Expectation in the Bible – Managing Your Own Unmet Expectations
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We all know that life doesn’t always go the way we plan. Disappointment and unmet expectations are a regular part of life. When our plans don’t work out, it’s easy to become disappointed and bitter. We may even start to feel like God is unfair or that he doesn’t care about us. There is much to say about expectation in the Bible and examples of the harm unmet expectations can cause.
In this blog post, I want to share with you what the Bible says about managing our own expectations.
So read on to learn how to not only manage expectations but how to respond to them in a biblical way!
Let’s begin by defining expectations so we are clear about what that is exactly.
According to Miriam Webster, expectation is the state of expecting, which is the actual verb.
The verb expecting means:
: to consider probable or certain
: to consider reasonable, due, or necessary
: to consider bound in duty or obligated
: to anticipate or look forward to the coming or occurrence of
So an expectation is something we consider probable and reasonable.
We anticipate it and look forward to it because we consider its happening as almost obligated (in other words…we don’t see how it could NOT happen).
An unmet expectation, therefore, would be when those things that we consider probable and reasonable and that we look forward to with that great anticipation do not happen or do not meet the standards we had for them.
This could even be an expectation of the things we feel our Heavenly Father should have done for us or others.
Let me offer an example from my own life…one where, after it happened, I immediately felt God spurred me on to write this post.
An Example of Unmet Expectations
I would have never guessed that I would receive a Biblical teaching from a simple cup of coffee one morning, but the Holy Spirit certainly has a way of teaching us what we need when we need it in His own way!
I woke up one 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, filled my tumbler with iced water as well, and went to sit in my living room.
I always have my coffee and 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 right alongside each other.
I was distracted looking at my phone when I grabbed my coffee without looking and took a big sip.
I was immediately disgusted!! I had gulped down the WORST coffee I had ever had and with good reason…I had grabbed my water instead.
Now, I need to make it clear because this is a very important point in this lesson; 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. I take it with me to every room I move to in my house if I stay there for more than a half hour.
Yet, when I thought it was coffee I was getting, the water I love so much tasted horrible!
Expectation in the Bible – What Unmet Expectation Does to Us
You see, the very thing I usually love now tasted disgusting to me because I had an eager expectation of 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.
When we have expectations in life that are met with something other than what we wanted or expected from past experiences with it, it can seem unpalatable to us even though under any other circumstances we would love what we received.
However, we despise it because it didn’t meet our earnest 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
Failed 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 can feel disappointment, disgust, anger, and 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 that 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, and even resentment. Click To Tweet
Having expectations of others can be good.
You can have expectations that are sound and biblical. You can have expectations in the promises of God as God is not a man that He should lie!
As a wife, you should have a confident expectation that your husband loves you and lives up to his position in the home as the Bible mandates.
But you shouldn’t necessarily have an expectation that he should enjoy watching romance films every weekend.
You shouldn’t necessarily have an expectation that he isn’t going to want to watch sports anymore when that wedding ring goes on his finger.
You shouldn’t expect he is going to get it all right all the time!
You shouldn’t have an expectation that he is a mind-reader either ladies!
Example of Unmet Expectations in Life
An example of this might be a wife who has a birthday coming up and she THINKS her husband will get her the gift she really wants.
After all, she has been dropping hints about it for a long time.
But when her birthday arrives, he comes home and, instead of the gift she wanted, she receives a diamond necklace.
The necklace is beautiful and very expensive. He spent HOURS picking it out just for her.
He scrimped and saved for it because he just envisioned how beautiful she would look in it. She had admired necklaces just like it in the window of the jewelry store as they shopped in the mall.
He took note of that.
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.
She expected him to catch her hints. She expected him to know what she was thinking.
And here was this man thinking he was doing something so special for the woman he loves and noticing the little things she showed an interest in.
She saw something she liked that he didn’t see and she failed to communicate that and expected him to pick up on HER hints.
And her anger caused her to not see the beauty not only in the necklace but in the husband who loved her enough to notice the things she showed an interest in, save for it, and provide it in love.
