Did you know that it’s impossible not to have expectations?
However vague, we always have some sense of what an event or a holiday or a job or a coffee-date will be like. Often, when we say we had “no expectations” what we really mean is we had “low expectations”.
Christmas and the holiday season bring a lot of expectations.
What comes to mind when you hear the word “Christmas”? Food, fun, community, isolation, stress – whatever connotations you have, they will form part of your expectation for the season.
Christmas and the good thing about expectations
Chronic illness can make expectations necessary.
This is because illness can mean you or your Loved One may have to plan a lot more for the holiday season than others. You may have to prepare food which you can eat to take with you on visits. You may have to strictly schedule events and rest periods in order to manage fatigue.
All this necessary planning means your expectations begin to take on a very concrete form.
Yet chronic illness also makes things unpredictable!
Your loved One may wake up in the morning of the 25th and be having a “bad day”. You may spend more time trying to find an open doctor’s surgery than with your family. When the unexpected happens, your expectations are shattered, and this can be painful.
One way around this is to have very low expectations. The theory is that by assuming the holiday period will be awful, you minimise your disappointment and optimise your gratitude.
It sounds like a really nice idea, but it’s very difficult to live out.
The reality is, expectations aren’t always something we can control. It can be very hard to maintain your low expectations when the rest of the world is rejoicing in holiday cheer. Expectations sneak up on us, and can leave us bitterly disappointed over things we thought we didn’t care about.
I don’t have a solution to this. It’s impossible not to have expectations, and it’s equally as impossible to keep them from being shattered.
What I do have to share is a few truths I like to keep especially close during the Christmas season.
What I find encouraging about expectations:
Broken expectations remind us of the necessity of Christmas
I’m not saying you have to turn your heart-break into an ‘object lesson’ or a metaphor. I have, however, found comfort in remembering that broken expectations aren’t a strange or abnormal thing.
They remind us that despite perfect Instagram feeds or the promises of Christmas catalogs, the world is actually broken. It is full of people hurting, and God has done something about it. He has recognized our desperate need and sent His son to earth. That’s why we celebrate Christmas.
Your disappointed expectations are actually more reflective of reality than most of our commercialized Christmas season. You are not the odd one out but the odd one in.
There are some expectations which can never be broken
It’s easy to become cynical when our expectations are shattered over and over again. It’s tempting to want to turn our back on the world or secretly give up any hope of satisfaction or contentment.
The truth is that while nothing in this world can really fulfill our expectations, that doesn’t mean that our expectations can never be fulfilled! Indeed, there are some expectations that can and will be satisfied and even exceeded…
We’re never going to be disappointed in Jesus.
Of course, there are times when we won’t feel close to Him, or when we want to pray and simply can’t. Yet ultimately Jesus’ personality will never leave us feeling empty. It doesn’t matter how high our expectations are, because He is enough.
If you feel you can’t place your hope in health these holidays, place your hope instead in Jesus’ big plan for your life, His steadfast presence, His promise of eternity, His assurance of peace.
In the end you won’t be disappointed.
There’s nothing wrong with either high or low expectations
We often equate disappointment with failure. Our expectations weren’t met so we must have done something wrong! It’s all our own fault. If only we hadn’t hoped as much, hadn’t dreamed as much –
There’s nothing wrong with failed expectations. Just as there’s nothing wrong with setting high expectations or embracing low ones. Why? Because both are grounded in reality.
This world is full of disappointment and strife and heartache. Setting low expectations is realistic and not necessarily a bad thing.
This world is full of hope and miracles. God is still King. He’s working through His plan and He is all-capable and all-loving. Setting high expectations is realistic and not necessarily a foolish thing.
In Christ we are free to indulge ourselves in the highest and the lowest expectations. In Christ we have somewhere to turn when our expectations are shattered, and someone to rejoice to when they are exceeded.
May we all go forth into the holiday season unafraid of setting expectations because we know we have a sure Foundation on which to build them.
I wish you a satisfying, Christ-filled holiday.
//Do you tend to set high or low expectations? Where do you turn when they are shattered?
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