I once heard on a radio talk show that unmet expectations are the main cause of failure of just about every relationship. And when you really think about it, at its most simplest form, this is true.
When you look at the last time you got mad at one of your kids, what happened? You have a certain set of rules and they failed to follow those rules as you expect them to.
When you examine failed marriages, each partner has certain expectations of their spouse. Often we do not express those expectations and think our spouse can read our minds. Then when they don’t meet our expectations, we get annoyed and frustrated. If we don’t talk about the expectations, resentment builds, often resulting in irreconcilable differences and divorce.
Think about your job for a moment. Have you ever been fired from a job? Have you ever fired someone? Have you ever quit a job? If you get fired, or if you have to fire someone, then you (or that person) are not meeting the expectations as set out by the company. When you quit a job, often it is your boss or the company that is not meeting your expectations. You leave in hopes of finding a boss or company that will fulfill you.
As a self-confessed and recovering control freak, unmet expectations are often the cause of my issues. I have certain standards, ways of doing things and expected results that I want to see met by the people around me. When those are left wanting, I feel frustrated, angry, annoyed (pick a word, depending on my mood and the day). As I said earlier though, the problem really is not with the other person, it is me. I have not relayed my expectations. In my mind though, I think the results are obvious.
For example, when my kids were younger and living at home, if I asked them to do the dishes, my expectations, though not expressed, would be that the dishes would be clean when they got put away. This did not always happen and I would get annoyed. If one wanted to go out and use my car, I would expect that depending on how far they were going they would be kind enough to not leave me with an empty tank of gas for when I had to go to work the next morning. I cannot tell you how many times that happened. I would get frustrated as I did not manage enough time in my schedule to have to get gas on my way to work the next morning.
Christmas is the time of year when many expectations are not met. We don’t get the gifts we want. Family dinners do not go as hoped. We place expectations on society and our friends and family to behave in a certain way because it is the holidays but it doesn’t turn out the way we want. What results is arguments, resentments and disappointments.
As a wife, I can tell when I am not meeting my husband’s expectations. We maybe are not spending as much time together as he would like. He has ways of expressing that to me without him actually saying anything. Though the sarcastic or side comments he makes are also a clue. As a parent, though they are adults now, I could tell when my daughter’s expectations were not being met. When she was little, it was usually communicated by way of a temper tantrum, but I could sense there was something wrong through other types of nonverbal communication.
Unfortunately, how we handle the distraught communication is often where we go wrong. When my daughter would throw a tantrum, my initial response was anger and frustration. If I am having a stressful day and my husband makes a comment about how his needs are not being met, I am more likely to respond with sarcasm or defensiveness.
Now let’s turn all of this around and talk about our relationship with God. After all, that is the main purpose of my blog.
Our relationship with God can go in one of two ways. It is going well, or it is not. When it is not going well, it is actually about us, or our reactions.
To say that God has certain expectations of us would be an understatement. Ultimately, He has two rules for us: love God and love others and ourselves. When we do not meet His expectations, how does He respond? With love.
When God does not meet our expectations, how do we respond? Most times, it is not with love. It is with anger, frustration, denial, contempt, grief, etc. We often withdraw from Him. We say He does not love us. We feel He is ignoring us.
The problem with all of our responses is that we are expecting God to respond with the answer that we want and when that doesn’t happen we respond negatively. We are viewing our requests, expectations and standards with an earthly view. We don’t see the big picture. We don’t see how one choice, one decision, one request will impact us down the road, or how it will impact others, but God knows. He knows and responds with that in mind. We may not like how He responds but that is where we need to focus. God’s answer will be one of three ways to any request or expectation we bring to His attention: Yes, No or Not right now.
When we pray for healing and He says no or not right now, we get frustrated and mad or depressed. We don’t understand why or why not. When we are praying for a job when we have been out of work for 18 months and still nothing comes up, we ask why.
In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey identifies Habit #5 as “Seek First to Understand, Then be Understood”. We need to try to understand the behavior of those around us before we can try to respond. When your two-year-old is upset with minimal words coming out while they are sobbing and trying to breathe at the same time, we ask them questions to try to understand why they are upset. We can do the same with our spouses, colleagues, friends, people at church, and even strangers if one is bold enough.
Unfortunately, with God, it doesn’t always work that way. We can ask why or why not as much as we want but it really won’t get us anywhere. God is not going to tell us. What will get us through the whys and why nots is faith. Faith is what will always get us through when we don’t know the answer.
When we feel God is not meeting our expectations, the only thing we can do is say, “Thank you!”
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Christ’s power is made greater in our weakness. When we go through struggles in life, that is when we need to rely on and lean into God the most. This is the hardest part of our faith, unfortunately. We are human. We want answers. We want to understand the whys and why nots. But we can’t know.
When you are struggling, pray. When you are doubting, pray. When you feel lost, pray. When you are hurting, pray. When you feel like giving up, pray.
When you are struggling with the hurt that comes from unmet expectations, or when you need to pause in the moment to act positively, pray this prayer:
Dear Lord. I pray for my heart right now. I am hurting and only you can give me the grace I need to respond with love and patience and kindness. Help me to pause and understand why I feel hurt. Forgive me for getting angry and impatient with those around me. Show me, Lord, where I can correct my actions and behaviours when things are not going my way. Help me to hear and see how I am not meeting the needs of those around me. Forgive me, Lord, for not meeting your expectations and for getting frustrated when I do not see the results from you that I want. Give me the faith I need to wait for you. In Jesus’ name. Amen!
How do you react when your expectations are not being met?
Author’s note: You may have noticed that I have not written anything in a while. I had a visit from my mother-in-law from England. was sick with a bad cold as well. Most importantly though, I have been starting up a new business of creating zero-waste products. Just recently, a local retailer has started selling them and other people have placed orders with me as well. It is something I am really excited about and pray that I stay busy and build the business but not so much that I get overwhelmed with it all. I still work full-time and want to spend time with my husband (most days). Here are some pictures of what I have been creating.