By Bethany Woelmer
You find them everywhere: sticking to the promises of personal relationships, attaching themselves to responsibilities and hopeful goals, and rendering themselves useful for satisfaction and gain. You find them in both the good and the bad in life, stemming from our mortal flesh through our needs and wants and racing through our veins to control our thoughts, emotions, and actions.
They’re EVERYWHERE. And our sinful nature just cannot get rid of them, because it’s wired for control, pleasure, and self-gain.
They are those little things that raise our hopes for the future and become the dependency that we create for people based on our needs and wants; those little things that fire our emotions and send them wild, either leading us toward a promising end or pushing us off the cliff of despair into the depths of our soul that is once again paralyzed with fear and anxiety for the future; those little things that secure our wellbeing and confidence yet also cause us to despair when they don’t come to pass.
You cannot blame other people for not giving you everything you want.
Holding expectations for others is really great—to a certain extent. Expecting others to behave according to their vocation and abilities and according to what we really need is reasonable. What would we possibly do without parents to take care of us, friends to support us, teachers to instruct us, doctors to heal us, cooks to feed us, and even people we don’t know to promote a greater living within the society around us? We expect because we know that we will receive, we receive because we know that we need, and we need because we can’t accomplish everything on our own.
But what if we want more than we need? What if we expect too much out of people to a point that we perpetually blame them for not meeting those expectations? What if we desire more from them without appreciating the blessings they give to us on a daily basis? What if we refuse what we need and rather expect the things we want instead?
We find this everywhere around us. Different standards of pleasure rule our minds, and when instant gratification is not received, we blame others instead of focusing on the blessings we do have. And when these expectations fail to be fulfilled, our thoughts and actions gain control of us and cause us to doubt our abilities, lose hope in others, and sin against God and our neighbor.
There are many times when we even expect more from God than what He has promised to us. With anxiety we expect immediate answers to our prayers without the patience that all things will work out for good to those who love Him. With despair, we blame God for the times when we were not given everything we wanted. With confidence, we lie to ourselves that the plans for our lives are unchanging, when in fact, there is so much more to learn and so much more that will change and help us grow.
But here is what is truly important: The most we can ever expect from God is what He has promised to give us through His Word and Sacraments, which is more than we could ever hope for or deserve. We can go to the Divine Service, expecting that the Word is taught in its truth and purity and knowing for certain that we will receive forgiveness of sins from God Himself through the confession and absolution of our sins, the preaching of His Word, and the administration of His Body and Blood that He poured out for us on the cross. As poor miserable sinners, we can can be certain that all those times we expected too much of others and of God are wiped away by words of forgiveness.
Sit down in God’s house, and you can expect to receive. It’s as simple as that. Surround yourself with the community of believers, and you can expect the light of Christ to shine through them. Read His Word, and you can expect everything you really need in life and the true joy in knowing that you belong to someone greater than you could ever expect in this world, someone who has given His life for yours and who has suffered the punishment that you deserve. That “someone” is Christ Himself who gave His life for us without expecting anything in return.
So what more is there to expect when you already have everything you need? As we continue through life’s struggles and expectations, we are comforted in knowing that God is in control. We need not worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough troubles of its own, and we can live in peace, knowing that our hope is in Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. And THAT is an expectation that will never change!
Bethany Woelmer is a senior at Concordia University Wisconsin and is studying parish music and theology. She loves using her creativity in music, crafts, writing, and photography, and spends every day enjoying the little things in life that bring happiness. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.