Expectations are an extremely important part of life – whether we realize it or not. A great deal of our joy – as well as much of our anger and sadness – actually stems from expectations that do not match reality as it comes to pass. If reality exceeds our expectations, we experience joy. If reality falls short of our expectations, we experience anger or sadness. That being the case, should we care whether our expectations match reality or not? Many assume it is best to simply expect the worst because it will make it very hard to be disappointed. But should that be the stance of a Christian? I would argue not – because we are called to be people of faith, and overwhelming pessimism and skepticism is not faith. As those who have heard from God, we have the truth, and we should walk by faith in that truth. So that said, what should Christians expect? What does God tell us about the world in which we live everyday?
On the one hand, the Bible is clear that we should expect things not to go as we might wish or as they should because the world is broken in a number of profound ways. First of all, we live in a world that is still under the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19) who is the enemy of God’s people and seeks to devour us (1 Pet. 5:8). We must remember we live in the midst of a war in which our enemy is very real and very ferociously wicked. Second, we must remember that the offspring of the evil one will hate us just as their master does. Everyone who seeks to follow Christ will be persecuted by those who hate Christ (2 Tim. 3:12). Third, we live in a world that is subjected to the curse of God and thus is full of futility because it is groaning in brokenness (Rom. 8:20-22). The creation itself is not functioning as it should.
What does all of that have to do with expectations? It means that in this world, we will have tribulation (John 16:33). It means that our journey to glory is going to be full of difficulties and trials (Acts 14:22). It means we should not be surprised at the trials that come our way (1 Pet. 4:12). As Christians, we should expect that life will have difficulty. Instead of growing angry or frustrated, we should see our trials as yet another proof that God is boundless in His wisdom and knowledge because He told us it would be so. We should get out of bed recognizing the reality of trials because we have an enemy, sin is real, and the world is broken.
But that is not all. Christians are not doomed to sadness and despair because we understand the brokenness of the world. The Bible is also clear that in the midst of difficulty, there is reason for hope. First, though we will have tribulation, our Savior has overcome the world (John 16:33). And the One who is in us is greater than him who is in the world (1 John 4:4). Even more, we know that our Savior has defeated the one who has the power of death (Heb. 2:14). This means that even though Satan is fighting against us, he cannot defeat us or thwart God’s plan in our lives. Rather, God will work all things – even the trials and tribulations of life – for our good (Rom. 8:29). He uses them to make us more like our Savior and more like Himself. Second, the Bible is clear that as God’s children, we can come into His presence and seek His help in the midst of trials and tribulations and receive it. We have a great priest who has opened the door, and we can come with boldness and get what we need (Heb. 4:14-16; 10:19-25). We are not left to our own resources; rather, we can depend on the resources of God Himself – which are boundless and infinite. This is good news. Because of these two things, we can have joy even in the midst of trials and tribulations. We can count them joy (James 1:2) and boast in them (Rom. 5:3), because we know that God is using them for good. Though we still experience pain and frustration, we can know that they are not the end. We can know there is hope in them, and that keeps us from despair and from bitterness and from anger.
So, what should we expect? We should expect trials and difficulties and trouble in our life. At the same time, though, we should God expect that God’s grace will be sufficient for us in those trials (2 Cor. 12:9). We should walk in faith that we have everything we need for life and godliness – even in the midst of a crooked and broken world (2 Pet. 1:3). That is what we should expect: trouble and trial but grace sufficient for those things as well.