Monday, December 3, 2012


We all have expectations. Charles Dickens even wrote a novel on the subject which he titled Great Expectations. That novel was about the expectations of a young boy and his hope of achieving something greater in life.

There are ordinary expectations that we all have such as, turning on a light switch and expecting that there will be light. If someone sits in a chair, there is a expectation to believe it will hold that person up. Or you might have an expectation that someone will remember your birthday. Those are all reasonable expectations. In other words, you have every reason to believe that these things will come to pass barring any unforeseen circumstance. Light bulbs occasionally burn out, chairs sometimes break, and people may forget your birthday. But, you can be pretty optimistic that all of these expectations will be met.

Then there is something called False Expectations. I did a little Internet research on this phrase to see what would come up. I found a few random definitions:
Expecting more than you will actually get. 
Unrealistic expectations.

A few examples of unrealistic or false expectations might be expecting mustard to come out of a catsup bottle, having a toddler who will never get messy, or that the Chicago Cubs might actually win a World Series. (Okay, just injecting a little good-natured humor here.) Having these types of expectations will set someone up for disappointment.

Interestingly, when I was researching this topic, I came across a curious acronym:

False Expectations About Reality = FEAR.

I haven't had time to ponder this acronym, but I suppose false expectations could indeed produce fear in addition to disappointment.

Finally, there are Unmet Expectations. In my opinion, these fall somewhere between realistic and false expectations. They are the type of expectations that are often realistic but remain unfulfilled. Examples of this type of expectation would be the hope of landing a job after months of searching, the hope of healing after an illness, or the hope of marriage or family.

From a spiritual standpoint, these false and/or unmet expectations can produce...
     storms (inner turmoil)
          faith that wavers

This especially happens when we put all our hopes and dreams into a particular outcome, praying over something and not seeing any results. Putting all our hopes into a particular outcome like this can cause faith to waver. When we don't see the answer we are expecting, it throws us off kilter.

I like this quote from Cheri Hill, author of Waiting On God. "Our false expectations can create a storm in and of itself. When life doesn't happen just as we think it should, the winds start roaring and the storm clouds look ferocious. Our faith can begin to fail amidst the overwhelming atmosphere of doubt and despair."

There are a few problems with this type of scenario.
  1. Our hopes should never be pinned on a particular outcome. Our hope should always be directed to the Lord. That doesn't mean we can't hope for or pray for something to come to pass, but ultimately we must remember God is sovereign. This is presuming that what's being hoped for is something that is not against biblical principles.
  2. We must trust God with our hopes and expectations even to the point of surrendering them. This is NOT easy to do. But this is a place where God wants us to be--a place of rest and trust in Him. It's also a place where He wants to teach us and grow our faith.
I wish I could say that I have this all figured out, but the truth is I struggle with these issues. I am in good company, though. The Apostle Paul asked the Lord to remove his thorn in the flesh many times but never had that prayer answered. He did learn to accept it. David was anointed King and then had to run for his life for more than ten years. The Psalms are full of his prayers asking for God's help. After being anointed King, one would have a realistic expectation that being hunted down was not part of that plan--right?

It all seems to serve a greater purpose than we can understand. Even in the unmet expectations, God can have a purpose that we may not understand this side of heaven. That takes us back to God's sovereignty. God's able to see the whole enchilada. Whereas we can only see situations from our little microscope. We just have to continually pray and ask God to show us if our expectations are realistic, then take a deep breath and trust God with all our expectations.

Have you struggled with this issue? What has helped you?

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