Expectations! We all have them. When our expectations collide with our reality, it is what I call “expectality”. Sometimes it can be good—better than we expected—but very often it’s an explosion in our lives. Our expectations can become a trap imprisoning us—robbing our joy and peace, and ruining relationships. How do we get out of this expectation trap? Some suggest we should just not have any expectations and then we won’t be disappointed. I think that tends to be a bit fatalistic and an attitude that can stunt growth in our life. God has purpose even the hard places of our lives, even in our disappointed longings and expectations. God has wired us with a sense of expectancy.
I’d like to share some practical steps we can take to GET OUT of the “expectation trap” so our expectations are not ruling our lives, robbing us of joy and ruining our relationships.
We can choose how we will respond to our unfulfilled and disappointed longings!
We can choose to let our expectations and circumstances define us, or we can choose to surrender them to Jesus and trust Him! As long as we cling tightly to our “thing”, it will keep us in bondage and will never satisfy our thirsty hearts and souls.
I’ve found these principles throughout God’s Word, but for today let’s look at Psalm 5. Psalm 5 is a lament psalm. Take a moment to read through some study tips for reading a lament psalm.
Study Tips for Lament Psalms
About one-third of the psalms are lament psalms. In a lament, an individual or group cries out to God in distress. Commonly found in a lament is the following seven part structure:
- Address to God
- Description of distress
- Plea for deliverance
- Statement of confidence in God
- Confession of sin
- Vow to do certain things when God answers
- Praise or restatement of request
It is noteworthy that even when the psalmist is unrestrained in his request, in nearly the same breath, he expresses confidence in God. Lament and faith are complementary expressions!
Read through Psalm 5.
- Note the imagery and metaphors the author uses
- Look for the elements of a lament psalm
Four principles from Psalm 5 when dealing unfulfilled expectations and desires so we can get real and get out of the expectation trap!
# 1 POUR OUT
Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. — Psalm 5:1-3 (NIV)
The first thing we notice about the Psalmist is that he is crying out to God. He’s pouring His heart out! We need to follow his lead. Cry out to God, pour your heart out and tell Him exactly what you’re feeling and thinking. The thing is, He already knows what we are thinking and feeling. But it deepens our intimacy with Jesus when we’re willing to make Him our refuge. When we are willing to Get Real with God!
It’s about emptying our hearts and surrendering that “thing” to Jesus. I believe it’s also an important part of grieving the loss. We’ve allowed this “thing” to occupy space in our hearts and heads and when we realize that it’s something we need to surrender, it is a loss. So pour out your heart! Acknowledge your disappointment. Acknowledge that you’ve been seeking happiness and satisfaction in life by trying to fill the empty places in your heart and life with things other than Jesus. I have found that God has used those disappointed longings to draw me closer to Him and fill me with things beyond my wildest expectations!
The ESV translation uses the wording “prepare a sacrifice” and I think we will all agree that sometimes we feel that sacrifice of laying our expectations and deepest longings down at the feet of Jesus. It’s good! He is our safe place. Once we can come to the point of emptying and surrender, He will fill that empty place with His love, peace, joy and hope.
#2 STEP OUT
But I enter Your house by the abundance of Your faithful love; I bow down toward Your holy temple in reverential awe of You. — Psalm 5:7 (HCSB)
At some point we have to be willing to step out in faith and trust God. Trust His purpose and plan for our life. Trust can be hard for many of us, especially if we’ve been hurt in the past. But our God is faithful! Often we find it hard to trust God because we are basing that trust solely on our experiences in life, rather than on the character and nature of God. We see and think with finite minds. We can’t see the big picture. His thoughts are greater than ours and His ways are greater than ours. Yes, we live in a world of sin that hurts and disappoints, but God is good! He is a safe place! We can trust Him!
But trust begins with relationship and getting to know someone. We need our minds constantly renewed with the living water of the Word of God and by His Spirit. This is where we will come to know the character and nature of who God is. I find it helpful whenever I’m reading the Word to make notes of what I learn from that passage about who God is. This has built my faith tremendously, especially through the stories of the people in the Bible as God has revealed Himself to them.
Rehearsing God’s character and attributes on a regular basis has been so helpful to me in building my faith and helping me to step out when I’m wanting to hold back and hold on tightly.
Be willing to step out in faith and trust God’s plan for your life. Trust Him to fill those empty places in your heart and life that expectations have been robbing.
The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him. — Psalm 32:10 (NIV)
#3 LOOK OUT
At daybreak, Lord, You hear my voice; at daybreak I plead my case to You and watch expectantly. — Psalm 5:3 (HCSB)
The psalmist finds himself looking out and watching expectantly.
In the original language the word in Psalm 5:3 for wait expectantly/watch means to look out or about, watch closely, with the primary idea of inclining, bending forward in order to view.
This earth is not our home. We are just passing through. It’s helpful to keep an eternal perspective in dealing with expectations. God has given us much good to enjoy here on earth, but it is not the source of our ultimate joy. We will never be fully satisfied until heaven. Keep moving forward and leaning hard into Jesus. Keep looking beyond the here and now to eternity. We absolutely cannot fathom all that God has for us in eternity. We will be awed and amazed!
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. —2 Corinthians 4:16-18
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. —Colossians 3:1-4
#4 SING OUT
But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them shout for joy forever. — Psalm 5:11 (HCSB)
The psalmist ends praising God and proclaiming His goodness. Praise and giving thanks is an important part of letting go of the hold expectations have on us. Praise brings us directly into God’s presence. Things look different. Life feels different. It’s a place of peace and joy regardless of the circumstances swirling around us. Keeping a list of things we are thankful for is so helpful in keeping our perspective looking upward. An attitude of gratitude and praise will transform an expectality collision into a place of peace, joy and contentment. Praise changes our attitude and outlook!
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. —Ephesians 3:20-21
I find music that proclaims the excellencies of God’s character and ways is helpful when I’m in one of those ruts of disappointment, discouragement or discontentment caused by unmet or unfulfilled expectations and longings.
So rejoice! Dance! Sing! Get your praise party on!
Rejoicing in Jesus!
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©2014 Susan Cady, susancady.com