We love looking forward to something good! The anticipation of a future thing or experience brings energy to our souls. Consequently, anticipation doesn’t confine itself to our intellect; our emotions ride piggyback. The expectation of something good can literally hijack our minds and hearts. We will trade hours of being in the present with hours of imagining the future.
But what about the kind of expectation that depends on another human being for its fulfillment? If I have a strong belief that something good will happen, and that thing depends on the actions of someone other than myself, I may be in for a big disappointment. Disappointment in ourselves can be painful, but disappointment in the failure of others to live up to our expectations doubles the pain and is relationally poisonous. Many times, an expectation is placed on someone else without their knowledge. How unfair is that? It puts them squarely in the crosshairs of our indignation, blindsided by our disappointment in them.
My husband and I have talked about childhood Christmases when we didn’t get that one thing we asked for. His was a certain battleship and mine was a doll family. We were sure they’d be under the Christmas tree on December 25th. But they weren’t. We remember well the disappointment.
Marriage brought new expectations. Not of battleships and dolls but of grace gifts. Continual random acts of kindness and sacrificial serving, unlimited favor and forgiveness, never forgetting an important date on the calendar and making each other our number-one priority. It’s as if we expected dating behavior to continue forever! The problem with expectations placed on others goes well beyond marriage. Friendships have been needlessly derailed by it, families have been tragically destroyed by it and churches have suffered painful fractures when expectations replaced humility and submission.
Here’s what I’ve learned. If I am feeling terribly disappointed that someone let me down, I might need to check my heart. It may mean that I felt like I deserved better, or that I felt like something was owed to me, or that for someone to be so negligent, they must not care about me. I, I, I, me, me, me. If we have truly died to self, we are wrong to take the perceived failings of others as a personal affront. A Bible teacher once said, “Dead things don’t feel pain when they are kicked.”
There is only One on whom we can fully depend. Only One whose actions on our behalf are fully sufficient. His name is Jesus. Everyone else will fail to meet our expectations. We can expect it.
“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31 & 32).