May 3, 2022

If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. Matthew 16:25 NLT

I remember my great desire to be sixteen and then eighteen and then to be a for-real, recognized adult. The days and years following have taught me that adulting is hard. Living well is challenging. Doing relationships, living within community, is the most rewarding, most difficult thing a person can ever do. Marriage, parenting, friendships, leadership—all of them, every single relational adventure has plenty of opportunities for great joy and also great sorrow or anger and a myriad of other emotions. No one gets through it without hurting and being hurt.

Anne Lamott once wrote, “Expectations are resentments under construction.” Hard to hear, but true. No one realized when we started 2020, with plans and goals underway, that by March we would be struggling in ways we had never imagined and that we seemed out of ideas and the ability to change anything. Strife and resentments exploded around the world. That has been a great lesson from COVID-19 for all who will learn—having life under control is an illusion. No one likes the feeling of powerlessness. None of us relishes placement in a situation where our hands are tied and there’s just nothing we can do about it. Yet that’s where we found ourselves.

For all of us there’s at least one area of life where we are frustrated all of the time with our lack of control. Look at your issues with co-workers and your boss, your frustration with your church, your tension within your family, and even the anxiety you have within yourself. You will discover a common thread. Most everything that keeps us awake at night and causes us to resent and brood and even be angry at or disbelieve God—the thread running through them all is expectation. We expect certain behaviors and outcomes. When we are disappointed we respond badly.

Unless we want to live in perpetual disappointment, grief, chaos, and aloneness, we must choose a new strategy. Control is not going to work for us. The answer sounds like it will never lead to fulfillment and peace. But it does. We cannot control our experiences, but we have full control over our expectations. We can wisely adjust them; even better, we can surrender them.

How does that help? When I continue to hold onto my expectations of what I wanted, what I thought would be, what I thought must be, I am fighting against reality. I put distance between myself and God, the One I feel surely could and should do something more in line with what I know I need. I see the people around me as obstacles at best, as enemies at worst. I cause grief and pain for myself and everyone around me. The wisest thing I can do in my relationships with God and others is to release my expectations, freeing myself to love people and life as God sees fit to allow it to happen. Two things—first, I’m not in control anyway. I just think I am. And second, surrender has some unexpected benefits we would never suspect.

  • "All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.” Jesus, help me pray that and mean it. Amen.