I’m wrestling through something and I want to invite you on the journey with me because I think it has deep and wide significance for us all.
I want to talk about expectations versus expectancy.
It’s easy to start a new year with a lot of expectations. Shoot — it’s easy to live every day with a lot of expectations. Whether you’re thinking about your family, your job, your education, retirement, relationships, ministry, health, or dreams, it’s natural to wonder and hope for what’s to come. If you’re a glass-half-full kind of gal, you likely expect good things! Growth, blessing, provision, progress, success! If you lean toward pessimism (or salty realism), you probably expect obstacles, disappointments, and setbacks.
Either way, you’re likely well on your way to planning (or bracing) for the year ahead. I know I’ve got fitness goals and business benchmarks I want to meet. I’m striving toward big dreams as well as trying to sustain small habits. I have expectations for my marriage, my kids, my house plants, and the aggravating pain in my elbow.
But I’ve got to be honest here… sometimes I grapple with whether it’s okay to expect things.
Proverbs 19:21 reminds us, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (NIV). Aren’t the plans in our hearts another way of saying our expectations? But if God’s purpose will prevail regardless of what we expect, then is that a call to lay down our expectations?
Likewise, I’ve heard many sermons on surrendering our plans for God’s will. (I’ve probably spoken and written about this myself!) The prophet Jeremiah wrote, “Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps” (Jeremiah 10:23 NIV). Verses like this convict my heart and compel me to pray, Lord, strip me of all my expectations! I want You alone to direct my steps, not my limited and preconceived notions of what is best.
I believe this is a good prayer. Gripping too tightly to our expectations limits our ability to see God blow them out of the water.
But here’s what God has been showing me: Acknowledging that God can (and does) blow our expectations out of the water is our invitation to exchange our expectations of outcomes for the expectancy of His actions.
To say it another way, stop focusing on what you want to happen and start focusing on what God will make happen.
Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who abides in me and I in him bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
God promises to make our lives fruitful — when we abide in Him.
I learned my favorite definition of abide from my friend Marshawn Evans Daniels: “To abide means to live in a state of expectancy.”
God wants to do good things in your life! You are His image bearer. His divinely chosen daughter. He wants to grow in you the fruit of His Spirit. He wants to empower you to bear fruit that reflects His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control — not barely enough, not an adequate amount, but much! This reflects God’s heart for His kids! He is a God of abundance, a God of plenty, a God of good gifts — more than enough!
The Psalmist David declares, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4 NIV). Delighting in God goes hand-in-hand with abiding in Him, and remaining tethered to Him. When the Lord is our focus and delight, the desires of our hearts will supernaturally align with His.
When I consider this, I can’t help but be expectant, I can’t help but be filled with confident hope for the things to come!
As the Community and Editorial Manager for (in)courage, I’ve felt the Spirit inviting us to adopt this posture of abiding expectancy as a community. Rather than setting goals for more podcast downloads or outlining a grand plan for new ministry directives, I feel God calling us to listen, wait, watch. Abide deeply with Jesus and watch expectantly for how He will lead and what He will accomplish in and through us.
So for 2024, let’s choose to let go of expectations and lean into expectancy.
Let’s shift from asking, “What will I do this year?” to “Lord, what kind of fruit will You bear?”
Whether you are new to reading (or listening) to (in)courage, or you’ve been with us since 2009, we are SO glad you’re part of this community! Our heart is to serve you well with our daily devotions, weekday podcast, books, Bible studies, and Instagram encouragement. Why? Because we love Jesus — and we know you do too — and we want to remember together WHO He is, see HOW He is working in our lives, and learn WHAT it looks like to become more like Him.
I am so expectant for the ways the Lord is going to shape us, grow us, and guide us this year. Thanks for being here.
I’d love to hear from YOU! Choose at least one question to answer:
- What expectation is God asking you to lay down?
- Where is God leading you to look expectantly for Him?
- How did you find (in)courage and what does this place mean to you?
As a thank you for being part of our community, we’ll pick two commenters to win $50 to shop at DaySpring.com.*
“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Romans 15:13 NLT
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