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Expectations in Light of Reality

Written by Eve Stipes on


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And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…”

-Romans 8:28-29a

I’ve heard and read these verses many times in my adult life, but recently they’ve taken root in my heart in a new way. Through a variety of circumstances, I’m becoming more and more aware that everything is a tool God wants to use to make me more like Jesus. Everything! On one hand, this feels incredibly gracious because it means that God wastes nothing– no circumstance, relationship, trial, or victory. On the other hand, it feels incredibly challenging because it means God does not rest in pursuing my sanctification.

As I’ve reflected on the particularly sanctifying season of being a new parent, I’ve been convicted over and over again about the measures I use to judge the “goodness” of my days. Paul says in Romans that, “all things work together for good,” but it doesn’t always feel good.

When my husband asks, “How was your day?” I find myself running through a long mental list of circumstances before I answer. How did nap time go? Did I complete my to-do list items? More often than not, if my list has more positive answers than negative ones, I’ll say, “it was pretty good.” However, if the answers are more negative than positive, my response is a far less enthusiastic, “eh… not great.” But the reality is that God is using all of those circumstances to point me to Himself.

So why do I miss it? Why do I reduce the day to whether my expectations for it were met? What’s going on in my heart?


Surprised by that answer? I was!

I’ve been reading Idols of the Heart, by Elyse Fitzpatrick, and her searing definition of what idols are hit me right between the eyes: “Idols are the thoughts, desires, longings, and expectations that we worship in the place of the true God.” [1] (emphasis mine). She goes on further to challenge readers to ask this diagnostic question: “Am I convinced that I cannot find happiness unless my expectations are met?”

Ouch. Does that describe how I’m thinking about my days, or what? As she points out, “Part of the curse of idolatry is that we are never satisfied.” Which means that even when my expectations are met, I still won’t be happy. I’m still likely to only rate the day as, “Ok,” hoping for more. Even when God is clearly using the day’s circumstances to make me aware of my need for Him and giving me opportunities to grow in Christlikeness! When I evaluate days based on whether my expectations have been met, rather than on how deeply I’ve drunk from the well of living water Jesus offers me, I am worshipping the idol of self.

This realization actually offers a lot of hope. It means that regardless of how much sleep I’ve had, the breaking news for the day, or whether my to-do list has been completed, I can rejoice in the fact that God has qualified me to share in the inheritance of the saints in light (Col. 1:12), that I have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col. 1:13), that though I was once dead in my trespasses, God in His mercy makes me alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:5), that though I was once separate and alienated from Christ having no hope and without God, I have been brought near by the blood of Christ (Eph. 3:12-13), though I was once a stranger and an alien, I am now a fellow citizen and member of the household of God (Eph. 3:19).

These realities can shape my days so much more meaningfully than my circumstances and expectations can. Does that mean there won’t be hard days? Or that sleep deprivation when caring for a new baby isn’t a real thing? Of course not. But it does mean that my circumstances and expectations must ultimately be eclipsed (as our beloved Pastor Mark would say) by the truth of the gospel at work in me. That because of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, I have choices to make. I can choose repentance when my sin—idolatry or otherwise—rears its ugly head. I can choose to confess my sin to God, receive forgiveness, and be counted as righteous because of Jesus’ blood (1 Jn. 1:9). I can choose to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:1-11). And God supplies the grace to do all of those things—He provides everything I need.

So, do you know what that means? It means that when I’m walking with Jesus, I really do get to call every day good.

[1] Fitzpatrick, Elyse. Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone. P&R Publishing, 2016, pp. 23-25

Eve Stipes

Eve Stipes is a member of College Park who spends most of her days chasing after an adventurous toddler and twin babies, and partnering with her sweet husband. Eve enjoys all things creative and administrative, coffee, deep conversation with friends, and being outside.

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