“The Lord is my light and my salvation — whom shall I fear?” Psalm 27:1
Psalm 27 has so much good stuff in it!
And still, even with knowing the truths that are there, at times I am still fearful. I think I dwell on too many “what ifs”. I cannot control the future. Even though there are times I wish I could, it is for the best that I can’t. The best I can do is control my responses to situations. Knowing that the Lord is my shelter, my fortress, my salvation, my light, and the stronghold of my life helps me put the “what ifs” into a proper perspective.
Recently, to every “what if” I have been trying to say “even if” instead and I recount the promises of God’s presence, perspective, and peace.
Psalm 27:5 says “For in the day of trouble…” and it reminds me that we all have days of trouble. Sometimes there are many days of “trouble” in a row. But “he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.”
There is no end to hardship in personal relationships, work situations, physical health, or the circumstances found in the world today because we live in a world full of sinners who make selfish choices. I have made quite a few sinful choices myself to the pain and detriment of myself and others. But God works in and through us and, often in spite of us to share His grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love to our hurting world!
“Hope for the Best. Expect the worst. Life is a play. We’re unrehearsed.” ― Mel Brooks.
It’s funny. You dream of a day, a meal, an experience, a career and it doesn’t turn out the way you expected AT ALL!
Sometimes we aim too low on our expectations and we are pleasantly surprised. Other times, and likely much more frequently, we expect too much from something or someone and it doesn’t happen the way we hoped.
Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth begin!
Expectations can be the death of a relationship (and sometimes that is ok) but a dose of reality is always important.
Take my most recent haircut, for example.
I always agonize when we relocate because it surely means two things: I need to find a new mechanic I can trust and I need to find a new person to cut my hair in a way that looks good on me.
Ugh on both points!
I have been avoiding a haircut since September when we moved. I did break down and get a trim in February but that is all I had the courage to do before yesterday. And by yesterday I was already way overdue for a haircut. I called in the morning and she could take me at 1:30 the same day. Wow! I was excited! I even had this photo as an example of the cut and style I was interested in.
Granted, I was not going to wear makeup and I was not dressed quite as fancy and I don’t have the same smile BUT this is what I walked out with:
I guess it is close, but not close enough to what I was hoping for. This experience reminded me of some important truths:
We are working with people who most often do not always see things from the same perspective or we have more confidence in them than is warranted.
And let’s take it a step further: We are dealing with people who have some deep wounds we don’t know about or they think have been healed or ____________ (fill in the blank)!
Working with human beings is pretty tricky stuff. When we are deep in a relationship with someone we sometimes experience some very difficult things with them. Other times we miss things that are very important for others because we are in the middle of our own stuff. All of that messes with expectations: yours, mine, and theirs.
Pay attention to your relational expectations. Even if they are truly justified and reasonable, sometimes the other party is not in the same book as you, let alone on the same page.
I do believe God’s grace covers a multitude of sins. I have a multitude of my own sins to worry about. So while I might want to stomp around being ‘justified’ about my irritations or aggravations I most often need to move along and let God work on me and my attitude. As I ponder His grace poured out on me and my life, it feels pretty stingy to withhold it from others.
Are you struggling with expectations today? How do you work through those times of disappointment when you or others have “dropped the ball” or intentionally challenged your hopes and dreams?
When I am in a good space, I tend to seek God on the matter. When I struggle with it the most it seems I have drifted a bit from God’s perspective.
As for my hair, I just have to wait for it to grow out. I suspect that strategy of waiting (and praying) works well with a multitude of unmet expectations. I trust that God will work it out even when I can’t possibly see the solution.
Compromise happens at work, at home, in friendships, at church, and driving during rush hour…you have a place you are trying to get to and someone barrels in with their plan. Do you cause an accident or let them merge?
