I learned a hard lesson recently, one I’ve been reminded of almost daily since.
Waiting is a part of life. Whether or not you are a planner, the time will come when you have to wait for something to happen. The wait can be long or short, joyful or miserable, peaceful or anxious; but on a regular and recurring basis we all must wait.
The lesson I learned had to do with what I assign to what I’m waiting for….hope or expectation. As a former sign language interpreter, I was always frustrated that the sign for hope and expect were the same, because the words are very different.
Hope, while generally optimistic, comes equipped with the understanding that what you are hoping for may not happen. There is no certainty. Hope may even fly in the face of unlikeliness. There may be little chance of your hope becoming reality, but you choose to hope anyway.
Expectations are different. Expectations come with a likelihood that what we are waiting for WILL happen, it’s just a matter of time, and that’s the problem. Sometimes we allow our minds to go places they shouldn’t. When we should be hoping for something, recognizing it may not happen, we instead allow ourselves to believe that it really will happen. We even jump to believing that it should happen, and it should happen in the manner and timing that we assign to it.
For example: A man opens his own butcher shop when he is young. He works hard to make his business successful. He earns a reputation in the community for being fair and generous, this keeps people coming to him instead of going to the large supermarkets. During this time he marries and has a son. The man hopes that one day the little boy that started out sweeping the floors of his butcher shop will want to take over his business. His business will become a legacy, passed down from generation to generation.
The test of whether or not his hopes have become expectations comes when that son comes to his father and says he wants to go to Juilliard and become a concert pianist. Does the father recognize that his hopes were his own, not his son’s? Is he able to tenderly and gently set them aside to help his son fulfill his own hopes and dreams? Or have the hopes become more rigid expectations? Does the father fill with anger and disappointment and frustration?
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12 NAS). There is no doubt that hope can be painful. Those times when our hope becomes reality are profound and encouraging. But what do we do when our hopes are dashed? Can we yield them up? Acknowledge that the object of our hope really wasn’t ours to hold onto? Or do we strengthen our grip and transform them into expectations? Expectations that, when not met, fill us with anger and confusion, frustration and sadness, and perhaps worst of all, disappointment.
A dear friend helped me see that I had assigned my expectations to God, and when He didn’t come through in the way I wanted Him to, I was disappointed. “But I thought He showed me this-and-that”, I started to argue. “After all, I was only doing what I felt He was showing me to do…and it didn’t work out. It didn’t happen.”
Then she asked me, “So do you stop doing what you know He wants you to do, because you are disappointed; or do you keep going until He has finished what He wants to do in His timing? Will you yield everything to Him?”
I thought I had. I thought I yielded it all to Him; but as my dear friend prayed for me and I silenced my rebellious thoughts and asked God to show me the Truth in this matter, I realized I wasn’t yielded at all. If I am totally yielded to God, I cannot be disappointed, because I am allowing Him to choose if, and where, and when. I only get disappointed if I ascribe to God MY plan and MY timeline, and it doesn’t happen the way I want.
This has changed how I wait. Yes, my heart still hopes; and I even have some expectations. I have, however, learned to yield. Sometimes yielding is a one time thing; but for me, it is most often a state of constantly giving up the reins. I make my requests known to God, and then I leave them in His hands. If I am truly yielded, I can see my timeline come and go, and be thankful that it passed unfulfilled. And yes, there are still times when my heart aches, even breaks. My heart grows sick. But if I run to Him, and allow Him to be my everything, I’ll be ok. I won’t be spared from pain or hurt, but that pain can become the deeply tilled and fertile soil for something amazing to grow. I hope.