Spiritual Growth - Living a Life of Faith

Unmet Expectations – Powerful Ways to Manage Them Biblically

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Having expectations is common for many of us. We come to expect certain things of people or situations based on experience or based on previous behavior (or communicated expectations regarding behavior). But unmet expectations can sometimes lead us to great disappointment and stress.

Maybe our kids don’t behave in a way we expect or our spouse doesn’t respond in a certain way. This can lead to frustration and a lot of arguments.

So let’s learn how to not only manage our expectations but how to respond to unmet expectations in a Biblical way.

Disappointed woman sitting at table - text overlay that says Unmet Expectations - Powerful Ways to Manage Them Biblically

Unmet Expectations – My Morning Coffee

I would have never guessed that I would receive a lesson on unmet expectations from a simple cup of coffee one morning, but God certainly has a way of teaching us what we need when we need it in the most interesting of ways!

I woke up Monday morning absolutely exhausted. I didn’t sleep well the night before and my stomach was upset so I was just extremely tired and cranky! REALLY cranky!

I knew I needed coffee and I needed it NOW!

I am sure many of you know that feeling where you question how you can function enough to make coffee when you cannot function without coffee? That’s where I was that morning!

I stumbled into the kitchen and made myself some iced coffee, grabbed some water and went to sit in my living room.

I always have my coffee and my water in stainless steel tumblers that are exactly the same except for the color and design on the outside.

I sat on my couch and placed my coffee in one cupholder and my water in the other. I was distracted by looking at my phone when I grabbed my coffee and took a sip.

Oh boy was I was immediately disgusted!! I had grabbed my water instead.

Now, I need to make it clear; I LOVE water. Actually, that is an understatement! I am literally obsessed with water. I have a tumbler of water with me everywhere I go. I cannot get enough of it. I do not leave the house without it.

Who would ever guess a lesson in unmet expectations would come out of one cup of coffee! Click To Tweet

Not What I Expected

Yet, when I thought it was coffee I was getting, it tasted horrible!

The very thing I usually love now tasted disgusting to me because I EXPECTED coffee when I took that sip. And when you expect coffee and get water (come on coffee lovers, can I get an amen??), your mind immediately processes it as it would as though it were coffee; bad, tasteless coffee.

You see, when we have expectations in life that are met with something other than what we wanted or expected, it can seem unpalatable to us.

Even though under any other circumstances we would love what we got, we despise it because it didn’t meet our expectations. Unmet expectations in life cause us to be ungrateful.

When we have expectations in life that are met with something other than what we wanted or expected, it can seem unpalatable to us.  We instead despise it because it didn't meet our expectations. Click To Tweet

Unmet Expectations in Life

Life is like that! Marriage is definitely like that!

When we have expectations of people or circumstances that are not met, we could feel disappointment, disgust, anger, even resentment.

It could have been that what we got instead would have been acceptable to us or even made us happy if we hadn’t placed an expectation on it. But because WE decided what the outcome should be, it was no longer pleasing to us, even if it was good.

When we have expectations of people or circumstances that are not met, we could feel disappointment, disgust, anger, even resentment. Click To Tweet

Example of Unmet Expectations in Life

An example of this is a wife who has a birthday. She THINKS her husband is going to get her a gift she really wants. She has been dropping hints about it for a long time. But he comes home and, instead of the gift she wanted, she received a diamond necklace.

The necklace is beautiful and expensive. He spent HOURS picking it out just for her. But SHE had an expectation of what she wanted.

So she looks at this necklace, a necklace that she normally would have loved, with disappointment and maybe even anger at her husband who thought he was getting her the best gift he could.

Unmet expectations can cause you to miss a blessing!

What expectations are you placing on people or situations that are causing you to not enjoy the blessings you receive?

What Are You Expecting From God?

Do you have things you are expecting from God and then get upset when He doesn’t meet those expectations?

Do you have unmet expectations from God in your prayer life?

Are you expecting Him to answer a prayer the way YOU want rather than just looking for His will in the situation?

Are you looking at His answers, His blessings, with disappointment just because your expectation wasn’t met?

God may be answering your prayer but it may not look like what YOU determined it should so you feel your prayers go unheard.

In the process, you could be missing the blessing.

Praying Like Jesus

Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane crying out to the Father in prayer. Luke 22:42 shows us Jesus saying:

“Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”


Unmet Expectations - A verse from Luke 22:42 with pink flowers in the background

Jesus didn’t get upset or angry because He had to go to the cross in spite of this prayer. He surrendered His will in that moment of humanity, that moment of pain and fear, to His Father and He accepted the answer God gave.

Often we pray for God’s will to be done but then get upset when it is not what we expected.

