Straight from an Expectant Heart
By Lisa Elliott

“Expectations are premeditated disappointments.” Agree or disagree? This has been a motto of mine for many years. Why? If I’m being completely honest, it’s because I’m afraid of setting myself up for disappointment. Aren’t we all? Disappointment is painful. And it’s not easy to overcome. Unfortunately, it is near impossible to avoid.

I’ve been disappointed when things haven’t gone as I expected. I’ve been disappointed when friends have betrayed my confidence or my trust. At times I’ve been disappointed with the behavior of God’s people. I’ve been disappointed when promises have been made that haven’t been kept. I’ve been disappointed whenever I’ve set my sights high, only to be let down. I’ve even been disappointed when I sense the Lord promising me something that didn’t quite turn out the way I had envisioned. Can you relate?

The danger is, when we allow ourselves to steep in our disappointments it leads to disillusionment which, if we’re not careful, leads to indifference. And that’s a nasty place for our hearts to land. I know. I’ve been there. Indifference is an anesthetic to the pain we can’t face. It’s a protective agent we use to prevent our hearts from being hurt again. It’s choosing to simply not feel. It’s deciding not to care. But while it seems to be the easier option at the time, it’s more challenging once we wake up to the pain again. In the end it’s no better than the effects of drowning our sorrows with a bottle of alcohol or delaying our reality with drugs or distraction.

Whenever I’m faced with disappointments in my life, I’ve found the healthiest way to confront them is to be honest with them. Honest with myself, honest with others, and honest with God. Think of Martha’s honesty at the death of her brother Lazarus. Or consider Jonah’s dilemma when God’s plans over-ruled his own. No doubt many of Jesus’ apostles’ lives didn’t end up quite the way they thought they might after making the decision to follow Him.

Perhaps some “W-5” tips will help you as you come to terms with your own disappointments.

  • Who: Who have I put my expectations in? Who has let me down? Who stirred up these feelings of disappointment? Who am I blaming for the circumstances I’ve found myself in? Who can I talk to that would allow me to safely and confidentially process some of my disappointments?
  • What: What was I expecting? A different outcome? A greater income? What is it that has disappointed me? What is my response to these disappointments? What can I do differently that will lead me to a more healthy attitude toward my present circumstances?
  • When: When do I feel the effects of disappointment the most profoundly? When I’m tired? When I’m in crisis mode? When I’m vulnerable? When I’m under great demand. When I’m over-committed?
  • Why: Why am I disappointed? What is it about this particular situation that has let me down? Are my expectations realistic? Could it be that my expectations are too high? Hmm. Now there’s a consideration. But perhaps the biggest question I am faced with whenever my expectations haven’t been met is…
  • Where: Where am I placing my expectations? Am I placing them in people? Happy-stances? A prime retirement package? Am I expecting that my obedience to the Lord will equal fulfillment? If so, I’d better lower my very unrealistic expectations. Better yet, re-direct them.

The truth is people will let us down. Life won’t always measure up to our expectations. We won’t necessarily end up where we thought we would be at any given stage of our lives. And the sooner we come to terms with that the easier it will be to accept, or at minimum, confront whatever or whoever has disappointed us.

The thing is our plans don’t always line up with His perfect plan, simply because His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are higher than ours (Is. 55:8, 9). They’re even better! The bottom line is God’s got a much bigger picture in mind—one that far exceeds our own. He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). We just may not be able to see them right away. Once we put our hope in Him we most certainly can expect great things of Him.

And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:5).

About this Contributor:

Lisa Elliott is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of The Ben Ripple and Dancing in the Rain. Additionally, she has written articles for Just Between Us Magazine and devotionals for theStory. She and her pastor-husband, David, have four children (3 on earth, 1 in heaven) and serve the Lord together in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

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