Expectations vs. Reality: What to Do When Life Doesn’t Match The Plan
Expectations are like rabbits. They can be warm and fuzzy, but when ungoverned, all manner of problems result.
The other day I had only a few minutes to make a batch of red velvet cupcakes. But I’ve baked and frosted cupcakes so many times I expected I could do it with one spatula tied behind my back.
Before long, I stood in a big red mess of splattered batter and lumpy frosting. I grabbed a piping bag to swirl frosting on each cupcake, but a clump jammed in the tip. The bag burst and a volcano of goo squirted all over my container, hands, and the floor. I called the dog to clean the floor and grabbed another piping bag. The dog came to investigate and walked through the frosting, tracking it into the living room.
Out of time, I wound up with big white blobs oozing down the side of each cupcake. I’d expected Ace of Cakes, but my reality was more along the lines of a Pinterest fail post.
My above example was silly and minor, but what about the serious times reality doesn’t measure up? My life certainly hasn’t gone according to plan. I didn’t plan to be a speech-language pathologist unable to help my own non-verbal child. Nor did I expect to be diagnosed with cancer at 36 and almost die …
What about you? Did you expect your marriage was forever, but your spouse left you? Or did you get an unexpected diagnosis that derailed your entire life? Or maybe you had always dreamed of being a mom, but now that you are you sometimes think joining the circus would be easier.
Expectations, like rabbits, breed quickly. Before long, dissatisfaction, disappointment, and despair heap up in the wake of reality. More than that, it’s easy to feel angry and to be consumed with questions:
- “Why, God? I pray for good things to happen, but it doesn’t seem like my prayers are answered.”
- “I work hard, but don’t get ahead unlike those other people.”
- “That mom doesn’t even follow you and look how easy her life is.”
Some truths I have to consider:
An unanswered prayer doesn’t mean God isn’t listening. Sometimes God means for us to wait, sometimes we should seek another direction. Sometimes what we think is good for us isn’t. And sometimes life is hard.
Rain falls on the believer and the unbeliever. At first glance, it might be appealing to live under a god who rewards good girls and boys with presents, but gives lumps of coal to naughty ones. But in the end, we’d all be focused on ourselves and what we could get instead of learning to be more like Jesus who loved us enough to sacrifice Himself on our behalf. Perhaps no one would experience true heart changes in that kind of system. I wouldn’t. Instead God offers grace to us all. How amazing is that?
The harsh realities of life are opportunities to turn to God. During those tough times, the key is not to turn away from God, but to turn toward Him. To look up. Sometimes it is in the deepest valleys of despair that I get the clearest view of God.
How many times have you heard someone in crisis talk about what God has done in her life? Compare that to when we are speeding down the highway of good times. Sometimes we get moving so quickly we fail to see the workings of God, or we start to think we are the reason for our wonderful success.
It is in the valleys of despair and disappointment when we begin to understand:
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Broken dreams and harsh realities aren’t punishments, but they are a chance to look up and see God.
For more encouragement, see: