“Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall enjoy everything.”
Saint Francis of Assisi
In 1981 I asked a friend who had just completed his medical residency for any tips on surviving John’s upcoming surgical internship. Without hesitation he said, “Have no expectations.” He went on to describe the possible scenario of John calling to say he was heading home, only to be paged right back to the ER. That one piece of advice has not only helped me on numerous occasions when John was on call and our plans were thwarted, but throughout all of life.
I have discovered the higher my expectation is of something, the greater the possibility of disappointment. Likewise, the lower my expectation, the greater possibility of being pleasantly surprised. You may have noticed when people emphasize how great a movie is and by the time you see it, your expectations are so high off the chart, you leave the theatre with a level of disappointment. On the other hand, if you go see a movie you haven’t heard much about and have little expectations of it, you may walk out of the theatre pleasantly surprised.
Kay Arthur in her book, “As Silver Refined,” dissects disappointment. “Disappointment-it comes whenever expectations aren’t fulfilled, whenever you and I are left wanting. Hopes are unreached, desires unmet. To be disappointed is to be unsatisfied or displeased with some situation or person-or with ourselves or even with God.” Where in life are you feeling dissatisfied? What is it you want that is not being fulfilled? How does your disappointment effect your relationship with God?
I used to comfort myself when disappointment hit me square in my heart by eating my way out of the pain. I am now more frequently choosing to go to God for comfort and to process my grief, rather than going to the pantry. Instead of hooking into self pity and becoming angry, bitter, or resentful when John is called back to the hospital, I am choosing to submit to the sovereignty of God and to believe, “All that God does, God does well.”
Psalm 22:4-5 gives us a key to handling life’s disappointments. “In You our fathers put their trust; they trusted and You delivered them. They cried to You and were saved; in You they trusted and were not disappointed.” If we place our trust in the One who is in control then there will be less confusion and disappointment when our expectations are not met. Just as when a toddler firmly wraps their arms and legs around one of their parent’s legs when they’re feeling insecure about leaving them, when we trust God we’re attaching ourselves to Him, being confident and reliant on Him to take care of us.
Kay Arthur encourages us with these words. “Whatever the disappointment, it is God’s appointment-and that assures us it’s His gift, bestowed upon us in the rich out pouring of His grace. His appointment was for me to learn submission to His good and perfect will-in my not becoming bitter or angry or rebellious or fearful.”
Even though expectations may lead to disappointment, we can always expect God to be who He says He is. He may not always answer our prayer the way we expect Him to, but that doesn’t change who He is. Wrap your heart and mind around God being good, all-powerful, all-knowing, your provider, the One who sees what you’re going through and the All-Sufficient One, the One that holds you close to His chest. If you firmly attach yourself to Him and believe God knows what He’s doing and is in control, you will not be disappointed.
“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making a little forward progress is because they haven’t yet come to the end of themselves. We’re still trying to give orders, and interfering with God’s work within us.”
A. W. Tozer
1. How do you respond to disappointment? How does that effect your relationship with God?
2. How can you turn your current disappointment into His appointment?
3. Have you submitted to the sovereignty of God and given Him permission to do whatever He wants in your life?
4. What expectations do you have of God?