Managing Expectations

Expectations are at the center of relationships. And often it is unmet expectations that lead to the frustrations and complications of relationships. Regardless of your relationship status, married, single, or divorced, all of us deal with the management of expectations. What do you expect from your spouse? What should you expect from a potential spouse? We all enter into relationships expecting something from the other person, when that person lets us down we get offended, and if the let down is great enough, we often choose to end the relationship, rather than working through the issues in order to repair the problem. 

In the book “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” author Peter Scazzero suggest that the problem with most expectations is that they are: “Unconscious –we have expectations we’re not even aware of until someone disappoints us; Unrealistic –we may have illusions about others. For example, we think a spouse, a friend, or a pastor will be available at all times to meet our needs; Unspoken –we may have never told our spouse, friend, or employee what we expect, yet we are angry when our expectations are not met; Un-agreed upon –we may have had our own thoughts about what was expected, but it was never agreed upon by the other person.” 

Add to these our fallen sinful condition and you have a recipe for disaster. But the complications of human relationships are nothing compared to the complications we bring into our relationship with God. Jesus came to bridge that gap, so that we could better understand who God is, and what He is all about. The writer of Hebrews describes the Son of God like this; “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature…” (Hebrews 1:3) The good news is whatever our expectations may be of God, Jesus does not disappoint. 

Of course, this doesn’t keep people from being disappointed in God. I once had a friend tell me that he was still mad at God, because God had allowed his father to die of disease. My response to my friend was, “Get in line.” My point was that all of us have a reason to be mad at God. Because of the expectations that are handed down to us because of our denomination or parents, there are many un-written rules that govern our relationships with God. But quite often these are false expectations projected upon God. Expectations that attempt to make God other than who He is. In order for us to avoid these disappointments we should seek to know what God has promised, we find these promises in His word. 

God makes His will clear to us through His word. Often people will argue that the Bible is irrelevant to life, but I wonder how many people struggle in their human relationships because of an un-vented anger towards God. The source of a lot of this anger is a misunderstanding of what God intends for our lives, a misunderstanding because we refuse to allow His word to speak into our sources of pain and disappointment. 

Pastor Andy Stanley refers to all the moments of pain and disappointment in our lives as “Pivotal circumstances” or those moments when we can “pivot” towards God or away from God. What is amazing is to witness two people who face very similar circumstances, and yet respond in opposite directions. God gives us the gift of pain and suffering through circumstances to draw us closer to Him, sadly because of unrealistic or even false expectations of who God is supposed to be, we miss the opportunity to grow in our faith. 

The good news is that through the blessing of God’s word in our lives, and a correct view of the purposes behind our present circumstances, our expectations of God are more clearly defined. And as a result our relationship with Him is deepened and His name is more glorified.