Surrendering Expectations (Part 2): When People Disappoint Us
Jun 12, 2016 03:32AM
By Bonnie Lyn Smith
Last week, we took a look at what happens when God sends the unlikely into our lives when we were expecting different characters. What do we do with the disappointment of others not showing up? How do we keep unmet expectations from becoming a bitter root in our lives?
Hebrews 12:14-15, ESV, Anonymous author
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no "root of bitterness" springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.
In my mid-twenties, I experienced some situational depression that knocked the wind out of me. Expecting same-age or younger friends to know how to jump in was unfair, looking back, and yet I desperately craved understanding and wisdom.
How could I expect that from others who hadn’t crossed that terrain yet?
Looking at some of those folks in our midlife now, they are some of the deepest people I know, having weathered significant storms along the way.
At the time, a mentor a generation older than me is whom God chose to step in and carry me—not one in my peer group. Why? Because I needed wisdom and experience. She’s still a rock I knock my sails against to make sure they remain strong and tethered.
Years ago, when my five-pound infant daughter was in the neonatal intensive care unit enduring a spinal tap, I was living far from family. My in-laws extended their stay. Right after, a friend of the family flew in and created an incredibly memorable week for my three-year-old son. She cooked, ran errands, managed my home, and babysat while my husband and I went to the hospital. A different friend, a peer, came with me to feed the baby so I wouldn’t be alone when my husband had to be at school. Others who weren’t present in those ways prayed fervently.
Is one better than the other?
In God’s Kingdom, I believe any ministry and prayer are of value. We have different roles, but they all matter.
Then what about the way people share their love with us? What if we define that too narrowly, looking for a package wrapped a certain way when it turns out to not be wrapped at all but rather walks in bare-bones-vulnerable to share our trial?
What if our knight in shining armor is an acquaintance who just happens to relate to what we are going through, becoming a deep friendship after his/her willingness to step into our pain?
What if kindness doesn’t ride in with phone calls and meals but shows up in encouraging notes, or sits with us in a lonely waiting room?
What if help is someone to babysit the kids even though we thought we needed words of encouragement? Maybe we are supposed to receive those words from someone else.
Sadly, I think we are often derailed by: “She didn’t call,” or “They didn’t acknowledge our situation!”
Even in recent disappointments, the people I believed should care were not the right ones to give me perspective and persevere through that trial.
Did they have it in them to help?
Were they overwhelmed by their own hidden struggles?
Were they on another assignment from God?
We truly don’t know the whole story. Assumptions and speculations can take our focus off what God is doing—and with whom—in our lives.
And yes, there are people who are assigned to us, but they simply don’t obey God calling them to help us. Not every scenario is off the hook, which brings us to the final point:
Are we saying “yes” to God’s mission for us and “no” to ones not on His agenda, or are we picking and choosing?
Are we someone else’s “unlikely”? Is the Holy Spirit sending that nudge to reach out to someone we barely know, even though she has family living in town and plenty of other friends?
Or better yet—a favorite lie from the enemy of our souls—how could we be the right one to help him when he has never reached out to us in our moments of need?
The more I know God, the more I realize that is exactly the point! He gives us opportunities to be in each other’s lives. It isn’t based on merit or history, nor is it based on human logic. When He weaves lives together, His plan is beyond anything that we can comprehend. He knows how to deliver exactly what we each need.
Could it be that teacher with whom you exchanged harsh words a few years ago has survived your specific form of cancer and is reaching out to let you know which treatment and doctors she pursued?
How about that sibling that just doesn’t “get” you but now has your back with your child’s depression?
That policeman you thought was so obnoxious on the school board a few years ago? He could be the kind reminder to your struggling teenager that he’s not above the law and that local law enforcement cares that he gets his act together before his life takes a worse turn.
What if we are the teacher, sibling, or policeman? Would we reach out? Will we?
There is a woman I met on the streets of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, many years ago. She is a single woman having left her family in Kenya with the hopes they would join her someday; she was searching for an academic testing site but could not find it. Within a few minutes, my sister and I learned about her walk of faith and also some of her needs. Could we meet every need? No, but we all shared trust in Jehovah-jireh, God our Provider. After praying together on the street that day, I was able to continue an email correspondence with her for years. We regularly encouraged each other with scripture. I have not lived most of her circumstances. I relate to few particulars in her trials, but we met at our common place: Jesus. Who but God put that arrangement together?
Where can we each set down our expectations, placing them securely at the Throne of Grace—not picking them back up again—and take a front-row seat to what He wants to show us through giving and receiving in relationship with whom He sends our way?
I guarantee we will never be the same if we can switch our focus to allowing Him to love us mightily through others and through service to others. The harvest is always about more than just getting through our hard time.
It’s about healing, grace, mercy, love, compassion, restoration, reconciliation, blessing, honor, and the glory of God.
It’s why Jesus came, the most “unlikely” of them all, to calibrate our expectations to those of the Kingdom of God and to restore what is lost to the Father.
Luke 19:10, ESV, Luke the Physician narrating
For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
I think it's fair to say that if we focus on the truth Luke speaks of, striving for peace and obtaining the grace of God (Hebrews 12:14-15), we will not sprout roots of bitterness but rather springs of the life He gives us.
Proverbs 4:23, ESV, King Solomon speaking
Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Author Bonnie Lyn Smith writes about parenting, marriage, mental health advocacy, special education, faith in the valleys of life, the healing cloak of Jesus, drawing healthy boundaries, relational healing, renewing our minds, walking with a Holy God, and much ado about grace. Join the conversation at Espressos of Faith.
Her book, Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day, offers anecdotes on all of these subjects and Scripture for each situation as well as Book Discussion Questions for deeper exploration.