Unmet expectations

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My life doesn’t look like I thought it would.

Pretty much every heart-to-heart conversation I’ve had over the last month could be boiled down to this sentence:  My life doesn’t look like I thought it would. 

Most of the time, this was said in a negative sense.

I just finished my freshman year in college and still don’t have any great friends here.
I’ve spent two years on a major I’m now realizing I don’t want to pursue a career in. 
I’m graduating and feel more lost than ever.
No one told me it’s so hard to make friends post-college.
I’m 30 years old and my husband and I are struggling with infertility.
I’m 32 years old and still single.
I never thought marriage would be so hard.

Occasionally, it was said in a positive sense.

I never imagined I’d be graduating college, already with a job offer in a field I love!

Post-college life is so much better than I thought it would be!

Marriage is so much easier and fun than I had ever hoped!

 Life hardly ever looks like we expect.

That’s the beauty of life.  If everything unraveled as we imagined it would, life would be predictable and boring.  The best seasons of life are when we land in a spot we never anticipated and marvel at the goodness of God for getting us there.

But what do we do in the seasons of disappointment?  What do we do when we are grieving, hurt, or even angry that life hasn’t at all turned out the way we thought it should?

1. Acknowledgment is the first step.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I just tried to pretend everything was okay and life was how I wanted it to be.  Don’t try to fake yourself and everyone else out.  It doesn’t work well.  Be honest with yourself.  It’s okay to admit that things aren’t going the way you had hoped.  If you don’t admit it, you can’t move on and grow from it.  So start by acknowledging it.

2. Dig in.

So you’ve acknowledge it.  Life doesn’t look like I imagined it would.  But what exactly hasn’t met your expectations?  You may have been able to pinpoint some tangibles (I don’t like my job, I don’t have meaningful friendships, I thought I’d be married by now, I didn’t anticipate my parents getting divorced, etc) but dig beyond those.  What are the deeper expectations you had that are still unmet?  If you stay on the surface and just blame your disappointment on something—  the absence of a career, husband, best friend, etc– you’re missing the point.  So dig in.

3. Control the Controllable.

This is perhaps my favorite piece of non-Biblical advice. That and “Let It Go.” But I’m pretty sure I could find scripture to back that one up.

So your life doesn’t look like you thought it would and your disappointed? Well control the controllable! Hate your major? Change it. Lacking motivation in your career— find a way to get motivated or look for another job. Marriage is hard? Choose to make it easier by changing your attitude and the way you respond to it.

What can you control in your situation?  Where can you create some change?  Most times the most powerful thing you can change and control is your attitude.  Chuck says it best:

I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. -Chuck Swindoll

4. Finally, pray for change.

When giving wives advice on how to pray for their husbands, Stormie Omartian says our favorite prayer is a three word phrase, “Lord change him!” But God’s favorite prayer to hear is, “Lord change me!”  She goes on to say, it’s not about who needs to change but who is willing to change. 

I think the same is true for any time we are praying for change.  Maybe it’s not the circumstance that needs to change.  Maybe you and I need to change.  Let’s pray that God changes us– the willing participant. Sure, you can pray for your circumstance to change. But even better, let’s pray that God changes our heart to find more contentment in who He is and not in our temporary circumstances.

2 thoughts on “Unmet expectations”

  1. I love this! It needs to be said and stressed, and nobody does it better than you.
    What helps me the most, is to pray for peace, first. I am a kind of person, who realizes every single fear, when laying in bed trying to sleep. Sometimes my heart stars racing and anxiety sets in. At that moment I pray and beg for God to get in my heart and calms it down. And He does just that. He is amazing and graceful. When you invite Him in the situation, you realize, you can change almost every single horrible situation in your life.

  2. I love this too! Reminds me of waking up on my 30th birthday, when it hit me that not only had the world not imploded because I was 30 and unmarried — I was super psyched that I wasn’t married! I was joyful! It was like a door opened in my spirit, and I was finally free to become the woman I’d really, secretly wanted to be all along (of course I’d always been free, but I didn’t see this).

    I think accepting, and loving, the present is also about discerning how deeply external social expectations dictate where we think we’re “supposed” to be in any season of life. Discovering all this is truly bull***t is so liberating! Sometimes we need to cross these false finish lines empty-handed in order to realize we are exactly where we should be. x

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