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?
I am convinced many hard times in marriage could be made easier if people communicated their expectations more rather than harboring unspoken ones and then getting resentful and angry because people didn’t meet them.
Expectation in the Bible – What Are You Expecting From God?
Have you been harboring your own expectations of God and then getting upset when He doesn’t meet those expectations?
Do you have unmet expectations from your prayer life?
Are you expecting Him to answer a prayer the way YOU want rather than just seeking His will in the situation?
Are you looking at His answers, His blessings, with disappointment just because your expectation wasn’t met?
The God of hope, in His abundant mercy, may be answering your prayer but it may not look like what YOU determined it should so you feel your prayers go unheard.
However, it may be answered in the way you NEED.
In the process, you could be missing the blessing.
Praying in a State of Expectation – Praying Like Jesus
Jesus gave us the perfect model of praying with expectation.
It was not an expectation that the powers of the heavens would suddenly rain down and destroy those who sought His life and that the hand of the Lord would pluck Him up and take Him out of the great suffering He was about to experience.
No, it was simple.
Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane crying out to the Father in prayer.
Luke 22:42 shows us Jesus saying:
Jesus didn’t tell God what to do. He didn’t lay out what He thought it should all look like. And if anyone could, it would be Him.
No, He prayed (and I paraphrase) “If You are willing, take this from me but it’s not my will but yours and I put no further expectation on You than for You to do Your will.”
Jesus didn’t get upset or angry because He had to go to the cross in spite of this prayer.
The Son of Man surrendered His will in that moment of His humanity, that moment of pain and fear, to His Father and He accepted the answer God gave.
His only expectation was God’s will.
Often we pray for God’s will to be done but then get upset when it is not what we expected.
Praying God’s will for our lives should be more than just a flowery phrase we utter during prayer.
It is the total surrender of our will to His sovereignty.
It is the ultimate exercise of trust and faith, of bitachon and emunah. It is trust and faith in the Word of the Lord and the love of God.
True faith in God’s Word and in His divine promise in the Besorah, the Good News, gives us hope and the hope of the righteous brings joy.
Not my will, but Yours be done!Praying God's will for our lives is more than just a flowery phrase we utter during prayer. It is the total surrender of our will to His sovereignty. #faith #proverbs31 Click To Tweet
Expectation in the Bible
Unmet Expectations Bible Verses
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 at 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, a gratitude journal will help you to recall 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. This is accountability, not blame or finger-pointing, and shouldn’t be done during arguments as a form of gaslighting.
So establish boundaries for this accountability. It should be a loving reminder and not a blame game. Arguments or times of conflict should be times that are off limits for this – that is just the right thing to do so it is not taken the wrong way or used as a weapon. It should always be done lovingly and in a way that helps and not hurts.
5. Give Grace – There may be times when, under other circumstances, our expectations may have been acceptable but people may be going through circumstances that make meeting those expectations difficult.
Try to be cognizant of people’s circumstances and good things will come out of assuming people have the best intentions. If they explain to you that they feel over-burdened, give grace and be willing to change those expectations where possible. Great things will come from just assuming the best of people.
What ways can you think of to manage not only unmet expectations but also how to avoid placing those expectations on others? Share in the comments!
What ways can you think of to manage not only failed expectations but also how to avoid placing those 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.
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.
Amen!! Thank you Lesley!!
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!
Thank you so much Leslie!!
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!
Thank you Kelly!!
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.
Thank you so much Christine!!
Oh, I have learned some hard lessons in this area by putting expectations on friends that they were never going to meet. Good word. laurensparks.net
Thank you Lauren!!
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!
Thank you Gina!! We can always trust Him with what is best!!
Love the connections you make here, Diane! Sometimes the simplest things lead to the most profound ideas. Great post.
Thank you Ryan!!
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.
Amen!! Thank you Joanne!!
WOW this hit a nerve, thank yo for sharing this post with grace and truth link up. Pinned to share with our Living Our Priorities community.
Thank you so much Timberley!!
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.
Amen!! Well said Theresa!!