“I hope so!” All of us say this at various points throughout our lives. We hope that we land a job that pays our bills and includes some fulfillment and pleasure. We hope that we can stay with our workout routine or eating plan. We hope that our kids make good choices. We hope that we get everything done today that needs to be accomplished.
We all have hopes and expectations, and it’s nice when they come to fruition, but that doesn’t always happen.
In Proverbs 13:12, it says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” I suspect that your life has been a combination of expectations that have been fulfilled and hopes that haven’t happened. While we love to revel and celebrate with satisfied hopes, what are some constructive ways to navigate life when our expectations don’t get met or resolved?
Here are three strategies that might be helpful:
1 – Evaluate your expectations. Sometimes we want our expectations to get fulfilled in specific contexts or through a method that we deem to be effective. We have a plan in mind that we think will achieve our goal. It’s important to think about this because of some conversations I’ve had with God about my expectations and associated disappointments. Very often, I’ve heard God reply to my distraught emotions, “Sarah, what did you want or hope for? Were you more focused on the method or the actual outcome?” These words cause me to reflect and consider my expectations because sometimes, what I hope for gets achieved but not in the way that I had anticipated.
Additionally, there have been times when I’ve evaluated my hopes after some time, and I’ve concluded that what I hoped for wasn’t really in my best interest. There have even been some occasions when I’ve thanked God for not giving me what I had hoped and prayed for!
2 – Is persistence needed for your expectation? Sometimes we need to endure and continue to put our shoulder to the plow, deciding not to quit in the midst of disappointment. This is really important because disappointment can be toxic to our souls and undermine the growth and development of our persistence muscle. In the endurance marathon, it helps me to remember Jesus’ words in Luke 21:19, “By your patience possess your souls” (NIV).
While there’s much to be said for being persistent, along with cute cliches and clever quips, I would caution us to seek God for discernment with this strategy. This is important because sometimes God has different goals and destinations for us, such that being persistent with our agenda might leave us battered, bruised, disillusioned, delusional and defeated.
3 – What’s your focal point? To piggyback on the discernment essential, I would strongly encourage you to pause and inventory your focus. For myself, I have found that when I chase a goal and hone my focus to laser precision on that goal, it can be really easy for me to downgrade my attention and focus on God. When this happens, no amount of achievement or fulfilled expectations will truly satisfy nor slake my soul’s appetite or thirst. More money, more success, more accomplishments, more accolades, more prestige, more promotions, . . . all become a chasing after the wind and an elusive mirage. This is all the more true when we think about Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”
If you find yourself on the endless gerbil wheel, pursuing accolades, success, validation, . . . etc., perhaps it’s time to pause and reassess what your soul truly desires. I’m convinced that God wants us to live productive and fulfilling lives, so let’s be committed to looking at the disappointments in life to grow, learn and flourish!