I’ve been reading quite a few Facebook updates that express disappointment. Typically, these are posted by young adults who have been let down or disappointed by their boy- or girlfriend hopefuls. There are, of course, others who are disappointed with life, with careers, with the economy, with the government … the list goes on.
The truth is, as long as we live in this fallen world, we will be disappointed, over and over again. The quicker we acknowledge and understand this, the better it is for us. If not, over time, after repeated disappointments and hurt, we can end up bitter and hopeless. I’ve come across many who dare not hope, trust or love anymore for fear of getting disappointed once again. How sad.
Let’s explore this thought a little …
For starters, deep within each of us are needs that long to be met. To fulfil these needs, we look to external things and people that seem to offer the answer and solution. That’s what expectations are all about! An employee expects job satisfaction and a good remuneration. A parent expects a child to do well academically. A wife expects her husband to romance her with all his time and attention. A pastor expects his congregation to be on fire for God. Whilst all these appear noble, the underlying motivation is often fuelled by our need for love, acceptance, for identity, for success, for fame. In other words, we are looking to others to make us feel better about ourselves, to make us whole. Put another way, what we are hoping for is this … that our own imperfections can be impacted and improved by others who are as imperfect as we are! Can you see where this is all leading? We expect (or are hopeful) that our husbands, our wives, our children, our bosses, our friends will all be perfect so that we can have the fulfillment needed for a better life. No wonder we are sadly and sorely disappointed!
I may try to be the best husband and the best dad I can ever be to my wife and my children, but I’ve long since realised I won’t be able to meet all their needs. I may contribute to their well-being and own understanding of self-worth, but I cannot be everything to them. I may spend time with them but I can’t be always there for them. It is just not possible, regardless the number of marriage or parenting seminars I attend. If I think I can and expect that of myself, I have just set myself up for a big fall; for soon enough, I will meet with great disappointment when reality stares me straight in the face. Similarly, if I expect the same of my wife and children, I will also end up being disappointed with them. That’s because the selfish and self-centred nature in me will demand more and more of something they won’t be able to provide or meet! Once again … disappointment!
Does it mean then it is better not to hope anymore; for if we don’t hope, we won’t be disappointed? As we have seen, it is not hope itself that is the problem, but the object of our hope.
The psalmist understood this very well as he experienced difficult situations, as well as disappointing ones. His conclusion was simply this … stop putting your trust in men or the world, instead “hope in God!” (Psalm 42:5 & 11) What wisdom! Surely, the One who is perfect will never disappoint me or let me down. Even if His leading may not sit well with my limited understanding, I can still be assured that His ways are still the best ways. Psalm 146:5,6 says, “Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the Lord His God.” This is the hope I’d rather have, than the uncertain ones placed in people however well-meaning they may be. Hoping is others and the things of this world is never steady. But hoping in God, and having our needs fully met and satisfied by Him is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” Heb 6:19.
I love my wife dearly, but it is inaccurate to think my needs can be fully met by her apart from God. Similarly, I too cannot meet her every need. I love my children and desire the best for them, but they are not given to me to inflate my fat ego. I may hope that they grow up to be great men and women of God, but my hope must still be in God. In much the same way, their reliance on me as little children must shift to a reliance on God as they grow up and in intimacy with Him. My prayer for my wife and children is that they too will discover this truth for themselves. As they direct and place their hope in God, it will help them better manage the expectations and disappointments life throws at them. At the same time, the great pressure and burden to meet another’s expectation is also lifted. We are to live as unto the Lord as the only one expectation we seek to meet is that which comes from Him! “My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him.” Psalm 62:5
Will there still be disappointments in my life? I believe so. But with this understanding and assurance in the Lord, I see these as needful and timely reminders to always keep my eyes on Jesus, to only hope in Him, for it only in Him can I live, move and have my being.