“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.” Philippians 1:20
Distress is a normal part of a human life. It can be an asset, by increasing our awareness and reaction time, almost like adrenaline for the brain muscle. Stress can debilitate also, adding pressure to the nervous system and unnecessary fatigue in otherwise normal decision-making situations. You and I are most familiar with the NEGATIVE side of stress. What creates such an inclination into the unseen pain and weariness we call, ‘stress?’
I believe that all distress comes from unfounded hope, unreached goals, and unrealistic expectations. There may be a more psychologically scientific analysis, but most of us are NOT scientists- although we all are very experienced with stress. Distress in the workplace, distress in our witness to the lost, and distress among our own families. I would like to address the stress associated with unrealistic expectations.
Have you ever offered a suggestion to a coworker with the goal of boosting their value and trustworthiness to your employer, only to be accused of insult and childishness? All you wanted to do is help, but HOW DARE YOU imply that someone could do a better job with a little effort! I’ve discovered that many ’employees’ have the primary job description of avoiding responsibility at all cost. They try their hardest to be worth nothing, and then complain when they are paid accordingly. And why the friction and conflict? They were expected to improve, when they had no desire to do so. What could you expect? Most people labor to put their money to their mouth, and the rest into a bag with holes in it, hoping to save enough to be buried with. “Eat, drink, and be merry,” tomorrow may be their last day.
Have you ever sought to help a sinner find his way to God? Have you ever seen them in the crosshairs of justice, and felt the pain of their impending doom so fiercely that you begged the Lord for a chance to witness- even pleading for grace in the face of obvious guilt? How discouraging it is, even in the presence of condemnation and judgment, to have your testimony of forgiveness and pardon shrugged off.
I have seen evidence pile up so high against a sinner that it scared ME for THEM. I have seen the complaints filed, the investigations began, the suspicions confirmed, and all the while the sinner be clueless and careless. When the reaction to a truly loving word of counsel is: “What, you think you’re better than everybody?” It is very easy to carry that stress with you- in fact, the world is very adept at casting insults that cut to the bone. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” (Ecclesiastes 8:11)
Some of the hardest expectations to have shattered are the ones you frame for your own family. You love them more than coworkers, more than poor, lost souls, and you’ve invested your very life into them. You, like me, have known the wounds caused by loved ones to be the worst.
I took my family to Braum’s for a hamburger. I was looking forward to the fun time we would have together. We sat down at the table, asked the blessing, and dug into the sandwiches. We laughed, we horsed around, we played… but my son refused to eat, instead glaring up at me with a grimace that seemed to ask, You don’t expect me to ENJOY this, do you?
I was heartbroke, even though I was happy for the rest of my family. I didn’t want to force him to eat with me- I thought he would LIKE to eat with dad. I didn’t buy him the nastiest thing on the menu, I got him what I believed he would like the most! Yet in the presence of my love and care for him, I received only arms folded, frowning disgust. My anticipated delight had been turned to disappointment.
Now, I can deal with an uncooperative coworker. I have learned to leave in God’s hands the lost one who chooses to wander willingly deeper into the damnation of his own sins. These are expectations I have adjusted (lowered) to relieve debilitating distress. But my earnest expectation was to enjoy the fellowship of my son- and after being embarrassed and ashamed and mistreated and disappointed, do I just remove my hopes of closeness with him? This question causes more distress than many other problems stacked together.
- How do you respond to the graces of the Saviour? The Lord Jesus’ desire- his expectation– is not only for sinners to be saved, nor yet just for His servants to serve, but for His sons to seek fellowship with Him. Paul reflected this desire by choosing to magnify Christ no matter what happened to him.
I will never give up on my son, because my Father has never given up on me. I want to let His expectation be mine: to be able to enjoy His presence forever.
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. 1 John 3:2-3