Expect the Unexpected
By: Rebecca Barlow Jordan
Let your unfailing love surround us, Lord, for our hope is in you alone. - Psalm 33:22 NLT
My husband and I recently returned to one of our beloved getaway places along the western coast. We had looked forward to our summer vacation and the cooler temperatures where we’d visited several times since our children were small. But it had been over fifteen years since we’d felt the Pacific Ocean’s spray on our faces or the squish of sand between our toes as we walked along the California beach. It had been too long since we had tasted the fresh fish and chips at a familiar seafood restaurant or feasted at the seacoast’s colorful Mexican restaurants. We returned this time with expectations of reliving some special memories.
But those expectations met reality headlong the moment we drove out of the airport in our rental car. Everything had changed. Special places looked older, and the grass and hillsides, once lush and green, stood faded, now yellow and brown from lack of rain. New roads and hotels blocked some of the older beach views. One day we got completely lost on bumper-to-bumper side streets trying to find our way. Even with staying glued to our phone aps, we missed familiar turns. Our favorite seafood restaurant had closed up, but fortunately we found another one listed online at a location not too far away.
In spite of everything, we enjoyed the trip and time away. But our unmet expectations left us unfulfilled in some areas, and after a few days, we grew homesick.
Every marriage begins with a set of expectations, just like our vacation hopes. Having observed the positive attributes of our spouse before marriage, we may innocently visualize nothing but a continuation of the same. Memories of romantic dates, thoughtful gifts, and fun activities fill our minds with anticipation. What could possibly go wrong? Togetherness, strong ideals, and visions of happiness dance in our heads. We can’t conceive of a time when anything might change.
But that unrealistic expectation bubble soon bursts when we realize how misplaced our hopes really were. Reality sets in, and the unexpected happens. Our spouse responds with a negative viewpoint or hurting words. Work deadlines replace romantic dates. Like ants, our previously hidden quirks come creeping out of the woodwork. The honeymoon is definitely over. And both partners feel disappointed and cheated. Why? Because their expectations were in the wrong place. Where we go from there depends on our response—to God and to each other.
We could pull our hopes in like turtles and pretend everything is okay. If things progress year after year without being honest with each other, some couples might feel like Job did when life didn’t turn out exactly like he’d planned. He never railed against God. But when pushed past his limits with the advice of foolish friends, he responded in frustration: “Where’s the strength to keep my hopes up? What future do I have to keep me going? Do you think I have nerves of steel? Do you think I’m made of iron?” (Job 8:11 MSG).
But there’s a better way. We can recognize that we are human and sinful, and that no marriage is perfect. We can talk about our expectations with each other and make efforts to really work at our marriage relationship the way God intended.
In the end, however, we must place our hopes, dreams, and expectations in the only One who will never disappoint. With God, we learn to anticipate the unexpected, because His plans are good. Our spouse can’t possibly meet all our expectations, but God, who surrounds us with unfailing love, will go beyond them, always designing what is best for us. Isaiah 49:23 MSG records God’s comforting words: No one who hopes in me ever regrets it.
Rebecca Barlow Jordan is a bestselling inspirational author and passionate follower of Jesus who loves to paint encouragement on the hearts of others. She has authored and contributed to over 20 books and has written over 2000 other articles, devotions, greeting cards, and other inspirational pieces. She is a regular Crosswalk contributor whose daily devotional Daily in Your Presence is also available for delivery through Crosswalk.com. You can sign up for Rebecca’s free ebook and find out more about her and her encouraging blog at www.rebeccabarlowjordan.com.
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