“It is even more crucial to have realistic, truth-based expectations for our lives. What does God say my normal life is supposed to look like?…If our expectations are not based on biblical truth, when things change we will be like my students with a poor substitute teacher. We will freak. We will get angry and frustrated. We will resist fervently all that goes against our expectations. We will find ourselves living in a sea of persistent, discouraging confusion. This is why our expectations in life must be based on the Bible. They must have a solid gospel-centered focus.” (Michael Robble in Always Sick, Always Loved; page 73)
Did you wake up this morning to another day of living an unexpected life? I did.
So many things that have happened to us in the last six years I would not have pictured for myself or my family. We all have expectations of how life should go, with big plans for the future, and a vision of what we’d like to accomplish. And there’s nothing wrong with having a vision or a plan. But as someone once said, “Make your plans, but carry a big eraser.”
Life does not always turn out how we think. And that’s why it’s so very important to have “truth-based expectations,” as Michael Robble calls it. To continue our series gleaning from Michael and Margaret Robble’s book, Always Sick, Always Loved, let’s talk about what we should and shouldn’t expect in life, based upon Scripture rather than our personal expectations.
A Life of Trials
Many of us think that life should go smoothly if we love God and follow Him, but where did we get this idea? It is unfortunately preached in many American churches. And we may also adopt this view because it’s more pleasant to think that by doing God’s will we can control our circumstances.
Jesus is the perfect example of how one can follow God’s will and still experience difficulties and suffering. And the Apostle Paul pleaded with the Lord to remove his source of pain but God allowed it to remain.
But both men’s lives illustrate how ultimate good can be accomplished, not just in spite of the trial, but because of it.
A Life of Grace
I must admit that my life had gone relatively smoothly before we began dealing with Michael’s chronic illness. Everyone has their problems, but I had never faced a regular onslaught of trouble.
I remember one situation (of many) we faced early on in Michael’s illness, and it completely overwhelmed me.
After we married, we moved into what we thought was a cute and affordable apartment. But as we signed on the dotted line, the manager failed to mention that our new home had a TERRIBLE bug problem.
I could tell some pretty yucky stories. Seriously.
Chemicals in many common household products make Michael very sick. So I went out and found a bug powder that advertised itself as a natural product and we sprinkled it all over the kitchen, inside air ducts, behind appliances, in the laundry room, and on top of kitchen cabinets. We also tracked it into other rooms.
That bug powder was incredibly effective, but soon afterward, Michael became sicker than usual for days on end. We learned that the “natural” pesticide’s 99% of “other ingredients” were some of the strongest chemicals on the market.What a deceitful packaging label!
Sadly, we had sprinkled that powder EVERYWHERE. Every crevice was full of it. I remember bawling at the thought of trying to get that stuff out. Where would I even start? We had just signed a six-month lease and our apartment was covered in the very substance my husband couldn’t tolerate.
I’ll never forget how God swooped in through the help of my dad. He came over late that night and we spent hours cleaning every speck of that powder with baby wipes and vinegar to keep it from becoming airborne. When I didn’t know where to start, God graciously provided the how and the help.
That’s only a small glimpse into many stories I could tell of how God has allowed the unique trials of chronic illness into our lives, but also grace upon grace. And He often shows his grace through the compassion and initiative of others. I still look back to that crazy experience when I’m faced with other overwhelming situations in my life, and I remember my dad in the doorway, all those cleaning supplies in hand, ready to ease our burden and despair.
We all have ideals for what we’d like our lives to be like. But we need to base our expectations on truth. Life isn’t always clean lines and neatness. It’s messy and circumstances get complicated. In the beginning, every trial completely overwhelmed me. I had never faced such complex situations before. But over time, God has used these difficulties to teach me a lot about Himself and I am growing more confident in His help.
A Life of Truth-Based Expectations
God has good things He wants to accomplish in our lives, but as you well know, His work may not come by tip-toeing through the tulips. He did not promise us an easy life, but He did promise to be with us and that He will work it all for good. Some things you can only learn about God while cleaning powdered pesticide behind the refrigerator at 3am. And knowing to expect such struggles is half the battle.
As the Robbles so wisely advised, let’s keep truth-based expectations before us. It will keep us from disillusionment in the midst of the storms and give us eyes to see His grace.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33