Less Expectations, More Love

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” Bruce Lee

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It is hard when people disappoint us or let us down- when trust is broken, when they are not there for us in they way that we need or want them to be, when they just don’t understand.

It is painful, especially if it happens repeatedly over a period of time, and especially if we’re constantly trying to act well towards them.  It is easy to feel that they owe us something, and for the result to be bitterness and resentment.

But maybe the problem is with our expectations.  What if the problem is that we’re just expecting too much of people?

As I go through this year of focussing on surrender, the next area God is speaking to me about is surrendering expectations of other people.  (I’m referring particularly to a specific situation which I don’t want to go into detail about here, but I think there’s a general principle to learn too.)

It’s not so much that my expectations are unreasonable, just that they are unrealistic.  I long for things to be the way they “should” be in this situation, but the truth is we live in a broken world and nothing is the way it should be.  Instead of constantly hoping and expecting that this situation will change and then getting frustrated when it doesn’t, I need to accept things as they are.

I don’t meant that in a pessimistic way.  I don’t mean that I plan to give up on this person.  I don’t mean that things will never change.  I just mean that I need to let go of the expectation that it will.  I need to stop focussing on my desires in this situation and surrender these to God.

This also means letting go of the expectations that I have of God.  Not my expectations of what he can do, or my expectations that he will work in this situation, but my expectations about how he will do that.

I need a new focus, and the main word God is speaking to me in this situation is “compassion”.  There are often reasons why people can’t meet our reasonable expectations.  Sometimes they’re trying their best, but the scars from their own difficult life experiences make it hard for them.  Sometimes there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface than we realise.  Instead of judging or getting angry, I’m challenged to accept and attempt to understand, to pray that God will help me see this person and this situation the way he does.

Where better to look than to the example of Jesus?  He reached out in love, without expecting anything in return.  He showed kindness without demanding that people earned it.  He healed people even when they showed no appreciation.

It’s not an easy way to live.  It means making yourself vulnerable.  Jesus was let down by the people closest to him: his family didn’t always understand what he was doing, his disciples fell asleep when they were meant to be praying for him in his hour of need, Peter denied knowing him and Judas betrayed him.

Yet, despite all of this, Jesus kept on loving.  On the night he was betrayed, he washed his disciples’ feet, even the feet of the one who was already plotting to betray him.  As he was nailed to the cross, he prayed forgiveness over those who were hurting him.  As he hung there dying, he showed compassion to his mother and to the thief hanging beside him.

He constantly showed love, not because he was expecting people to respond in a particular way, but because of who he is.  His identity is love.

And often that love did lead to change, because who isn’t drawn to unconditional love and the freedom it brings?

But Jesus didn’t prescribe that it must happen in a certain way or in a certain time, and even when his love wasn’t well-received, he kept on loving.

I’m convinced that surrendering these expectations will lead to freedom too: freedom to appreciate the good in this relationship instead of only being disappointed by where I wish it was different, freedom to stop trying to control people in the hope that they’ll act in a certain way, freedom to take a step back, hand it over to God and see what he will do, trusting that his ways are far, far better than mine.

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”  (Ephesians 3:20)

             Holly Barrett

Let Us Grow

 

 

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24 thoughts on “Less Expectations, More Love

  1. I felt drawn to your words concerning the surrender of just how God will change the situation. Since, I believe that all time is before Him as now, how he will provide assistance has an eternal implication. You always help me think deeper.

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    1. Yes, I believe God sees the whole picture while we only see a small part. It makes sense that he knows what is best better than we do- it’s just hard to let go of our own desires sometimes. Thanks- I’m glad it’s making you think.

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    1. I’m glad it’s not just me that has to keep learning the same lesson over and over again. It’s so easy to drift into putting our hope in other things instead of only in God.

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  2. You are talking directly to me! I am struggling with this same thing, but I don’t think I realized it until I read your post. I am so glad to be your #TestimonyTuesday neighbor this morning. God knew I needed to stop by and visit with you, Carly!

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  3. The timing of your words is perfect because God’s timing is perfect. You wrote powerful words about compassion that I needed to hear today. I have s situation I need to pray about but my heart needs to be compassionate to the hidden layers of this person that I do not know about. Thank you for surrendering God and letting Him lead you so faithfully.

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    1. Thanks, Mary. I’m glad God used this to speak to you today. Praying that he will guide you as you bring your situation before him and help you see this person as he does.

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    1. Thanks, Horace. Surrendering expectations is definitely not just a one-time thing and it’s not easy. I’m so glad we can rely on God’s strength to help us.

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  4. Carly, you share such good words here. Isn’t it interesting the things that God reveals when we seek Him, and we seek to know more about the words He’s given us to focus on this year?

    I’m learning that some people in my life will never change (short of them accepting Jesus and Him working a miracle in them). It’s unrealistic for me to expect them to act certain ways or do certain things. When I can choose to love them, even if they never truly love me, or never love me in a way that looks like love to me . . . that’s when I will know I’ve learned to release expectations. Thanks for making me think about this. 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Jeanne. It is interesting what God does with one word. The word surrender has impacted my life in so many ways already this year that are completely different from what I expected…
      Which highlights the fact that I need to let go of expectations because God’s plan is better, but it’s definitely not always an easy process- and it is a challenge to choose to love when that is not returned, or at least not in the way we would like it to be.
      Thanks for visiting!

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  5. This is so beautifully written. I am guilty of falling into the trap of expecting certain behavior from others. Thank you for reminding me to have grace towards others and just accept them (flaws and all) the way that Jesus accepts me with my countless flaws. Love is where it’s at and only by His power in us that it is possible to extend love to those who disappoint us.

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    1. Thanks, Natalie. Grace towards others is definitely not easy. I agree, it’s only possible in God’s power and by understanding the grace he shows to us.

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  6. So grateful for the reminder that people will always let us down. And that means, we as well, will let others down. Thank you for the reminder to let go of expectations and remember the good so that disappointment does not spread it tentacles throughout my heart.

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  7. Thanks for this reminder! It can be hard to remember that God is working in each person’s life when they mistreat us. It is also easy to forget how He is still teaching us to love better. however, His calling to love and to trust Him remains the same.

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    1. Thanks for visiting. It’s definitely not easy to keep loving at times and to trust that God knows what he’s doing, but it avoids a lot of disappointment if we can focus on our part in loving rather than expecting something from the other person.

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  8. This is a lesson it seems like I am constantly having to learn, continually laying it down before the Lord. I often have unrealistic expectations of people, and when I do, I get hurt. Thank you for sharing your heart and your words!

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