All of us have a mental picture of what the ideal world should be like: a father that provides for the family, a mother that prioritizes her household, a husband and a wife with a baby, a career where colleagues respect you, a school that has no bully, a government free from corruption, a road with no traffic jam, streets without beggars. These good things, even when they are realistic, seem almost absurd. Emotions were invested, efforts were made, and chances were given yet nothing still made sense. Many times we wonder, “what could I have done differently?” But we can only do so much; the rest is outside our control.
Disappointments — they’re all around us. And the easiest way out of them is to set terribly low standards or have no expectations at all. This kind of response is no different from our relationship with God, especially when we reach that point of weariness in waiting, in fighting, in trying. That is the time when we question our hope (Proverbs 13:12). Sadly, when the answers do not satisfy our reason, our faith fades.
William Shakespeare said that “expectation is the root of all heartache.” Perhaps if we’re looking at the worldly view, he is right. Most people in your life will never live up to your expectations, even yourself will fail to meet your very own standards. But human expectations are far different from godly ones. The former is known to be a happiness killer but the latter is a reinforcer of true joy (Proverbs 10:28).
Faith provides a clear vision.
I recently learned from a mentor that successful people do same things twice — first, mentally and then, physically. Every conscious action was completed in thought before in actuality. Great things start from an unclouded vision, followed by a firm will to act.
For instance, let’s say an incoming freshman was given the liberty to decide what course to pursue in college. It’s beyond doubt that he will not take the entrance exam for accountancy if he sees himself as a future architect. Another example is whenever a dancer sees a stage, she obviously does not imagine herself singing there. The only scenario she could envision is herself swaying and skipping on the platform. The point is, you cannot believe one way and then act another.
Vision is critical because it clarifies your purpose and sets your direction towards it. It keeps you awake and expectant. In Hebrews 12:1-2, Paul gave us the vision for our faith — Jesus. His glory is our reward. Believers look forward (in other words, expect) to the day that Christ is the name that every knee bows down to. This vision, so clear to us that we can already paint the scene in our heads, gives believers the motivation to work, serve, rest and let God reign over their lives.
Faith gives a grand expectation.
Humans were not made by God to act like robots and simply do what He says. God gave us free will. Isn’t that great? We have the ability to judge, to have preferences, to decide. God wants us to desire some things, to have dreams and to expect from Him (Matthew 7:8-11). Faith itself is an expectation; it is hope (Hebrews 11:1). Even Paul had expectations (Philippians 1:20-21).
Many self-help books will tell you that the key to a disappointment-free life is to set low expectations. As logical as that sounds, having no expectations doesn’t spare you from the pain of disappointment, but only leads you to the pain of relying on false assurance from the world. Whether you’re establishing floor-low or ceiling-high expectations, both can become dangerous if you idolize your standards.
A godly expectation, even when missed, could lead us closer to God. The Bible gives us many accounts of people whose unmet expectations led them to a revelation. Abraham expected a child at a reasonable age (Genesis 15:3). He and Sarah were old when Isaac was born, but their trust in God grew while waiting. Martha expected Jesus to arrive before Lazarus’ death (John 11:21). She grieved four days, and her doubts disappeared at the resurrection of her brother. Paul expected the thorn to be removed from his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-8). He suffered many trials for Christ, but he was strengthened all the more by God’s grace. They all hoped that Christ would come through their situations and He did, though it did not happen the way they imagined.
Vision is critical because it clarifies your purpose and sets your direction towards it. It keeps you awake and expectant.
Faith strips away our self-centeredness.
Our personal agenda gets in the way of seeing God’s will. Most of us stop believing in His promises because, unconsciously, we anchor on the presumption of God’s grace and mercy (Proverbs 18:13). We say, “If God loves me, He will get me through this. If God cares for me, even if I commit this sin, He will forgive me. If God is real, He will grant my prayers and bless me.”
But what if God has a different plan? What if God doesn’t bless your intentions?
Presumption and expectation may seemingly share a similar definition. In the dictionary, presumption is “an idea that is taken to be true, and often used as the basis for other ideas, although it is not known for certain.” Meanwhile, expectation is “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.” Both denote a strong perception of a thing to be true.
Let’s also take a look at their etymology. Presume, in Latin praesumere, means to consume beforehand. Expect, in Latin expectare, means to wait, hope for. Presumptions dictate while expectations wait. Presumptions demand while expectations anticipate.
It’s hard to fight for faith when you feel weary. You keep trying, but it’s as if you’re always bound to fail. There are moments in my life too when I feel like God is withholding His blessings from me. But this is what I learned, that Jesus came not to fulfill our preferences but God’s purpose. And shouldn’t God’s delight be the ultimate desire of every believer?
God is not a killjoy rather, He is the true source of joy. We should look deep into our hearts and discern whether our desires are aligned with His character or not (Ephesians 5:10, Colossians 1:10, Romans 12:2). Our increasing knowledge of God ought to make us meek, not proud. So when we ask, we should ask humbly. Let us not take for granted our access to the throne of grace, but with unwavering faith, do everything in light of God’s wisdom (James 1:5). Petition your desires to God with the intention to see His beauty.
My expectation then, for myself and my fellow believers, is that we become as excited as we were when we first believed. Let us be as expectant as we were when we first heard the good news. Let us continue to hope, to hold the vision, to be confident that God brings His plan into completion (Joshua 21:45).