As they sat at the kitchen table his wife said, “Life just hasn’t worked out the way I thought it would,” It was a statement that struck deeply and broke his heart. He knew his wife felt he was responsible for her life not working out the way she had planned. She held it against him. And he didn’t know what to do about it. He felt helpless. His wife’s unmet expectations weighed heavily on his mind and heart and held him captive in his guilt.
Many times in my life I have had to remind myself that my expectations will not always line up with reality. How I respond to unmet expectations reveal much about my personality and character. It also reveals much about what I believe about God.
A pastor friend of mine said, “All of us have expectations in life. We expect things will occur according to our preconceived ideas and plans. Sometimes things do not happen as we expect, and our response to those unexpected events can determine whether or not we miss out on God’s best for our lives.”
Another friend of mine says that unmet expectations are usually unspoken expectations. “When our spouse doesn’t come through on something we expect them to naturally come through on, our response is typically anger and withdrawal. We hold them hostage to the expectation they didn’t meet. So, as that expectation continues to go unmet we pile up anger, hurt, and resentment toward that person,” he says.
You may need to determine if your expectations go unmet because they are unrealistic. People will always let you down. Even your closest friends, your spouse, your parent, will eventually disappoint you in some way. No one will meet your expectations all the time.
My pastor friend reminds us, “God will never let us down. He promises to never leave us or forsake us. He promises to love us and meet our needs. He hears our prayers. He loves us absolutely and unconditionally. But sometimes we confuse what God promises with our expectations of what we would like God to do.”
We do the same with others around us. Are you holding someone captive in your unmet expectations of them? Perhaps you need to examine your expectations and decide if they are reasonable and grounded in love for God and others.