So how do we handle expectations? There are definitely some wrong ways to handle them. A wife may passively comply with what is expected of her, trying to meet everyone’s expectations, no matter how unrealistic. But underneath, that woman will have an inner rage that shows up in her relationship with her husband and her children, and in her relationships at church. She is a ticking time bomb. Another may loudly rebel against the expectations placed on her, but because she is handling the situation in a wrong way, it will cause problems in the church. If you find yourself in either of these categories, you need to talk to your husband or a Christian counselor immediately. You are on a course set for destruction—of yourself, your family, and the ministry that the Lord has given to you and your husband. Expectations do not have to destroy you. That is Satan’s design. Don’t get caught up in that trap.
So how should we rightly handle expectations? First, we need to realize that expectations are always going to be with us. Just like death and taxes, they are part of life. They are a part of every human relationship: husband and wife, children and parents, employees and bosses, students and teachers, patients and doctors, etc. Even when they are not aware of it, everyone continually deals with a two-way working of expectations: what others expect of them, and what they expect of others. No one can totally avoid or abolish the impact expectations will have on their life. Therefore, we must learn to live with them and to deal with them.
Remind yourself that expectations in themselves are neither good nor bad. Expectations can be useful or destructive depending on how we think about them and how we allow them to affect our life, our relationships and our ministry. When properly understood and used, expectations can lead us to a highly productive ministry. On the other hand, when they are inappropriately viewed, they can cause frustrations, make us cynical, and make us give up.
Plant yourself in another’s perspective so you can see the world through their eyes. Face the reality that expectations are like a two-edged sword. The more you expect, the more others expect of you. Unrealistic commitments, deadlines and demands for self or others can be disappointing or even damaging to the cause of Christ.
You need to check your perspective and make sure your expectations are right. Try the following experiment to clarify your expectations. Make a list of what you expect from others. Next, make another list of everything you expect people of the congregation to provide for you and your family. And finally, make a third list of everything you expect to do for individuals in the congregations. Do you find a balance between the lists?
Now do a reality check. What percentage of entries on your list is even possible to do? Does anyone in any other profession receive what you expect to receive? An even more sobering question to be considered is—can you possibly do what you expect of yourself? Could you really live by the standards you set for others? Could it be that some of your expectations are self-imposed monsters?
Many times, what we expect is simply not realistic or possible or doable. Too often expectations are sheer dreams that do not happen in real life. Many expectations on all three lists are not possible for self or others when you consider levels of spiritual maturity, life experiences, lack of training, available funds, and adequate time. To expect the impossible is to threaten relationships and multiply your own stress.
You need to be careful you don’t blindly follow someone else’s agenda. Rather, you need to find out what God wants you to do. You need to please only two people—God and husband.
First, you need to please God. God’s expectations of us are reasonable, doable, and productive. He expects our best and He knows exactly what that is. Pleasing God matters more than anything else in life (Second Corinthians 5:9). He is a loving Father with our best interest in mind. Rely on God’s help. God’s resources make the fulfillment of His will possible. He energizes us to do what He wants done. Like a human father knows his children’s abilities, God knows us so well He can accurately determine just what we can do, and what we cannot do.
Second, we need to please our husband. As women, we sometimes feel we can handle anything—and end up taking on much more than we should. This simple sentence has saved me a lot of grief over the years: Let me ask my husband about that. First, it gives me time to think about what I am being asked to do rather than just committing to something right away because I feel guilty. Second, my husband has a different perspective on the situation, and he may see something that I do not.
We need to view every expectation from God’s perspective. That will clarify a lot of things. All expectations, regardless of their source, should be tested by this question: What does God want me to do? The Bible is to be our main guide, not what others think or even what we think. If we have the Bible as our guide, our focus will change from what others think or say about us, to what God says about it. We will be concerned about seeking His approval, not the approval of others. This is why it is so important for a wife to be spiritually strong herself. She must nourish her own soul and strengthen her own faith. She must build her own personal relationship with the Lord, not lean on her husband’s spirituality.
The bottom line: you cannot please everyone. Therefore, you should never control your life by what others demand and expect of you. Your orders are to come from the Lord and from your husband. Seek the will of the Lord every day and keep your heart free from sin, so the Holy Spirit can lead you. It is the only safe way—pleasing God first, and pleasing your husband second. Then you will find that you please most of those who also are looking for God’s will. The rest would criticize you no matter what you do, so don’t worry about them. Just trust the Lord to take care of their trouble-making and misunderstanding. Let your joy be that of knowing your way is right before Him.
Beverly is a wife, mother, and grandmother. She and Doug Hammett have been married for over 35 years. Since her father was a pastor and her husband was already a pastor when she married him, she is well acquainted with the blessings as well as the problems of the ministry! Bev’s favorite things to do are read and spend time with her family.
In Autumn of 2010, Doug stepped aside from his position as senior pastor at LVBC to reach and train men in Botswana and South Africa. Beverly continues to write for our ladies publication, giving her unique perspective of life in the ministry, and now life on the mission field. You can read more about their ministry here.