One morning during an Missionary Training School training session back in the Czech Republic, one of our visiting speakers was addressing the subject of “Expectations” – highlighting the expectations these new missionary workers could have of themselves, or their team leaders, or the mission organisation etc.
Since then I’ve continued reflecting on this subject. Again and again I’ve seen how often my disappointments have their roots in unfulfilled expectations. Does this ring a bell in your experience?
Consider the following examples:
- disappointment with yourself because you performed poorly in some task or ministry (i.e. you failed to get anywhere near your own expectations and high standards)
- disappointment with someone very close to you, eg your spouse, a child or parent (they failed to respond to you or to some need as you had hoped)
- disappointment with a church or mission (your expectation of how a Christian leader should act was not fulfilled)
Sounds like the everyday stuff of life, don’t you agree? And for a few people, perhaps so much so that they can’t even imagine a day without the pain and sorrow of disappointment. How sad to live one’s life dominated and controlled by severe disappointments.
But is it not even more tragic when we, God’s servants, go about serving our Lord and others weighed down by a heavy spirit of disappointment – unable to run well, to serve others with exuberance, to say nothing of being living examples of the Good News of joy and gladness?
Is there a way out of this miserable pit? Personally I’ve found it very helpful when knocked about by some disappointment to ask myself the question: What failed expectation lies behind this particular disappointment?
I don’t know about you but probably my biggest disappointment is with myself. So then, what expectations do I have of myself that I do not live up to? And are they right and realistic expectations? Or even biblical expectations? Or could many of my expectations be rooted in my sinfulness?
Allow me to answer my own question for myself. I have to admit that yes, when I feel I’ve performed below my expectations, too often this indicates a heart fixed on what people are thinking of me. Being a “man-pleaser” instead of a “God-pleaser.” Or it’s because I fear lest I’ve lost my “good reputation” as a speaker or teacher. When you begin to root down under the surface, you feel really ashamed, don’t you? when you uncover such dirt – the ever-present ugly, wretched, sinful, God-hating pride.
So how does God rescue us from this misery of disappointment? I’m sure you can see where I’m heading. We can start by asking God’s gentle Spirit of truth to uncover any root cause within us underneath our disappointment. If He puts His finger on some sin, eg pride, then we’ll know what to do with it: Admit it as sin to God (= confession), change the way we’ve been thinking about the issue (= repentance), and then receive God’s gracious and free gift of forgiveness (= faith).
If your ministry experience is anything like mine, wrestling with disappointment is unavoidable. However, dwelling in the quagmire of disappointment is unnecessary. Let’s make JESUS, not self, the centre of our expectations. We can expect good and great things from Him … sans disappointments!
Standing with you in God’s battles,
Your brother and fellow-servant of Christ Jesus,
Equip & Encourage International
Graham & Frieda Roberts
May 1, 2003