A couple of weeks ago, I saw this great sign on the bulletin board at a church we were visiting...
Last time, we looked at the dangerous power of expectations. So many of us spend far too much time distracted and tormented by unrealistic or unmet expectations. Here on paper, that little word sounds harmless enough. How much trouble can something that only exists in the mind cause, after all?
But we all know the answer to that by looking at broken lives all around us, sometimes even our own lives. Husbands and wives who were once so close and enchanted with one another drift apart, and entire families can be shattered just because of unmet expectations on one side or the other. Friendships can be frozen and severed. Feelings can be hurt, offenses taken, and unforgiveness can set in. Entire years or even decades can be missed by someone wishing for something that will never be rather than looking for the good in what actually is. Worst of all, a person's relationship with God can suffer terribly from doubting His character in the middle of trying circumstances. There are real-life consequences when someone holds tightly to their expectations.
So what can we do to prevent this from happening in our own lives? It is wise to be aware of the patterns of thought that can lead to a dead or destructive end. We can always choose what we think. Here are two things that Jesus told us which can help us think rightly and manage our outlook on life in a healthy way...
1. In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
(Matthew 7: 12)
Isn’t it strange that we have such a high capacity to overlook our own faults while having such a very small tolerance for the faults of others? We seem to ignore the fact that we let other people down all the time, and that we frequently do not meet others’ expectations. There are many times we ought to be sobered at the end of a day to realize how our careless words, off-handed criticism, or lack of attention might have landed in someone’s heart.
We are very good at giving ourselves the benefit of the doubt when we say or do something selfish and unkind: we had a headache, we didn’t get enough sleep, we were just getting over that bug…
Jesus points out that the entire Old Testament (the Law and the Prophets) can be summed up in one sentence. Hundreds and hundreds of pages can be boiled down to just a few words - treat other people the way you would like to be treated.
The terrible problem of sin that we all have can also be called selfishness - each of us truly cares about and loves only ourselves. Jesus is kindly and strongly telling us to get over ourselves and think about others, also. Think how different history could have been if we would just do this. Cain would not have killed Abel, Ishmael and Issac might have been friends, David would not have killed Uriah and taken Bathsheba, and so on, right up to the present time.
This is why Jesus came here, and why He suffered the humiliation and shame of the Cross. He has broken the curse of sin and selfishness for us! Through Him, we are finally free to choose not to be selfish. As believers in Jesus, we can be like Him and always put others first, if we will.
So much of the drama and heartache in life could be erased if we would just stop being obesessed with ourselves, our feelings, and our hopes, and simply treat people like we wish they would treat us. Aiming to live with Jesus as the center of our lives instead of ourselves as the center would radically change our perspective. As we strive to care about the other people in our lives as much as we care about ourselves and as much as Jesus cares for them, we would not find ourselves feeling let down so often. Our families, churches and towns would be much stronger and better for it.
2. In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart, for I have overcome the world!
Yes, Jesus said this. He told us that the one thing we actually should expect in life is trouble, but we forget this every single day. We are constantly setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment. Somehow we manage to wake up every morning with the renewed idea that today, every single thing is going to go right. This is some kind of permanent amnesia that we all have, frankly because things were just not supposed to be this way. The fall of mankind changed everything; the entrance of sin into the world brought all kinds of terrible things, including disappointment and suffering. In this world, we will have trouble.
But how kind God is to take those troubles - now a very real and inescapable part of the human experience - and turn them into something that refines our character like nothing else can! The enemy aims to steal, kill and destroy, but God shields us and will use those same troubles to purify and perfect us if we will let Him.
Many love to read biographies of great Christian people. But what made them great? These people went through some terrible things, and still testified to the goodness of God. Corrie ten Boom went through literal hell on earth in a Nazi concentration camp. Surely there is no worse experience, and this certainly does not fit into anyone’s expectations of what the life of a faithful Christian ought to look like. If anyone could have been bitter and mad at God for the way her life went, it could have been Corrie. But what a sad book that would be - no one would want to read it. We love to read her life story because she went through horrific suffering, through no fault of her own, and was beautifully refined by it. For the rest of her life she testified to the goodness and nearness of God even in the midst of unimaginable circumstances. With great conviction and power, she told everyone she could that there is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still.
Someday in heaven, every day will be perfect and everything will go right. But until then we have to learn to rejoice in what each day brings, for better or for worse. We can take heart, because Jesus has overcome the world! We can trust that, if and when things do not go like we expect, Jesus will help us learn and grow and become more like Him every day. In this world we can expect trouble, but in the middle of it we can have joy, peace, and abundant life in Christ.
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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