A picture of some of our gang this weekend in California, preparing for the conference and showing off our girlfriend heart rings!
Whenever women gather together, talk is abundant. At conference time, it’s always such a joy to sit together around a table with tea and coffee, exchanging stories and catching up. I love to hear tales of my friends children’s latest escapades, the new group another has started in her home, the answers to prayer someone else is experiencing. Friendship multiplies our joys and divides our grief, and you don’t have to look much further than a room full of ladies to see evidence of that!
While there are always fun stories to be shared, eventually, if we’re being honest, talk comes around to more difficult areas being faced. Someone’s father has just been diagnosed with cancer. A child is wayward. Financial difficulties loom. We have so many high hopes for all of life, don’t we? And yet more often than we like to admit, it just does not seem to measure up to our hopes; it is stressful and disappointing. When a person lives for a long time in difficult circumstances, anger can begin to overwhelm their personality.
Everyone wishes life were simple; that we could be happy all the time; that difficult things never happened. And yet, that’s not the case. I think it is so important to know that all of us experience anger and a sense of injustice at times, and that those times roll around much more often than we’d like to admit. Sometimes, we want to say, “I have been good and tried hard to please you, Lord– and this is what I get?!” We think that choosing right behavior should lead to a certain result.
Anger, I believe, quite often comes from disappointed expectations. We expected life or a person to behave in one way and it surprises us by behaving in just the opposite way from what we wanted it to or hoped that it would. The resulting anger can then lead to depression and despair. There are many things in this fallen world that can oppress our spirits and tempt us to give up, because the end results of our efforts are not as we would hope or expect.
So what is the key to not becoming an old grump with a permanently furrowed brow?
I think a large part of the answer comes in laying down our expectations.
When we have long lists of what we expect from those around us, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment and broken relationships. This is true whether we’re talking about our husbands, our friends, our churches, our children, or even ourselves! If you think back to the last time you had a conflict with someone, you’ll probably discover that the root of it was an expectation of some sort—that they would act a certain way, perform a particular task, or provide for a need you had. It’s much the same with frustration at yourself—it is a result of expecting more than you’re able to give.
If we’re going to love well, we need to stop placing the burden of expectation on ourselves and those around us. We must ask the Lord to help us remember that life is difficult, people are imperfect, and He understands and will help us deal with both! In a broken world, bad things occur as a matter of course. If we accept the fact that while we live on this earth we will face the tribulation Jesus promised (!!) us, perhaps we can walk through our days leaning on Him and taking each moment as it comes; with an open hand ready to both give and receive, trusting in our Father to help us because He holds every day in His hands. We aren’t guaranteed health–even if we eat only the best foods and avoid sugar forever and never eat a cupcake again. We aren’t guaranteed to have plenty of money–even if we tithe and budget with the envelope system and pay every bill on time. We aren’t guaranteed a bevy of wonderful friends–even if we open our homes and smile at everyone and bake cookies (whoops, I forgot we were supposed to be avoiding sugar!!!)
Holding onto all of life with an open hand, ready both to give up things we want to hold on to *and* receive whatever God allows in our lives is really the only way to love the people around us well.
Is there someone you need to release from an expectation today? Resentment against things the Lord has allowed in your life? Maybe even something you need to forgive yourself for, because you’ve not met expectations you had for yourself?
Take a moment today to open your hands, friend.