You and I have things that we desire other people to do. We desire our spouse to treat us with respect, we desire our co-workers to work efficiently with us on the new project, we desire our children to obey the first time we tell them, and the list goes on. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with these desires in and of themselves, but something changes in our hearts when these desires become expectations. Expectations move desires to another level. Expectations take something you would like to have happen and turn it into something you anticipate will happen. I think that when this happens, you’ve set yourself up for discontentment. A desire understands that a person may or may not do what it wishes, but an expectation is more pig-headed, even making decisions that depend on the fulfillment of what it wishes. Therefore, there’s a lot more distance to be let down when the expectation is not fulfilled; there’s a lot more to lose. And in the wake of unmet expectations is a heart that is bitter, depressed, or anxious.
Does this mean that we should not have expectations? I don’t think so. It just means that our expectations are misplaced. When we place expectations on people we set ourselves up for discontentment because people are sinful and limited. Sometimes people meet our expectations and sometimes they even exceed our expectations, but many times they don’t even get close. God, on the other hand, does not have the capacity to be unfaithful. He is perfectly loving, perfectly wise, and perfectly sovereign, so to place certain expectations on him would not be to set ourselves up for discontentment since he has everything necessary to be completely trustworthy.
But we must be careful with what expectations we place on God. We should not expect God to do whatever we want, but we should expect him to do whatever he says he will do in his Word. For example, Jesus says in Matthew 7:11, If you, then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! With these words we can and should expect that God will always give what is good to his children when they ask. But it would not be right to expect that goodness to come to you according to your specific desires (i.e. – “God will give me this job with this company”).
As well-intentioned as we are, we humans often do not do what we say we’re going to do, so let’s place our expectations on the one who will always keep his Word and rest in the delight of seeing those expectations never going unmet.