Disappointments are a part of life. Unfortunately, we have to face that reality pretty early in our existence. If I could pinpoint the number one reason for meltdowns, anxiety, and emotional outbursts with my kids, it would be unfulfilled expectations. From my oldest to my youngest, they each have certain expectations of what the day will be like, how their siblings will play with them, where we will go, what we will eat, etc. And if any of those expectations don’t happen, it can get pretty ugly.
I can hardly blame them. After all, even as an adult it’s often not easy to process unfulfilled expectations. I know the usual advice is to set “realistic” expectations, but the reality is that no expectation is truly realistic. After all, when I have to combat Murphy’s law, my own forgetfulness, people’s short comings (including my own), ADHD multiple times over, and all of the chaos that comes from parenting three kids, the only realistic expectation is getting up in the morning. (And even that occurs earlier than I expect most mornings.) So how can I maintain my sanity and help my kiddos understand a healthy way to process and deal with life’s disappointments? The answer to unfulfilled expectations is not really what I am expecting but WHO I am expecting it from.
“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.” ~Psalm 62:5
You see, it really is ridiculous to think that I can expect anything from anyone else when I can’t even meet my own expectations. And while I could easily blame a number of people and miscellaneous factors for my unfulfilled expectations, the truth is I’m a sinner—and so is every one else, except for One. That One is the only One who is perfect, holy, and unchanging. He is the only One who can fulfill and even exceed expectation. He is the only One in whom my confidence should rest.
When my expectation is in the right place, the tempest of my emotions can settle. No longer am I expecting my children to realize I have needs or to be motivated to clean their rooms and finish the dishes on their own; no longer am I expecting myself to have everything under control and to remember the 1001 things I need to be doing; no longer am I expecting my husband to never have a bad day on the same day I have one or to come to my rescue and meet all of my emotional needs. Instead, I wait for, rest in, rely on the One who knows all, controls all, provides all.
I have to believe this and live this out with my kiddos. Together, we have to lay all of those expectations in His hands and trust Him to work out the details. So we’ve started praying a simple prayer together:
“God, this day is not going the way we expected.
Please help us to trust you with the day you’ve given us instead.”
Our only “realistic expectation” is that God will come through for us and provide us with everything we need for everything we will face. When He is our only expectation, we receive only fulfillment. After all, how could we expect anything less from the One whose name is “I AM”?