Good Expectations

As I lied there in bed, I unintentionally began reflecting on my life, wondering again if I had made a big mistake traveling so much, having all of these short-term stints across the world as a missionary. What if I had committed to a single community? Would I have found more fulfillment? Would I have found more meaning in life?

One night this past week I had a restless sleep and a disturbing dream that woke me up at 1am. Great, I thought, I have slept for two hours and I am now wide awake.

As I lied there in bed, I unintentionally began reflecting on my life, wondering again if I had made a big mistake traveling so much, having all of these short-term stints across the world as a missionary. What if I had committed to a single community? Would I have found more fulfillment? Would I have found more meaning in life?

This time, there was no precious reminder from God of this Biblical truth that had helped me through these thoughts before:

And everyone who has left houses, brothers or sisters, father or mother, children, or fields because of My name will receive 100 times more and will inherit eternal life. – Matthew 19:29

Instead, I was just left with these uncomfortable feelings of doubt and regret.

So this led me to the swift decision to either commit to the community I had in Hainichen, Germany, or to the one I had back home in Virginia, in my own effort to wipe away these feelings and fix my problem.

As soon as I had made up my mind, however, Jesus came in like the AWESOME SAVIOR THAT HE IS to give His perspective.

He showed me in my spirit that He is the only One who can bring me meaning. He is the realest thing. Yes, people and creation have life and are real, too, but none but Him are constant in all the changes and so He has become the most real thing in my life.

I was flooded with peace and comfort again as I understood the redemption of my ever-shifting circumstances: I have come to rely on Jesus alone for security and not necessarily the security that physical stability can bring.

Not to say that commitment to a single community/job is a bad thing, I think it is very honorable and good and would like that for myself, too.

But Jesus answered my self-condemning thoughts by showing me just one of the eternal benefits of following Him around the world. I didn’t even realize it, but all of this traveling and changing circumstances has helped me find stability within, where Jesus lives.

Through all the different experiences and times of immense fear, God never left me. This truth, I believe, is one of the most important truths for everyone to discover for themselves.

I love that Jesus wants to answer our doubt and doesn’t always require “more faith” in the written word. Of course what is written in the Bible is good and enables us to find peace and hope in periods of darkness and silence, and often God wants us to simply trust these words without seeing the results beforehand (since that is faith).

But there are times when God wants to reveal to us as individuals and as His beloved children how these Biblical truths are actual realities played out in our lives on earth. It’s the place where our faith becomes sight, and gives us the necessary encouragement to keep trusting Him.

I believe that the Bible shows us reality, and that the further we walk in faithfulness and intimacy with God, the more the Biblical truths turn from being “nice, but-not-my reality,” to actual life experiences.

And when this happens, I believe our expectations in life become more realistic and in line with God’s truth – they are neither fantastical and over-excited and idealistic, nor pessimistic and doubting and cynical. 

And this is another nugget of salvation Jesus has been giving me: to finally come into agreement with His expectations over me and for life rather than others’ or my own. False imaginations, fears and fantasies really cause us to stumble and taste bitterness and disappointment.

I also had to deal with this, to deal with my own expectations being false and having to reconcile God’s goodness in spite of many disappointments. With help from friends as well as getting over my own pride, I have been able to trust God again and see that He really is good. It was my own unrealistic expectations as well as lack of revelation of God’s love in the middle of pain that caused my mistrust in Him, not just the difficult circumstances themselves.

I believe it is a worthwhile question to reflect upon and solve: what disappointment(s) is causing bitterness and mistrust to spring up? How can I overcome this, even if the disappointment is tragic and therefore seems to justify the bitterness?

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Hebrews 12:14,15

Very recently, my repentance over putting my hope in a false reality has led me to experience His perfect acceptance over me in a way I had never felt before. I realized, for perhaps the tenth time in my life that, this is what I actually want, not my own imagined idealized circumstances (they are simply false illusions), but the deep knowledge of Jesus Christ, who is for me in every imaginable way.

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10

For you have delivered me from death
    and my feet from stumbling,
that I may walk before God
    in the light of life

Psalm 56:13

So as I figure out my future plans, I will continue to do my best to trust Him in the process, though I might occasionally have those moments of, “WHAT THE HECK AM I GOING TO DO WITH MY LIFE?!”, and grow in the deep knowledge of His intimate, every-day love for me.