I grew up in the Deep South, which meant snow was a rare weather phenomenon. Anytime a meteorologist hinted at snow, we began what I could only describe now as a tribal ritual. If there was a superstition, song, or prayer that could possibly entice the snow to come, my sisters and I would do it. When I was a kid, there was one particular time snow was in the forecast. I wore my pajamas backwards, spit in the toilet, and prayed to God that snow would come. The next morning, I bolted to the window and saw nothing. No snow. My expectations were not met.
Georgia’s lack of snow only crushed me for a moment. Still, I am uncomfortably familiar with unmet expectations.
These words from Marilynne Robinson’s novel, Housekeeping, capture this feeling well:
I hated waiting. If I had one particular complaint, it was that my life seemed composed entirely of expectation. I expected – an arrival, an explanation, an apology. There had never been one… just when I had got used to the limits and dimensions of one moment, I was expelled into the next and made to wonder again if any shapes hid in its shadows.
Robinson describes us all. From moment to moment, we ache to know if this time, our hopes will be satisfied. Am I finally going to get this job? Will this person show me favor and attention? Is this the year we will get pregnant? Will my paycheck be enough this time? Is this the end of my season of depression?
I think of the Jews who were alive before Jesus was born. Each generation lived in expectation of the Messiah. They believed he would come, and yet they lived and died and nothing. 400 years of nothing.
When the Messiah did come, the expectations of the Jewish people during his day were not met either. Where is the King to establish the physical throne again? Who is this mighty man who does not bear a sword? Is this the King of the Jews?
We are all familiar with the pain of an expectation crushed. We know Jesus has conquered death and brought us back into relationship with him. Yet we long and groan for his return (Romans 8). We pray, “Lord Jesus, come quickly!” And may we never cease that prayer.
But what do we do until Jesus returns? How do we receive the blows of unmet expectations in daily life?
We expect hope.
That may sound like a cheap answer to a costly problem, but the very opposite is true.
Hope is very, very costly. After all, it was hope that saved us. Hope came at an ugly price – the God-man slain for heinous crimes He did not commit.
Jesus’s birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection brought hope to the hopeless. Not only that, but it made sense of our unmet expectations.
God’s Spirit dwells within us and is our very source of hope.
We do not know what shapes hide in the shadows. Though every expectation we have in this life could be unmet, we can hope in the only One who exceeds our expectations.
The answer to your expectations may be “no” forever, but all God’s eternal promises are “yes” in Jesus.
“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). This is a promise to us. When the sufferings are upon us, this does not seem like the truth. Yet while we sigh and suffer now, we will breathe in His glory later.
This is our unseen hope, and we can expect it.