The last kind of trial is the trial of broken expectations. You and I need to remember that one of the greatest difficulties we have in life is dealing with expectations that never come to pass. In fact, most counselors will tell you that much depression comes from the disappointment over broken expectations.
When we get married, we have expectations. Newly married husbands expect a lot of things from their wives. And she has a whole list of expectations for him. He is expecting her to pick up after him, prepare wonderful meals, care for the brood, exhibit social graces, work like a “strong bull at home,” have the kids corralled, set a beautiful table with sterling candlesticks, have his favorite meal ready for him when he comes home, and after the meal—while he reads the paper—finish the work in the kitchen, put the kids to bed, and then be a tiger in the bedroom.
She has her list as well. He will be sensitive, understanding, and hang on every word uttered from her lips. He will keep her secure financially and spiritually, and she will always look at him as the rock of her life. He will help around the house and expect nothing of her when she is exhausted.
One of the great problems in marriage occurs after the first few weeks, when we realize that there is something wrong with those lists of expectations. That’s when the trouble begins. None of us likes to have our dreams dashed.
On one occasion when our children were very small, they asked, “Dad, will you take us to the circus Tuesday night?” Not wanting to appear cruel and insensitive, I said, “Maybe.” Which to their minds was yes. If you are a parent, or if you ever become one, know that anything short of an absolute, nonnegotiable, white-knuckled, teethclenched “NO!” is still a possibility. I said maybe and forgot about it.
I still remember coming home that Tuesday night. The kids were all excited. “Dad’s home! Tonight’s the night!”
“What’s tonight?” I said.
“The circus! Remember?”
“Oh,” I said, “we’re not going to the circus.”
They said, “Okay. No problem,” and danced off merrily to do something else. Not a chance! They were crushed.
Broken expectations are a leading source of discouragement and despondency. The most instructive passage I know about expectations is in Philippians 1. It’s the report that Paul files with the church in Philippi about his time in Rome. In this report he notes that he is imprisoned (v.13), that some of the Roman believers are envious and spiteful toward him (v.15), and that Nero may decree that his life be taken (vv.19-24).
This has the makings for a lot of discouragement. What fascinates me is that in the midst of this trial of expectations, he is victorious and ecstatic. How? The answer is given in verse 20:
[It is] my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death (NASB).
Paul had one expectation in life. It wasn’t to be the premier apostle. Nor was it to be well liked by brothers and sisters in Christ. It wasn’t even to be given a longer life in which to serve Christ. Those were not his expectations. His one expectation was that Christ be magnified through him. He sought to demonstrate the quality, character, and agenda of Christ—regardless of his situation in life.
Rejecting comfort, pleasure, health, wealth, and peace as our primary expectations in life and placing as our number one priority reflecting Christ will not only direct us toward His glory but also help us bypass much trouble.
So, what can we expect from trouble? We can expect trouble to reveal ourselves as we really are and to come in at least seven different forms. And we can also expect trouble to elicit a response. The pivotal issue is what kind of response it will be.