“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”C.S. Lewis
My husband dropped my daughters off at the house after auditions at theater camp. The seven-year-old bounded up the steps, “Hey, Mom! I’m a bat! I’m a bat,” her excitement coursing through every molecule in her little body. And why not? She got to wear a cool costume, flap her arms and squeak “Eep! Eep!” as she barreled across the stage.
My teenager was less enthused. Ok, she was devastated. After several plays where she received more “substantial” roles, she had been given a part with no lines. None. My husband saluted me as I comforted my weeping daughter, and hightailed it back to work.
After sharing a fraction of my many disappointments in the world of the theatre (insert dramatic snobbery here), I pointed out to my teenager the difference in her attitude and her little sister’s. What made the difference between elation and devastation?
Only this: expectations.
“I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep my expectations.”Bill Watterson
While I didn’t quote the Calvin and Hobbes author directly to my daughter, I echoed the sentiment.
And while it seems counter-cultural and less than inspiring, low expectations can make this life easier to swallow.
Right right. If I don’t keep my expectations up, then how will I ever achieve great things? Great things are only accomplished by those who expect them, right?
Well, I’m fairly certain that our definition of “great things” depends highly on earthly standards instead of God’s, so I’m not really sure we are even the best judges of what defines “great”. And given history’s track record, not to mention Bible accounts, not to mention my own life experiences, I would say we are actually pretty terrible at determining what is great and what is not.
But if we are looking for inspirational speeches, we should probably look to Jesus, and specifically his sermon on the mount. And the good news is He didn’t say to have low expectations.
He said to expect trouble.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”Matthew 6:34 ESV
Expect trouble. Each day will have its own amount of trouble. An interesting choice of words considering He is telling everyone not to be anxious.
God knows our inclination to misappropriate our high expectations. He knows our peace and joy corresponds directly with where we place our expectations and He knows our propensity to screw it up. I like to think that’s why He made sure this was in writing.
I am always, always, making my expectations for this world way too high and my expectations for God way too low.
Because of that fact, the Bible verses that give me the most peace are not the ones that promise satisfaction in this life, but the ones that promise trouble. Like this one:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”John 16:33 ESV
Because trouble is reality. Hard is reality. The verses that promise suffering are the ones that remind me that I have a God who knows what is going on with me. He knows what is up. And the best part is He doesn’t abandon us to it. He tells us to expect trouble in this life, but to expect peace in Him.
That means that when I am stretched beyond myself and the pain is too much, I am in the prime position to receive peace that surpasses all understanding. I am in the care of the only One who will overcome all this trouble, pain, frustration, disappointment. And He is overcoming it right now in me.
This jar of clay, this broken body, is displaying that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to me. I am carrying in my body the death of Jesus Christ so that the life of Christ can also be revealed in my mortal flesh.
And your precious jar of clay is doing the same. We all suffer. It’s inevitable. Jesus said so. But we have options in our suffering. We can default to despair. We can fight the losing battle of striving for “comfortable” in a world that breeds dissatisfaction. Or we can look to Christ. We can expect God to not just notice our struggle, but to be knee-deep in it with us. We can expect Him to bring joy as we thank Him for the ways He is faithful in every moment. We can keep track of that faithfulness with a pen and paper, on our phone or computer, and in that thankfulness we can shine His love in the darkness.
Our struggles are known, friends. They are known by God in ways that we cannot imagine. But peace is not far off. It is in you even now through the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Praise God for that.
Praying for you all right now. I’m praying God’s peace rules in your hearts. We belong to the God who overcomes it all. We are His.
Looking for more encouragement? I’m starting a vlog-ish-type-thing on YouTube. You can find it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNMgYe7ZMhU
Photo credit: Jakevisuals