I heard this week that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the middle of February. Only 8% of all resolutions will be fulfilled by the end of the year. And yet, every year, we try.
Something in us feels wired for hope. There’s something good that pushes us to seek more growth, more change.
Whenever we move into a new season we carry hope that manifests in expectations, often unspoken. We have expectations for the new year, the new job, the new location, for what God might do. We have expectations on ourselves, others, even God. While hope is good, we are often disappointed. Why?
Perhaps because we are hoping in the wrong things.
A few years after our move back to the States, the last dredges of unmet expectations from this move were still acutely hanging over us as a family. We still longed for the kids to have solid friendships in the neighborhood, our son to find his niche, and I still wanted to figure out my ministry role.
I spent so much energy trying to meet these expectations on my own. I was constantly making suggestions to the kids, trying to nudge them this way or that. I kept strategizing options; there was a scheming quality to my life.
One day, I sensed God telling me, “You know, Gina, all those things you are trying to make happen—I can make them happen. But you have to trust me to do it in my time and my ways. And there might be things on that list that I don’t think need to happen. You need to trust me with that too.”
So I gave up. I let go, mostly because I was tired and that’s a good impetus for letting someone else take control. I wrote a list of all the expectations I had for life here. And at the top, I penned, “If they need to happen, He’ll make them happen.”
For months, I pulled out that list each morning. I didn’t pray through them because I found that when I did, I started to scheme again. I simply held the list out and prayed, “God, I’m hoping in you for this.”
You know what? Those expectations began to be met. It was like watching a garden grow. First, the glimpses of green peeking through the dirt, promises of future life. Each bud spoke God’s presence to me: “I see you. I see what you need. I’m providing for you, far better than you can do for yourself. Trust me. Give it time.”
We are often unaware of the mental energy we spend on trying to manipulate our world into the shape we desire. Inevitably, that leads to anxiety, frustration, and disappointment. It leads us away from God. Instead, He calls us to come to Him. I found it so helpful to name my expectations, to lay those hopes at His feet, and then step away.
Isaiah 49:23 says, “I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.” Verse after verse encourages us to hope in the Lord. Yet, in practice, we add our own agenda: “I hope in the Lord, that He will give me . . .” If we move into new seasons with a stranglehold on the way we expect life to go, we close our hearts to what God is doing. It sets us up for bitterness, disappointment, and frustration.
Instead, God asks us to loosen our grip on life, and in the process, our hearts will open to something new. He invites us to bring our expectations before Him with an attitude of hope, presenting our requests while trusting Him with the outcome. We put our hope not in the end result, but in God.
Expectations and Hope is an excerpt from Making Peace with Change: Navigating Life’s Messy Transitions with Honesty and Grace by Gina Brenna Butz, releasing February 4th, 2020.
Gina Brenna Butz and her husband, Erik, have served in full-time Christian ministry for nearly 25 years, 13 of them in Asia. They are currently raising their two third culture kids and an imported dog in Orlando, Florida, where Gina serves in global leadership development for Cru. She loves building furniture with her husband from reclaimed wood, watching her daughter play soccer, and sitting with others in their messy, beautiful stories.
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