Everyone must be willing to compromise in some areas but determining when it is appropriate is so tricky! There are also times when compromise shouldn’t happen and that is equally as important. Some personalities love to be in charge and being willing to concede is extraordinarily painful for them but all the more necessary. Other personalities so desire peace (or acceptance, etc.) that they are open to compromising too much and that can cause problems. Who you are and who you are dealing with are very important things to consider in this business of compromise in addition to “the compromise” itself.
Does your compromise actually stand in the way of what you hope to achieve? Are there fears and regrets in the middle of the compromise? Are you surrendering your better judgement or core values? Some things are really not that important and other things can change the course of your life…forever.
So what if you find yourself in a situation where you have compromised a little too much, are experiencing regret, and are having a difficult time getting back to “the line in the sand” you had previously established? Maybe establishing “the line” wasn’t important previously but as you grow and mature you see the benefit from having a boundary. Ponder the situation. Pray about the situation. If your heart is restless, I would guess that the compromise you struggle with is probably more than should have been surrendered. Sometimes you can ask yourself “How do I wish this situation looked right now?” and that might give you a clue to what you should be working towards. Have you talked it over with a trusted and wise friend? Have you visited with a trained counselor?
Boundaries can change over time and there are times they definitely should. Consider a parent who is in charge of their child’s every day. Typically, the day will come when that child moves away. Has the parent given them wings to fly when the time comes by allowing the child (young adult, adult) increasing opportunity to make decisions and grow in being responsible for themselves? This is tricky business for parents but it can also be difficult at work, as you volunteer, and in many other relationships. Too much compromise can lead to regret and anger and an unsettling feeling. Too little compromise can lead to relationship challenges.
Pray for those you see compromising too much. Pray for those who are too often unyielding to ideas that don’t come from their own mind. Both extremes have their challenges. Spend some time thinking about your life and your compromises. If you are struggling with regret, seek God’s forgiveness. If you are struggling with anger, seek God’s peace.
Over the course of life there are so many friendships we experience–some are an amazing source of love and grace and laughter on this bumpy road of life and some leave incredibly deep wounds.
If you decide to take a few moments to contemplate old, expired, and difficult friendships be sure to take along a big bucket of grace to dump over the entire situation.
As you survey your lifetime of friendships, a few may stand out. The painful friendships are precious in their own way–maybe the relationship didn’t survive but hopefully there were some lessons learned by both parties. It is tricky business to have two people in relationship with one another because everyone has their own issues. Believe me, I have mine and I am willing to bet you have yours. Those frictional friendships often help us understand more about ourselves if we can step back and look at them with an introspective eye. (I know, introspective eye sounds a little weird). At any rate, sometimes a big chunk of time might need to go by before you can look back at a friendship and consider what was going on there. If you find yourself wondering to a time period with a painful friendship, I pray you are willing to see God and His perspective and be able to experience His peace.
When I was younger, I loved to push the limit and see how close to the line I could come. I used to resent boundaries and consider them a challenge to overtake. Can you relate? Amazingly enough, I have kids who do the very same thing. It must be a part of that sinful, human nature.
I have learned many difficult lessons in life because I overstepped boundaries, didn’t enforce boundaries, and ignored boundaries. I am still learning, often the hard way. Boundaries are important in marriage, parenting, friendships, work relationships and are more than just a benefit.
Boundaries are a blessing.
Consider that God has placed boundaries around you for your protection–He tells you to stay away from certain things so you will be pure. God wants you to be safe from sin and danger and He helps you to do that by telling you things to avoid. He wants you to heed His words, for your blessing and benefit.
And wouldn’t it be great if we had no boundaries for God?
Allowed Him access to every dark corner of our lives?
Recognized that He supersedes physical boundaries by being omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent?
1 Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.
2 I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.” 3 I say of the holy people who are in the land, “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.” 4 Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips.
5 LORD, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. 6The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. 7 I will praise the LORD, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. 8 I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.
9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, 10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay. 11 You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
O God, you are my God, I earnestly seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry weary land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1
Don’t you just love how God uses a common experience to relate to us? These kinds of verses really help the Bible come alive for me.
