Living in Joy Instead of Expectation

Living in Joy blog

Something about adult birthdays and Mother’s Day tends to be a letdown. In my dream world, all my responsibilities would magically disappear on these days. I would do whatever my heart desired, and there would not be dishes piling up in the sink, nor clothes waiting to be folded, nor messes being made. Alas, the reality is that children still must be cared for, meals still must be cooked, and work still must be done.

I don’t think I am alone in this. Without even realizing it our expectations are high (even if we can’t articulate what those expectations are) and then life hits. It’s not that our families don’t serve us, there are just very few days that the responsibilities of a mom (and really just normal life expectations) ever truly rest. This is a recipe for unmet expectations and in turn disappointment. All the joy and hope we went into the day with can spiral into a pit of self-pity.

These unmet expectations stretch way beyond moms and Mother’s Day. It could be the expectation of being married by now, or further in our careers, or more involved with our adult kids and grandkids. It could be “smaller” things like expecting more help from our spouse, or more intimate friendships, or to picked for something we have been hoping for. How do we remedy this? How do we handle all of the expectations in life that go unmet?

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Have joy. Pray. Give thanks.

That simple, but sometimes so difficult to get out of our own way and apply.

I unintentionally applied this last Mother’s Day. I was scrambling and attempting to get all the kids eating breakfast and ready for church by myself (occupational hazard of having a husband that’s a pastor). I stopped to pray for our breakfast and instead of a route prayer, I found myself really thanking God for making me a mother, for these three kids, and for the opportunity to raise them. I was overcome with joy and gratefulness. I had to stop; I was so emotional. God had used the stillness, prayer, and gratefulness to disrupt my own self-pity and bad attitude. That moment of prayer reframed my entire day. Instead of looking through the lens of expectation, I had put on the lens of gratitude. Instead of expecting everyone and everything to cater to me, I was just thankful. And it made all the difference in my day.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is overflowing with this attitude. Really if you need some encouragement you can pause right here and read Philippians. Paul was a man who had been through some things to say the least. If there was someone who could complain about his circumstances, it would be him.  But he didn’t, he rejoiced and called others to do the same. You can hear it as he talks to the Philippians:

Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. Philippians 2:17-18

And when we look to Christ, we are looking at the ultimate example of humility. The ultimate call to let go of expectations. Jesus, fully God and fully man, laid himself aside, and with joy saved us.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

So, whether its Mother’s Day coming up in your life, some other highly expectant moment, or just a “normal day,” take some time and be still in the Lord. Pray. Take off the lens of expectation and put on the lens of gratitude. I think if we dare to do this, it will completely change our ability to have joy no matter the circumstance.  It will reframe our days in a wonderful way for God’s glory.