point that this life doesn’t necessarily guarantee smooth sailing. Reality bites, no matter whose latest CD you bought to ensure “it” won’t happen. Present day faith teachers often fail to prepare people for worse case scenarios, but the Bible does because it wasn’t written just to please us. Hence, people are sometimes angry and disappointed in God. “Why God?” fills our thoughts and conversations.
I write this as “the ruling monarch of failed expectations,” so I can give you the guided tour into the land of depression, despair and hopelessness because of my misinterpretation of the Lord’s expectations, his timing and my willfulness and self-centeredness.
Clarifying His expectations and ours is indeed hard ground to plow for anyone – even those most sold out to the will of God. We expect victory, and defeat is waiting at the door. We prepare diligently for that new job and fall flat on our faces during the interview. We have “a word” that God is giving us a baby girl, and lo, and behold, bubba crawls out of the womb! We ask for “this cup to pass,” only to have to drink the whole thing.
I often wonder about those brethren or sisteren who know no defeat and are always mounting up on wings as eagles while we poor buzzards are meandering around on the ground. Truth is, in the world we shall have tribulation, and NO ONE gets through this without suffering! I recall the story of the famous Word of Faith preacher who secretly checked into a hospital because he didn’t want his followers to know his faith proclamation had failed, and God had surgery planned instead. Hmmm… bit of pride and deception there?
Jerry Lee Lewis sang, “There’s whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on.” If you haven’t experienced this yet, your turn will come. Hebrews 12:27-29 says the Lord’s shaking will shake everything that can be shaken! And this includes governments, business, cultures, ethnic groups, families, the church and us! The reason for this is to leave what can remain – things not seen like our faith and the kingdom. God sometimes allows things to fall to pieces, which don’t have His stamp of approval i.e. works built on sand, human endeavors but not born of the Spirit of God, and, yes, our expectations!
Human expectations can be filled with Eros (fleshly self-centeredness), often motivated by our own desires and the three uglies – acquire, possess and control. If you haven’t guessed it by now, human expectations need to go to the cross to be stripped of selfish ambition. In the vernacular, you need to let them die, baby! If we don’t do this, we’ll often fail to grow up and will continue with our roller coaster emotional responses.
The good news is found in the opposite of all this, HIS expectations, which is peace and rest, real hope and power. David said, “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope (expectation) comes from him” (Psa. 62:5). David, through many trials, found that real hope was found only in God Himself and not through his own view of what life was or is supposed to be. Abraham exemplified this best when God asked him to kill his own expectation – Issac – so faith could be tested. Father Abraham had an expectation based on the reality of God’s resurrection power. He got something in his spirit that God would raise up Issac — even if he sacrificed him! Whoa!
“Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. When everything was hopeless, Abraham believed anyway, deciding to live not on the basis of what he saw he couldn’t do but on what God said he would do” (Romans 4:18, The Message).
“Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead” (Hebrews 11:19, New Living Translation).
One of my favorite life verses is Proverbs 16:3 (Amplified). Notice how God can cause our thoughts (expectations) to be made to agree with His will, but we must roll them upon Him!
“Roll your works upon the Lord [commit and trust them wholly to Him; He will cause your thoughts to become agreeable to His will, and] so shall your plans be established and succeed.”
If we keep pushing for our agenda without realizing it’s not in His will — or at least the timing is wrong — we can be forever perplexed or worse bitter at God because He won’t give in to our petitions. The other side of this consideration is that of character building so real love (agape) can be found to endure. After all, this is what this whole trip is about (1 Cor. 13)!
The caveat here is that our ability to distinguish the difference between our expectations and real hope can be very costly and painful. Our inner being will scream “no fair, God!” while He works a deeper work of faith in us that based on a revelation of the Holy Spirit. “But God, that prophet said you would do this!” “Hey, Father, I confessed that scripture until my lips bled.” “Lord, I prayed my guts about this in faith, and you didn’t answer me!” The real truth is “faith formulas,” systematic and humanistic goals aren’t necessarily going to find favor in His bigger plans. We often forget the eternal purpose and work of God just might not include our hopes and dreams while we progressively “vaporize” on Planet Earth.
Real hope and expectation come from God. As I have tried to say here, that which is “manufactured” by soulish efforts may work for a while, but we’ll learn when stuff starts to hit the fan that only God’s hope, which is the anchor of the soul, will work. True revelation comes from God’s spirit to ours, and we would be very foolish indeed to waste our lives trusting in our own insights. Real hope offers us three things: joy, peace and power from His Holy Spirit:
“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing; that you may abound in hope, and in the power of the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 15:13).