The Problem with Expectations
I’m sure we’ve all had them. Expectations. And we’ve all had not fun reactions when our expectations weren’t met.
For example, I expected to do lots of fun things with my children, go on lots of fun play dates and adventures. Instead, my children require frequent trips to specialists and therapists due to their special needs. And my reaction was one of anger at God. Anxiety. And depression.
Not fun, right? I was stuck in that unfun place because I was holding onto my expectations and mad that God didn’t give me what I wanted.
I was stuck in that place for a long time, until one December I read an all-too-familiar Bible story, but looked at it from Mary’s perspective.
Here was a young girl who expected to get married soon to Joseph. As a former teenager, I’m positive she daydreamed about her wedding day, about Joseph being a loving husband, of having children, especially sons and of being a good wife and mother. I doubt she had huge dreams for her life, but she envisioned it with love and marriage before the baby carriage.
And then, cue the angel.
When expectations change
The angel fills her in in Luke 1 28-33. She is going to conceive and give birth to the Messiah. This was something that I’m sure all Jewish girls and mothers longed for, to bring the long-awaited Savior into the world. She must be feeling both overwhelmed and honored.
She simply asks one question and is satisfied with the answer. I’m sure I would have had hundreds! Or I would have been like so many of the prophets and like Moses, who all didn’t believe they were qualified for the job. Or said no thank you, I don’t want to be accused of adultery and stoned, find someone who is married to bear the Messiah. I probably would have come up with excuses after I asked my plethora of questions.
But not Mary. In verse 38 she says “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
And as I continued reading through the Gospel of Luke, I saw it again and again. Circumstance after circumstance that came up that must have been nowhere near what Mary was expecting.
- Joseph thinking of divorcing her (thank goodness for dreams, though, right?)
- Having to travel to Bethlehem while pregnant (with no fast and fancy mode of transportation and no air conditioning)
- Giving birth in a stable (with no midwife, no comfy bed — just her own instincts and Joseph’s)
- Not being able to return home, but having to live in Egypt for two years to protect Jesus from Herod (a new baby, new culture, new home without friends or family or Facebook to communicate with them)
- The 12 year old Jesus not staying with them but staying behind in the temple doing “his Father’s work”
- Her other children doubting Jesus was the son of God
- The people of their town rejecting Jesus, casting him out of town
- And worst of all, watching your innocent son die an excruciating, humiliating death (how did this fit in with God’s plan to save humanity?!)
Learning to Embrace God’s Plans
I think one of the reasons Mary had such a yielded heart is because she knew her place. She was God’s servant. She even told the angel so. But sometimes we feel like He has let us down, when He is not here to serve us, we are here to serve Him. Sometimes we forget our place, forget that God is in control and is sovereign, and it’s easy to get upset when things don’t go our way.
Yielding means we stop with all the thinking, planning, worrying, controlling and instead, live in the moment. Embrace what’s in front of us. Embrace the journey we are on and the ways we are growing on the journey. Embrace every blessing in our life and treasure it in our heart. No, it’s not easy, but it’s the easiest way to experience God’s peace and joy in our lives.
In fact, let’s look at the angels’ words to the shepherds in Luke 2:14. “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” In the words of Linus, “that is what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”
It says there is peace for those on earth on “whom his favor rests.” (NIV). It was on Mary, when the angel came and told her she was favored and going to be the mother of the Messiah. According to Psalm 30:5, His favor is on us for a lifetime.
But the easiest way for any of us to experience peace, is to stop struggling and to simply rest. And we are to rest in this: God is in control, He is for us, and He has a plan. It may not be what we like, but we need to rest in Him. And He will give us peace, strength, and grace upon grace to see His plan come to fruition.
Luke 2:19 says “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Oh, how I wish I pondered and treasured the things of God in my life, like Mary. Instead, I tend to start focusing on what’s next on my to-do list, or how things aren’t going my way.
Embrace God’s plan and rest in the fact that it will be for a good purpose, even if you can’t see the purpose now.
Mary’s mission was simple. To carry Jesus inside her and then share Him with the world. It definitely wasn’t full of fun, but she was committed to complete her mission. And that’s our mission too. To carry Jesus inside our heart, and in our words and our actions let people see Jesus. No matter what circumstances we’re going through.
Check out this awesome song for releasing your own plans and expectations and embracing God’s plans and His will. 🙂
Please share your thoughts below! 🙂