It is more than just a flowery phrase we utter during prayer. It is the surrender of our will to His knowing He loves us. It is the ultimate exercise of trust and faith!

Not my will, but Yours be done!

Scriptures on Expectation

Bible Verses About Unmet Expectations

Proverbs 13:12 TLV

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Proverbs 11:7 TLV

When the wicked dies, his hope perishes, and the hope of the strong vanishes.

Psalm 62:6(5) CJB

My soul, wait in silence for God alone, because my hope comes from him.

Proverbs 3:5-6 CJB

Trust in Adonai with all your heart; do not rely on your own understanding.6 In all your ways acknowledge him; then he will level your paths.

2 Corinthians 1:20 CJB

For however many promises God has made, they all find their “Yes” in connection with him; that is why it is through him that we say the “Amen” when we give glory to God.

How to Deal With Unmet Expectations in a Godly Way

  1. Pray – Ask God to reveal to you any expectations that you may be placing on Him or on the people in your life and trust God to meet your needs according to His will, not your own! Keep a War Binder where you can keep track not only of your prayers but the answers and then your responses to those answers. How did they make you feel? How can you let God take over?
  2. Confession – Confess any times you may have put expectations on God or other people. Surrender yourself to His will in all things knowing He only desires the best for you. 
  3. Journal – Keep a journal each day and examine your heart to see if there are areas in your life where you have been placing expectations, especially unrealistic expectations, on people a home, at work, at church, etc. But also write down each day what you are grateful for. Gratitude is the perfect antidote for being upset because things didn’t go your way. Where a War Binder is centered around prayer, this journal will help you to show the blessings in your life and help you to practice gratitude in a way that can change how you view times of disappointment.
  4. Be Accountable – Give people permission to let you know, in a loving way, when they feel you are placing unfair expectations on them without you becoming defensive.
  5. Give Grace – There may be times when, under other circumstances, our expectations may have been fine but people may be going through circumstances that make meeting those expectations difficult. Try to be cognizant of people’s circumstances and, if they explain to you that they feel over-burdened, give grace and be willing to change those expectations where possible.
An infographic with 5 ways to manage unmet expectations

What ways can you think of to manage not only unmet expectations but also when you place expectations on others? Share in the comments!

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CJB – Taken from the Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Messianic Jewish Publishers, 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville, MD 21029. www.messianicjewish.net.

Tree of Life (TLV) – Scripture taken from the Holy Scriptures, Tree of Life Version*. Copyright © 2014,2016 by the Tree of Life Bible Society.  Used by permission of the Tree of Life Bible Society.

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  1. This is really good. Thanks for posting this. The necklace example reminds me of one birthday when I wanted a drum machine, had dropped hints about it and ended up getting some Star Trek wall posters instead which I then felt obligated to put up on my wall. The two were not quite the same thing!

    God does often answer things differently, but then I think it’s more about whether we allow the thing we’ve been hoping for to become the source of our happiness and turn into an idol, especially when that thing is not met. Are we seeking God only for that thing, or are we seeking him for himself, regardless of whether our expectation is met?

  2. It appears Diane, we have a theme going! Or possibly God does! Wink, wink…You may enjoy my post “Berry tea & Expresso coffee”

    You’re welcome to drop by for a cup of inspiration,

    1. Great post! Reading about demitasse brought back memories of my mom! Any post with coffee in it is a good post LOL

  3. This discussion brought up issues from the past that I haven’t really wanted to deal with and need to address. Great examples to share and help over come.

  4. This is so good! And SO TRUE!! Love how the Lord reveals things to us through the simple things in life, like coffee! I need to put all my expectations on God and let Him take care of me in His way! ❤

  5. This is so great!!!! I really really love how God uses such simple things like coffee to teach us important lessons. I remember being on a walk and I saw a little plant pushing up through the pavement. God showed me strength and perseverance in that moment and I still picture that sweet little plant that worked so hard to get to the sun.

  6. I really enjoyed reading this and I can relate on many levels. I have been dealing with chronic illness for 2 years. I pray for healing, my husband prays for healing and my church family prays for healing. Healing hasn’t come. God’s healing doesn’t come in the forms that we anticipate and our idea of healing isn’t necessarily what God sees as our true healing.

    Thank you so much for sharing this perspective.

    1. Jen thank you for sharing!! Yes..sometimes God has a plan for healing that looks different than what we envision!! I will be praying for you!!

  7. Oh, Diane! This post rang my bell, and might have punched my ego in the gut! I’ve been writing to understand the benefits of prayer, even when it seems they go unanswered. It has been an amazing journey. So cool to see how God uses everyday things to get our attention. I love seeing other writers write about the same topic, from different perspectives. I am especially humbled when I get thrown in the mix! Tells me he has a message that bears repeating! He’s so good to give us confirmation after confirmation after confirmation.

