When Expectations Leave You Empty

Life isn’t always what it’s hyped up to be.
Instead of this fluid, steady, and sweeping narrative, we find ourselves living stories written in disjointed, disordered, and uneven splices. We contemplate the Hand that wrote this story; we wonder at which point we went wrong, at which fork in the road we took a bad turn to end up here. Sooner or later, it’s like the light we have been running from flickers on and we are caught red-handed, in a state of daze and frenzy. It’s like waking up from a well-rehearsed dream and realizing that reality has dealt you a different script. You are startled and exposed. But you are still expected to pull off a standing ovation.
The world never seems to slow down enough for us to steady our footing, to steady our hearts. How do we walk the chasms wide, and the valleys low; the barren, ugly places where dreams are abandoned and expectations fail? How exactly do we do life in all the awkward spaces between the ‘I’ve made it’ and the ‘not yet’, in all the voids left by expectations unmet? And if everyone secretly feels this way at one time or another, then why are we so embarrassed to say it?


You are not alone, dear sister. You are not. You are not forsaken, and you are not abandoned. You are not left alone to struggle. Seek out God and seek out community. Dive into His word and dive into prayer. This life is not meant to be lived alone in fearful, shameful isolation. Brave the waters of deep vulnerability and be the first to admit what it is that you’re feeling. You may be surprised at the waterfall reaction that follows, as fearful sisters finally come out of hiding and open up about their real, honest struggles instead of painting another layer to the shaky, false veneer that is holding together the unsteady heart; the easy façade that everything is going exactly to plan. Encourage each other. He comforts us so that we may comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:4), and “gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24). The world is hard and it cares nothing about the wake of broken hearts it has left in its trail. This takes a toll on the soul, and we need to be there to remind each other of our surpassing worth in Christ. Offer grace and offer truth, for the truth has a way of finding all the cracks in our broken vessels and flooding them with a precious silver lining: the hope that God is good and God is who He says He is. And that in turn, we are who He says we are: Beloved. Important. Chosen to do good works.
Wait on God. Learn to wait on Him. He’s training you to lean on Him fully and not the things of this world. This is not passive; rather, it is the most intentional waiting game you may ever play in all your life. When everything in you wants to jump out of this ship that is surely going down to climb the first rung on the ladder that spells success, stop to hear His voice assuring you that He isn’t withholding from you anything. Like Sarah waiting for her promised son, and Israel waiting for her covenanted Messiah, God usually gives us His sacred word and then lends us space to abide. It is in this season of abiding that we can learn how waiting on God looks a lot like living fully alive right where He has planted us, instead of dwelling in the past, or striving for the future. It is nearly humorous, the way this Infinite God uses our finite sense of time to shape and mold us more into His image; He uses time to grow and to prune us, to reveal Himself as faithful and trust-worthy. Be assured, darling, that He is using time to strip you of yourself in order that you may gain more of Him instead. We take hold of David’s words in Psalm 27,
“I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.”
The waiting season is hard though, because it lends a certain emptiness, a certain unfulfilled longing to the soul. It makes us weary and tired to carry around all these unmet, unrealized expectations; although hollow, they are heavy. You feel incomplete, as if all your life is a series of fragments with gaps too big to sew together. You feel partial, unfinished, wanting. These are the crucial moments, the moments in which we need to fumble and reach for God’s promise to be our solid ground, despite being in a circumstantial boat with no shoreline in sight. What we need most is not a career or an engagement ring or a picket-fenced house with a dog; look deep into your heart and you will uncover what it really is you think you need to survive. Sister, what we really need most is not a thing, but a Person, and He cannot be taken from us. So often we go running around like a million Marthas, making preparations and growing our anxieties because we have forgotten that we already possess what we most need: Jesus. He has promised to be with us forever (Matthew 28:20). And although the circumstances surrounding our lives may change, He does not. Wholeness is not achieved when we finally decipher God’s ‘perfect will’ for our lives; rather it is realizing we have already been made whole the very instant we received Christ by faith. “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). He has given us all we need to walk with Him; He has given us His very Spirit. Let us rise up and take hold of this promise, making every effort to confirm our divine calling. Sisters, let us move out in confidence, trusting that the calling He has placed over our lives is more than just a vocation; it is a way of life, a purpose and not a paycheck.
However, when the time comes for you to rise, don’t be afraid to try because you’re afraid to lose. There is nothing to fear, because there is nothing to lose. Your identity in Christ is sealed. He has gifted you with incredibly personal, intricate skills and talents, and you are an indispensable thread in the story He is weaving through creation. It is through your very person that He is revealing bits of Himself to the world. We are each a brilliant masterpiece, created in advance to do good works; we are whole in the body of Christ, united and equipped with individualized gifts for us to employ. Whether He has positioned you as an arm or a leg is not for you to decide, but it is up to you to determine and embrace the role He has destined you to play in His eternal story. Learn your gifts and own them; comparison can rob us from our God given titles, our usefulness, our joy. Fixing our eyes on Christ, let us run the race with endurance, with boldness, and without hindrance. It is for freedom that Christ has set you free, so go forth by His Spirit with courage, determination and assurance. Break down those walls and chase after dreams so big that you need Help to achieve them. You can fear the regret or you can fear the rejection, but there’s simply not room to fear both.
Our expectations may fail us, but our precious Savior will not. The waters of life can be daunting, dark, overwhelming, and vast until we look up and see the One who has the power to still the storm. He’s the One who, when life is coming at Him like a tsunami from all sides, threatening to take down the boat, is at rest. He’s the one who, when all others turn frantic and lose their heads, quietly trusts in the goodness of His Father. The boat is not going to go down with you on it. No matter what you see or what you feel, He is not sitting around watching you sink. When life seems too much, too big, or too hard, step out and take a moment. Look to the One who saw your formless body and wove you together with threads of dedication and complete ardor; look to the One who has hemmed you in before and after. Lift your chin and open your eyes to the One who has your name written on the palms of His hands, those beautiful,star-holding, stake-broken hands. You are whole there, you are safe there, and you are new there.
He has not left. 
This piece was originally published in Thryve Magazine, 2016

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s