We can create the perfect picture in our minds of how life should be. We watch others as their lives play out the way we imagine for our own. It may even seem easy and seamless for everyone else. But when we look at our lives, we remember our broken hearts, our broken dreams, and sometimes perhaps our then broken hope. We didn't land the job. We didn't get asked on the date. Our family has all but fallen to pieces. The one thing we think we want most is just out of reach. And the tears blur our vision. Where do we turn in these moments when those desires we have built up so much in our hearts–those expectations–come crumbling in on us?
The answer rests in Jesus. Because we live in a world broken by sin, dreams will fail, people will fail, and inevitably, the tears will flow. Each one of us is certain to experience, to varying degrees, expectations that remain unmet. Yet, as Christians, we do not despair! When we look to our Savior, who humbly came into this world to die on a cross that we might truly live, we discover glory in our unmet expectations, for they point us more to Jesus. While expectations on this earth may fail, the Lord never will. Because of Jesus's sacrifice, we can have hope regardless of what our days may bring. Where this world falls short, Jesus's power and might shine all the more brightly with a hope that endures.
Yet, even as we hold to each of these truths, the struggle doesn't go away. What can we do as we sort through the pieces of our broken expectations and hold to a hope that never ceases?
- Lay your expectations at the feet of Jesus.
We can bring every disappointment to the Lord in prayer. There are no disappointments too small that He will brush away as unimportant. Instead, He wipes away our tears (Revelation 21:4). And though He doesn't always take away the pain of unmet longings, He meets us in our struggle. Our deepest grief makes way for the utmost joy found in Him alone. This joy He offers is everlasting, found in the hope of eternal life with Christ where there will be no more pain and no more sorrow. He knows well our discomfort and longs that we may run to Him, laying our desires at His feet.
As you lay your unmet expectations before Him, your gaze focused intently upon who He is, may your longing shift from the desires of what this world has to offer to the fullness of life found in Christ. What great expectation we uncover in the hope the cross represents–one that will not disappoint!
- Know that He can handle your frustration and questions.
No frustrations or questions are too great that our God cannot handle them. He knows our every thought from afar, and our words do not catch Him off guard (Psalm 139:2-4). We read of Job in the Old Testament and how he loses his family, possessions, servants, and health. Though he trusted that God was working, even in those unexpected circumstances, he goes before the Lord, honest in the questions of his heart. God does not punish or ignore his confusion. Rather, He receives Job's prayers and challenges Job with His questions of response (Job 38-41). And when we read the book of Psalms, we see the psalmist, too, ask hard questions of the Lord as he cries out in honest despair (Psalm 6, 70). How kind that the Lord would include these psalms as prayers that we can also bring before Him in times of struggle.
Our heavenly Father does not shy away from the questions we may find ourselves afraid to ask Him. Instead, He draws near to us as His beloved children. Because He made a way for us to come before Him in prayer, we can be honest with Him. The Lord can use our unmet expectations to draw us to Himself as we turn to Him for answers. And as we turn to Him, He shows us more of His love and mercy and the steadfast hope He offers us through the gift of His Son.
- Trust that He has a plan and a purpose for your life.
Forever Christ is constant, forever He is sure. We can trust that our heavenly Father has a plan for our lives (Jeremiah 29:11), even as the good things we thought would happen never happen–or perhaps look differently than we anticipated. He meets us where those expectations are unmet, in the longing, and leads us to faithfully walk with Him as He directs our steps. Often that will mean walking through what is left of our broken dreams, but let us hold fast still to an unbreakable hope that will not disappoint.
Though we hurt now, we can open our hands to how God may use those hurts, frustrations, and questions to grow us in our praise of His holiness and constancy. He will not lead us where He has not already been and goes before us, guiding our way. We can move forward with confidence, knowing that He is all we need, and His plan for us will not crumble. Even as the tears come, blurring our vision, God is our guide, and He will lead us to lasting glory.