When Expectations Crash with Reality
I’m learning about a different type of grief lately. This grief has to do with mourning a dream, idea or vision. Surely, I cannot be the only one who walks into situations or even seasons of life with a set of expectations. Some of these expectations may even stem from previous experiences. Being a creature who learns from experiences, I suppose I develop a set of heuristics to interpret what may come next.
We may have expectations of what one’s career will look like, what marriage will be like, and what parenting will entail. Perhaps we’re observers of life who have even taken note of what life is like for other people in similar situations to brace for life changes. What happens when our expectations are dashed? Perhaps the love of your life does things differently than your family of origin; perhaps it’s a big deal. We’re not talking about which way to place the toilet paper roll here, guys and gals. We’re talking serious things. Maybe it’s a legitimate need.
Maybe you thought you’d love being a stay-at-home mom but you realize you miss being at work. Maybe finances are dictating your circumstances more than you imagined. What happens when an illness strikes you, and it affects how you’re able to conduct your life? None of these situations is simple.
There’s plenty of literature out there about adjusting your expectations, living in the moment, and appreciating what is. All of that is great stuff. For me, it’s been very important to understand some of the emotions that I’ve had to go through. I wrote another post about how stuffing down your emotions doesn’t resolve anything since they’ll eventually pop up (potentially at an inopportune time). Grief and mourning a dream, what you hoped for and expected, can be valuable.
Biblically, the book of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is a time for everything. In Ecclesiastes 3:4, it says that there is “a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”. Cutting corners and skipping steps leads to a lack of completion. Philippians 1:6 says, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” The goal is that over the course of our lives, we will progress to wholeness.
When our expectations are dashed, what are some positive outcomes? Here is a non-exhaustive list:
1. Values Clarification. Expectations teach us something about what we value. Clarifying our values and how they relate to the people around and the situations in our lives only allows us to become stronger. We’re able to renegotiate boundaries, to extend and receive grace, and to grow.
2. The Lord Meets Needs. Psalm 34:18 says, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Whenever our hopes are dashed, He is there. When our misguided expectations demand from others what only He can do for us, we have the opportunity to place our hope in the right place. He’s able to meet needs we’re expecting from others. If course correction is needed, He will provide it because He loves us (Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:6).
3. Learning to Live Free of Perfection. Expectations can be about control. We can’t control everything. You can’t control someone else’s automobile crash from slowing down your travel time. Unfulfilled expectations can leave us miserable. Learning to live life also includes learning to release absolute, 100% control. It’s about learning to be joyful regardless of the circumstances.
4. Savoring Trust. Along with relinquishing perfectionism, there’s an element of embracing trust in the Lord. While you may find yourself the master of your own ship, remember that our God is able to control the winds and the waves. He also set the sun, moon, and stars in their place. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Many moons ago, I aspired to live in the south of France. I’m still state-side. While the Lord does grant us the desires of our hearts, like blessing me with a precious son, He also guides our steps. While we may not always understand His purposes, wisdom leads us to defer “Who-Knows-Best” titles to Him.
5. Continue the conversation…What would you add to this list? Please add to this discussion by filling out a comment.