I have been thirsty before…have you? Sometimes I have contemplated compromising what I know to be right just to get the thirst quenched. That beautiful babbling stream coming from the mountain? It looks refreshing. It sounds refreshing. Do you have any idea unhealthy or dangerous microorganisms or dangerous chemicals that could be in there? Not unless you have a water testing kit.
Sometimes we are so desperate to have a need or a desire or a thirst quenched, we will drink anything…and that decision can be deadly.
Earnestly seek God on the matters of your heart. Prayer is always a great starting point. If you find yourself in a difficult place, definitely start with prayer. Then open your Bible and see what God has revealed about Himself. What does His Word say in relationship to your struggle? If your exact situation isn’t in Scripture, how can you apply what you know about the character of God?
Earnestly seeking God would be committing time and focus on Him. Quality time. Quantity time. Is there something that you might need to consider giving up for a time in order to truly seek God’s heart on a matter?
We most often see the term yield in reference to driving on an on-ramp or at an intersection where we must ‘give way’ to another vehicle. Some countries use the phrase “give way”.
Give Way. I like it.
Wouldn’t it be nice if those types of signs would pop up during relationships?
You are about to make a strong point with your spouse or friend, teetering on the edge of really saying something hurtful and a yield sign pops up to remind you to give way to a better way of speaking.
You are about to make a direction change in your life that requires some other pieces to fall into place and instead of going “full-speed ahead”, a yield sign pops up and warns you to let something else come first.
You are busy telling Go your life plans and He calls you to yield to Him one step at a time.
There are many times you will find yourself in situations calling for you to submit, consent, surrender or accept. Sometimes God is the one requiring that of you.
“Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” Joshua 24: 23 NIV
Those “foreign” gods can really worm their way into my heart and mind. I find it unfortunately easy for other desires and distractions to move into first place. That is a clear indication that I haven’t been yielding to God’s wisdom and way.
Are there areas in your life God is asking you to yield for a season?
Ever have one of those times when life is crazy and the concerns of the moment are overwhelming and make it difficult to get your bearings?
A car accident leaves a loved one critically injured.
A “pink slip” is handed to you.
A grim diagnosis comes from the doctor.
A crime is committed against you.
Or maybe your stressors are a collection of little situations over time that have become overwhelming and incapacitating. Thankfully, we don’t often experience the big situations listed above, but life can change so quickly. Sometimes, a survey of the things I need to get done or am already behind on can make feel dizzy and disoriented, not knowing where to start.
If the path seems a bit fuzzy, here are some things that might help you regain your focus:
Close your eyes and ask God for His strength for the moment.
Ask for prayer support. Sometimes just stating the struggle you are going through gets it out on the table and gives you chance to access it.
Be honest about your situation.
Take a brisk walk for 15 minutes to clear your head.
We all have different circumstances that send us reeling and mess with how we are looking at our situation. We often are unable to see God’s perspective and the work God is doing “behind the scenes”. If you are in a calm time in life, pray for those you may know who are walking through a difficult time. Lift them up in prayer or lend a hand.
I pray you learn from and grow in your relationship with God. Ask Him to clear your eyes so you can get a glimpse of His vision!
Many a human relationship has been challenged due to unstated or unrealistic expectations. You have them. I have them. Sometimes we have expectations and we don’t even recognize it. Unmet expectations usually result in a little (or a lot of) relational stress.
What about when God doesn’t meet our expectations? If we are honest with ourselves and God, we would admit that things happen in life that were certainly not what we were expecting. What will today really bring? We don’t actually know but we can lay our requests before Him and leave them there for Him to address.
Give ear to my words, O LORD, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. Psalm 5:1-3
Lord, give us the grace to accept Your will in our lives. Continually open our eyes to Your perspective and to Your plan but, above all, increase our faith and trust in You. Amen.