Our lives are packed with expectations. Daniel Boorstin’s book, The Image, describes it well:
“We expect anything and everything. We expect the contradictory and impossible. We expect compact cars which are spacious; luxury cars which are economical. We expect o be rich and charitable, powerful and merciful, active and reflective, kind and competitive….” Perhaps this is one of the results of living in a consumer society. We run on the premise of obtaining something in the future that will make us look better, feel better, be better.
All too often I find expectations getting me into trouble. I scrutinize others from my viewpoint, often from my “love language,” and end up not only experiencing disappointment but harboring unfair criticism. The other alternative is to let go of all expectations and become a skeptic. But in giving up all expectations, we also relinquish hope.
The biblical perspective of dealing with expectations points us to the heart of the issue: where we base our expectations. In Matthew 20, Jesus relates the parable of the workers. Those who worked longer in the vineyard expected to be paid more than those who had worked fewer hours even though they were given exactly what they had agreed to. Further in the chapter, the mother of James and John approaches Jesus. She, too, is expecting more— she asks that her sons be elevated above the other disciples. Both situations bring mild rebuke from Jesus.
But there is a third story in the chapter that goes beyond expectation. Two blind men cry out to Jesus. They ask for mercy to receive their sight. Mercy means “undeserved.” These men knew they had no right to expect anything. Unlike the previous situations, any expectation they had was based not on their “merit,” but solely on the compassion of the “Lord, Son of David.” And they received….
So as I rethink expectations, I want to remember that I deserve nothing. From God or from man. But rather than discarding them altogether, when unmet expectations causes my soul to be “downcast,” I will listen to the psalmist: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him….”