“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.” – 1 Peter:1:3-5.
Society lives and breathes expectations. There is an expectation on children to act in certain ways, employers to treat staff in a particular manner, relationships to cater to people’s needs, and parents to love their children unconditionally. But expectations can be harmful to you, to others, and to the church.
There is a story of a married man who went to great lengths to plan a birthday party for his wife. He’d planned everything he knew she’d love so that when she arrived home she’d be wonderfully surprised. But when she arrived home she said, “I’ve had a horrible day. I’m not even hungry. I’m going to go take a bath.” The husband was angry, at least at first. Then he realized she just needed to unwind. She failed to live up to his expectations, but that isn’t her fault. The expectations were his; she had no obligation to fulfill them.
All of us had unrealistic expectations when we got married. In the same vein, we bring unrealistic expectations to church. To expect any church to always do everything right, and to minister perfectly to everyone all the time is not realistic. The church is filled with imperfect people so a group of imperfect people will never be able to create a perfect community. We also have expectations of God. It is easy to allow our unmet expectations of God to influence our willingness to surrender our lives to Him. And we can also place unrealistic expectations on those around us—family, friends, significant others, co-workers, the church, and so on.
But the reality is, people let us down and things don’t always work out the way that we have planned. Wherever there are expectations there will also be disappointments and our relationships will suffer because of unmet expectations. Sometimes it’s because we don’t meet expectations that others have placed on us. Regardless of the situation, we are called to do everything within our human capabilities to live at peace with every single person. (Romans 12:18)
Unmet expectations from those around us can be disheartening. But by letting them go, we leave room for God’s love and grace to be shown through us. We allow others to grow into the people God has created them to be, rather than who we expect them to be.
- How have others in your life disappointed you? What way would these relationships be different if you reacted in a loving manner? How would your expectations for, demands of, and disappointments with others change?