Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Realistic Expectations - Eleanor Shepherd

Expectations can determine whether an experience is positive or negative for us. When we are expecting an event to be exciting and uplifting and it fails to meet our expectations we are disappointed. On the other hand, if we participate in a social event out of a sense of obligation our expectation may not be that we will be enriched by it. Yet if we enjoy some stimulating conversations and make some interesting connections with people we will find that this affair exceeded our expectations and created positive memories for us.
            In our spiritual lives our expectations can determine our progress in learning to internalize those things that we believe. If we expect that we will never be able to overcome the character flaws that we become aware of in ourselves, we may come to a point in our journey where we either conclude that the Gospel is powerless or that it does not work for us. The spiritual disciplines enable us to chisel out realistic expectations of who we are and who we can become as we gain and apply knowledge of who God is and base our relationship with Him on that understanding.

            When I was in my twenties the Charismatic Renewal was rapidly gaining steam within almost all denominations. The church was gaining new converts as those who were filled with the Holy Spirit boldly spoke of the power of God and how he transformed lives and gave evidence He did. As an avid reader, I read all about this and my expectations were ignited. If I were filled with the Holy Spirit I would speak in tongues and do all sorts of dramatic things that would give concrete evidence to others that God was alive and well in my life. I could be a successful Christian in every sense of the word. 

            I turned to books about the infilling of the Holy Spirit to discover how I could 
be a part of this great movement. As a disciplined individual, I took the books and followed their instructions to the letter with the expectation that I was going to at last become a first class Christian. However, nothing happened.

            There were no supernatural manifestations of God’s presence in my life.  I did not receive the gift of tongues. I did not become capable of seeing instant miracles in answer to my prayers. I began to wonder if I really was in tune with God at all. Instead of becoming the joyous Christian that I wanted to be, I became miserable. 

            God in His grace has blessed me with those around me who have more wisdom than I do. First my husband, and then a friend assessed my situation accurately. They noted that I was so unhappy about what I did not have, that I had completely lost the joy of what I had. The problem was expectations.

            I expected God to give me what I felt I should have. However, He is not required to perform according to my expectations. He is the sovereign God and knows what is best for me better than I do.  What I had to do was surrender my expectation to Him, so that He could align them with His purposes for me.

            That is what I finally did. In a time of intimate prayer, I admitted that I had been expecting God to equip me in the way I thought He should. In humility I had to admit that I wanted Him more than I wanted what He might choose to give me. I decided to appreciate all that He had done for me in giving me His forgiveness and unconditional love. I would choose to love and serve Him whether or not He ever gave me any spectacular gifts.

            The result was that my life was inundated with an incredible joy that has never left me. What do I now expect from God? I expect that He will give me exactly what He knows I need for every situation and He has proved 100 per cent faithful in that.
Word Guild Award
Word Guild Award


Peter Black said...

Thank you, Eleanor, for this fine message. You're correct; we can set ourselves up for disappointment on account of our expectations. That certainly happens when our focus is misplaced. I praise God for the gifts - natural and spiritual - that He bestows on His children in His wisdom and grace. ~~+~~

Glynis said...

"I was so unhappy about what I did not have, that I had completely lost the joy of what I had." This is a brilliant statement and a reminder of how easily and prone we are to grumbling. When this happens we take our eyes off Jesus, like Peter says. Such a good thought provoking post on spiritual expectation. Thanks.

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