    1. Isn’t He amazing? So many times he uses other writers to speak about the very things we are struggling with!! I love His confirmations in that way!! Thank you so much!!!

  8. What a great illustration! I think expectations are probably the most difficult challenge in marriage…especially when both parties are conflict avoidant and don’t state their expectations. (Not that I know ANYTHING about that, hahaha!). I’ll be tweeting and pinning this post!

  9. Yes! This is so true and something that I needed to hear. I do that a lot with my spouse. He shows me he loves me all the time, but instead of being happy about that, I get frustrated because it’s not in the way I wanted to be shown. That’s for the holy slap in the face. Lol. That’s a good thing, btw.

  10. This post speaks volumes. I try to ground myself as much as I can and give thanks for the simple things that we tend to take for granted. However, I do have my moments where I expect a certain thing and do get upset if it’s not what I had hoped. Most of the time I end up feeling guilty because that’s such a sad way to look at things. We got from point A to point B, but it wasn’t in the matter that I had hoped. OH. WELL!

  11. This is very thought provoking. Expectations can make or break an event. I might share this idea with my students when school starts. Thanks!!

  12. Guilty as charged! But hopefully, by God’s grace, I’m learning to do better. I want to trust His provision and follow where He leads but too often I sound like those Exodus wanderers. I’m so thankful for His patience and willingness to show me a better way! Fantastic post, Diane!

    1. Amen…I am so thankful that our Father is ever patient and gracious toward us and never tires of teaching us those lessons!! Thank you so much Deb!!

  13. Seriously! What a great lesson! This is so applicable to our daily lives. I struggle with expectations constantly, usually when it comes to my kids. ??‍♀️ I am constantly having to remind myself that my expectations need to be lowered, because otherwise I get overly frustrated with petty things. One simple thing can ruin my mood if I have set my expectations too high. Thanks for this great reminder!

    1. Yes!! Nothing like expectations to drive us head first into a bad mood! I am so guilty of this!! Thank you Tiff!!

  14. This! So so true! Currently going through a situation in which I have put an expectation on God. Of course, it’s all in His hands and His timing – but it’s funny how we throw our own expectations around like confetti. This was a great reminder that the “Man Upstairs” has it all under control and how I need to release my expectations to Him and let His will be done!

    1. Amen Linda…sometimes it is so hard in our humanity to just let go! But He’s got us!! And it is something I have to constantly remind myself of!! His grace and provision is far better than my expectations every time!!

  15. Love this! I’ve absolutely placed expectations on God. Timing is the first thing that comes to mind, especially with having kids. But He knows best! Unmet expectations are one of the biggest barriers to a healthy marriage as well, I’ve found. My hubby and I have had 16 years so far to work on it, and we’re improving! 🙂

  16. This is so crazy! I did the exact same thing today when I picked up my coke and took a sip expecting thinking it was my water bottle. I was actually disgusted, and I threw the coke in the trash can. My students who witnessed the whole event take place were so confused. Like, what was wrong with the coke? I really had no response except I though I was taking a huge sip of water. I love coke. I bought the coke. There was absolutely nothing wrong with it except it wasn’t water. What a powerful comparison you have made here!!!

    1. Thank you so much Brittany! Isn’t that funny that something we normally love can disgust us so much just by thinking we are getting something else?

  17. Great reflections here! It’s so true that our expectations can change a lot. It’s sad when they blind us to the blessings we have by causing us to focus on what is lacking.

  18. Expectations can really be a problem. I’m guilty of that big time in my own life. It’s something I have to remember as a key to why I might not be feeling contented. Thank you for sharing this!

  19. This is great, Diane! It reminds me of the story of Jonah. He had unmet expectations as well. I know I need to pray about this. So much to learn and reset our brains on. Thanks for the insight!

  20. So true! I miss the blessing because I have my eyes and heart fixed on something different, and often something inferior. Thanks for the reminder to surrender my pride, my ‘I know what’s best’ attitude, to God each day.

  21. This is so true! We get in the habit of predicting how God is going to react, what He’s going to do to answer our prayer. What we fail to remember is that God is omniscient. He always knows what’s best for us, which means sometimes He answers our prayer with “no,” “not yet,” and maybe even “yes.” If He gives us something we didn’t expect and we don’t like it, it’s only because we have temporarily stopped trusting Him. You’re right, whatever He gives us is always the best. We just need to believe it. Great article, thank you!

  22. Wonderful analogy. Our expectations can so set us up for disappointment. May we always trust God – that His ways are best even when we may not fully understand.

  23. My expectations are always tripping me up when they are unmet. I see this more and more in my life. Now I am trying not to not have such rigid expectations and have flexible expectations. As well as see the blessings in the unmet expectations.