Why do I keep expecting people to act a certain way?

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You will cry for help, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you remove the yoke from your midst, …. Isaiah 58:9 NASB

Christmas Eve and we were returning home from having shared a lovely Louisiana gumbo supper with some friends after the service.  In our warm and cozy truck, I mentioned to Mike that the previous night our bedroom has been too hot to sleep well. I suggested, “How about we just turn off the heat in the house, so the bedroom will be nice and cold?”  He nixed that idea, countering with, “just open the window a crack.” Annoyed because I didn’t think that alone would be enough to cool down the room, I said to myself, “He ‘should’ know how important sleep is to me!”

There it was, an expectation that I had projected on Mike. Only, I didn’t realize that was what I had done.  But God’s perceptive eye didn’t miss it.

As the Holy Spirit would have it, our readings for Christmas Day included Isaiah 58 about the kind of fast the Lord wants his children to celebrate.  The prophet puts it bluntly: we should not fast religiously or selfishly, simply to check it off our list, but enter into a fast with a heart set on worshipping our creator, sustainer and holy God.

As I worked through the first part of verse 9, I felt comforted by God’s promise to respond promptly to my cries for help with a “I’m here!”.

But then my eyes moved on to that ‘yoke business’ mentioned toward the end of that same verse.  I wrote in my journal, “Father, have I placed a yoke on anyone?  Am I expecting others to act a certain way?”

Last night’s conversation quickly came to mind. I DO have and I HAVE formulated expectations of Mike and other family members, and friends, as well. Do these precious people FEEL my dissatisfaction when they don’t ‘meet my standards’?

Yikes! That unarticulated but very real pressure must feel burdensome, especially on those who live with me, like Mike.  Others might feel the sting of my occasional disappointment, but Mike surely notices the ‘yoke of expectation’ that I hang on him.

We fragile human beings can never satisfy the impossibly high criteria OTHERS use to evaluate us.  I should know NOT to engage in that practice, since I have suffered the pain (and shame) of family members’, friends’ and bosses’ pointed dissatisfaction with me.

What is the solution?

Well, I can’t control what others think of me, but God has given me Holy Spirit power to change my thinking.  He commands Christians to renovate their minds, their way of thinking and concluding through a a changing heart, one saturated by his word. And what Jesus commands, he makes possible.

Since Christmas Day, I keep reading scripture that reenforces this message. We are to hope in God, not people. ‘Hope’ can be translated in both Hebrew and Greek as ‘to expect or wait for someone to act’.

Psalm 118:8 NKJV says: It is better to trust in the LORD, than to put confidence in man.

Even Jesus didn’t trust people, because he knew them: But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, because He knew all peopleJohn 2:24 NASB

John Piper, in a recent devotional reflected on 1 John 3:23: This is His commandment, that we believe [with personal faith and confident trust] in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and [that we unselfishly] love and seek the best for one another, just as He commanded us. NASB

He distilled John’s teaching to something I am meditating on throughout the day:  Trust Jesus, Love people.

God is the only person in the universe who deserves our trust and won’t disappoint me.  Shouldn’t that fact free us up to release our unfair and unverbalized expectations of people that we hold in our hearts?

How do I rest in the midst of enemies?

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Psalm 110: 1-2 The LORD says to my Lord: Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”  The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies!

In reading and RE-reading the above verses, I noticed 4 verbs.  Two are actions the Father does – He says and He sends.  Two are commands He gives to Jesus – SIT and RULE.

What struck me is the unlikely setting – ‘in the midst of your enemies.

How can one sit, which communicates rest, and rule, which implies being in charge, while enemies are all around? Personal enemies (Jesus’) to boot!

Pondering new thoughts about the Son reminded me of His call to the weary crowds:

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

Here the ‘enemies’ are one’s own plan and autonomous path.  Jesus offers the gift of REST, but the circumstances He extends include a different yoke and a different burden.

What both passages have in common is that ENEMIES, BURDENS, HARD WORK don’t exclude REST and Jesus’ RULING.

These whiffs of Promised EASE in the fight, in the burden-bearing feel soothing.

Like each of you, Mike and I are suffering with customized circumstances that God calls ‘good’.  No surprise there.  We suffer because ever since the Garden fiasco the world has been disordered. We suffer because we are sinful. We suffer because we have an enemy who commands 1/3 of the spiritual forces in the universe.

For years, I have succumbed to the temptation of believing, of striving, of hoping and praying for THIS condition or THAT circumstance or THESE problems to pass from me, be resolved or be removed.  So that ‘life could get back to normal’, that is, so that I could be comfortable and at peace.

Age brings perspective.  I now see that suffering is the norm.  Problems are to be expected in this body and on this yet-to-be-restored earth. Yet, there IS a Red-Letter Day in history when Satan’s evil terrors will come to an end. His time bomb has been ticking, ever since the Cross.

Still, I find it hard to hold on to this SURE bright future in such a way as to FEEL sustained and content day to day.

That’s why the reminder that Jesus is ruling from a position of rest while enemies attack, deceive and kill refreshes and reassures me.

Jesus says and shows through His Word that REAL Rest IS possible IN chaos.

How so?

Look at His earthly vocation as a tool maker.

The idea from Psalm 110:1 of ‘the footstool being made out of Jesus’ enemies’ suggests to me that there is a good purpose for the time it takes until this ‘piece of furniture’ has been fashioned.

Furthermore, Master Carpenter Jesus has crafted and HIMSELF dons a yoke, the yoke-shaped Scepter of Divine Ruler, according to His Father’s command.  As He rules and labors, from Heaven, while seated, He calls out to us: Come, put down your painful, NON-productive yoke, and join me.  I’ll tailor it to your shoulders.  I promise you….

……..REST!

Daily work continues and is often painful and problem-filled as the Holy Spirit of Jesus leads us in HIS paths of righteous for HIS name’s sake. But Jesus has given us a couple of promises to make our days more bearable:

  • He has something to teach us that will help ease the suffering.
  • He is gentle and understanding.
  • His yoke is USEFUL and GOOD (what the term ‘easy’ means)
  • Our individual LOAD (what the term ‘burden’ means) is light because He shoulders the bulk.

In other words:

  • swapping our self-directed purposes and goals for His guaranteed successful meaningful work
  • knowing that what we do as we walk with Him at His pace in HIS direction makes a difference
  • His bearing the greater responsibility and load in this Yoke
  • knowing that He understands our temptations and struggles

All these give rest for our souls.

So, let’s take a deep breath and thank God in His wisdom that baffles human understanding. He absolutely does know what He is doing. Marvel that He chooses to walk WITH us, supernaturally fastened to us.  We in Him and He in us.

 

 

 

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