I allow my own expectations to steal my joy.
I have played out many scenarios in my mind of how “perfect” my family could be, and when they don’t meet my expectations I feel frustrated. I did this very thing yesterday. It was my daughter’s birthday and I wanted it to be perfect in every way. I stayed up the night before hanging decorations and a birthday sign, wanting it to be just right in the morning. I longed for her to run downstairs the next morning and be so happy that I had prepared a celebration just for her. I pictured in my mind that her brothers would be just as happy to celebrate with her. However, this is not how it played out at all.
My daughter woke up disappointed that her dad was not home which meant she could not open her gifts first thing in the morning. I quickly tried to restore her lack of joy by making her waffles and ice cream, but her joy was short-lived. Before I knew it, the children were fighting and arguing and I was sending them all to their rooms. I was then left feeling frustrated and out of control. I allowed this situation to overtake my joy just as my daughter had allowed her situtation to overtake her joy.
Let’s be honest, we have all had moments like this, where we have allowed our joy to be stolen in small everyday moments, like kids arguing, being late, loosing our keys, or trying to juggle life’s demands. Often times it’s not just a moment, but a season. In life altering seasons our joy slowly dwindles, where we have imagined a situation to go one way, and it takes a plunge the other directions. Maybe you never imagined you would be in a financial crisis, have a child that struggles, a sick parent, or a difficult marriage.
Maybe it’s not the expectations we put on others that limit our joy, but the expectations that we put on ourselves. We place expectations on ourselves, however our own limitations seem to fail us. We find that we are in a place in our lives where we are no longer are able to keep up with our own exceptions. Maybe we suffer from lack of energy, aging, insomnia, unemployment, disease, or isolation.
“Beware of spending too much time looking back at what you once were when God wants you to become something you’ve never been.” Oswald Chambers
Expectations come in all forms.
My hunch is that there are unmet expectations, in your own life that you are wrestling with. Yet, you may have come to a place where you want to lose all hope and joy. You may want to give up on expecting at all. However, the Bible tells us in 1Corinthians 13:7 that because of Jesus we can, “bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things.”
What do we do in the waiting? How do we maintain joy with unmet expectations?
Paul in his letter to the Philippians, lets us in on his secret.
“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
I love what Margaret Feinberg says in, Fight Back with Joy ” Accept. Adapt. Depend.”
She says, “Acceptance acknowledges our helplessness and requires us to loosen our grip, slow our pace, and reorient our focus on God in the situation. Paul does not find contentment in his circumstances but in surrendering control of them. Once Paul accepts his situation, then he adapts to it. He can rise above because he is no longer masters him.”
Margaret goes on to say, “Once Paul accepts his situation, then he adapts to it. Paul could have beat his head on prison bars or give up on helping the churches. Instead, Paul does something courageous-he adapts….he sends letters.”
Then we depend on Christ.
“The severity of our hardship increases our opportunity to depend on God. In those moments divine grace seeps through the ruins, softens our wills, and takes us to deeper places then we could venture on our own.”
Now I am not saying we accept that our situations will never change. But we need to accept and adapt to our current situation and the limitations that come with it. This will then open the door to a new dependency on God.
As I came to terms with the fact that my children are still growing and learning, I was able to adapt. I accepted the fact that they are not perfect, and I am not perfect. We are all becoming the people who Christ created us to be. Accepting and adapting opened the door for me to depend more on Christ.
In the moments when I feel out of control of my circumstances and angry that things aren’t working out as I pictured, I choose to follow this path of acceptance, adaption, and trust. Trust that God has it all under control. Joy then quickly follows.
What areas of your life do you need to accept, adapt, and depend?
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The Joy of the Lord is My Strength.