Revising Expectations to Fit Painful Realities

They say you get what you expect. But then what do “they” know anyway when it comes to expectations?

Launi expected to be married happily ever after. It didn’t happen.

Tammy, Jackie, Martin, and Len expected their partners to be faithful. They weren’t.

Bob and Dave expected their company revenues to increase 25 percent last year. Instead, they both filed for bankruptcy.

Karen and Phil expected their son to go to college in the fall. He died in a motorcycle accident this spring.

Darcy, Mira, Judy, and I expected to give birth to healthy babies. Yet each of us has a child with special needs.

Recently I came across a Scripture that spoke to me about suffering and expectations.

It read:

“Then [Jesus] told them what they could expect for themselves: ‘Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat —I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all'” (Luke 9:23-24, The Message).

As card-carrying members of the human race, we are to expect suffering. Expect heartache. Expect pain and disappointment. And expect the unexpected.

Yet while all this is true, we can also expect that as we give God the lead, He will give us what we need to endure the wounds we experience. He will show us how to navigate the raging storms that sweep over the horizon of our lives.

When we are trying to heal from life’s painful blows, we need to be especially kind to ourselves. We do this by revising our expectations to better fit the reality of our current situation.

What Is, Is

As Dr. Stephens stated, we must accept the truth: What is, is. To continue to hang on to expectations unsupported by facts will simply drive us deeper into a black hole of despair. If we want to heal and improve the quality of our life, we have to let go of unrealistic expectations.

Ever since our youngest was born with Down Syndrome, I have had to periodically take inventory of my expectations and make some adjustments.

What I Can’t and Can Expect

I can’t expect Nathan to read a book out loud or write a book report as our other children did when they were in grade school. If I hang on to that expectation, I will perpetuate my pain and frustrate Nathan. But I can expect him to read. That is a tangible, reachable goal for him.

I can’t expect John and I will be empty-nesters in a few years, as we had previously thought. But I can expect that whatever comes will in some way be good, and that God will be with us.

I can’t expect God to shield my children from all adversity and heartache. I can’t expect their lives to be pain free. The absence of pain doesn’t exist this side of heaven. But I can expect God’s grace and kindness to be sufficient for their every situation. I can expect God to transform any harsh reality that assaults them into something that ultimately works for their highest good and His greatest glory.

I can’t expect myself to always be a wise, patient, and attentive woman. I want to be, of course, but many times I fall short. When I’m tired, I snap at my kids. When I find twenty-five messages waiting for me on my voice mail, I want to run away from everything. Although I try very hard, I’m not always who or what I want to be. But I can expect God to pour grace over my weaknesses as I offer them to Him, and to provide strength and time to restore.

Standing on God’s Promises

In times of weakness I realize once again how profound and desperate is my need for God and His power to change me. That’s when I have to hold tightly to the expectation that He will finish the work He has started in me. That’s when I must stand on the promise that His power in me “is able to [carry out His purpose and] do super-abundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]” (Ephesians 3:20, AMP).

Life doesn’t always dish out what we expect. But if we remain open to new possibilities, the road ahead can be an adventure. The scenery may not be what we would have chosen or anything like what we imagined, but it can be very, very good indeed. One way or another, God will get us to our final destination in heaven. And then, the fullness of His kindness will be unveiled, and every expectation we’ve ever had will fall absurdly short of reality.

Until that day arrives, please be kind to you.

This article comes from the book, The Wounded Woman: Hope and Healing for Those Who Hurt, written by Dr Steve Stephens and Pam Vredevelt, published by Multnomah Publishers. This is a good book for women filled who are finding it difficult to cope with some of the tragedies that plague them. It offers you the pathway to regain your footing, restart your life, recover your energy, and reclaim your joy. Contained within its pages are real-life testimonies that will guide you toward recovery and inspire you to press forward in newfound strength. The mission of this book is to help you move forward as you work through your pain, “reminding you that there is hope that you are not alone.”

Excerpted from The Wounded Woman © 2006 by Dr. Steve Stephens and Pam Vredevelt. Used by permission of Multnomah Publishers, Inc. Excerpt may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of Multnomah Publishers, Inc.

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Filed under: Assorted Marriage Issues

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2 responses to “Revising Expectations to Fit Painful Realities

  1. (USA) That was very helpful; sometimes I just want to give up on my marriage, pack my bags, and leave. My husband is retired from the army; he gets a check but it does not cover our rent and rent is his responsibility. Now he wants me to give him half of the rent. HE REFUSES TO WORK and I don’t know why. I work part time and raise my son. He sees the hardship that we are in but will not work to pickup the slack. I take care of ALL the remaining bills as well as household needs. When I leave for work, he’s in the same spot as when I get home. THAT ANGERS ME. I did better alone.

  2. (SOUTH AFRICA) Hi Latoyia, I am sorry to hear the frustration you are dealing with. I do understand it and I can relate. I also feel like giving up when things become so hard, especially when it seems I am doing the most, or putting in all the effort, to make my marriage work. I don’t have advice right now, but want to offer my support. While we both try to figure things out, let’s not give up.