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?

One verse is enough!

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index card

I recently changed my workout system so that I no longer walk in the mornings. For years I had used that time to review/rehearse scripture from memory. Walking and talking come naturally to me. But concentrated breathing and floor exercises have prevented me from doing any more than focused movements and counting of reps!

So I had to come up with another way to chew on God’s word.

Thinking of my two busy daughters-in-law who don’t have the luxury of choosing how they want to meditate on passages of the Bible reminded me of the power of one single verse. With little children demanding mom’s immediate attention, these young parents need to be able to grab one verse, write it on a card and put it front and center so they can quickly return to this source of life after the interruption ceases.

So I decided to pick a verse a day, write it down and carry it with me wherever I go – at first on the 3×5 card and then quickly in my immediate memory. And when I arose the next day, I would select another spiritual morsel to munch on and not feel obligated to hold on to any previous ones by rehearsing them. Packing and carrying with me one verse a day would guarantee I’d have something the Holy Spirit could use to correct, encourage and guide me.

Lest you think that one verse is not very much, come with me and see for yourself how much one can squeeze out of a few living words. Here is one of my favorite promises and exhortations:

Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

First – let’s look at the description of God as the ‘God of Hope’. What alternatives could there be, if our God were NOT a god of hope?   ‘Elpis’ or hope (Strong’s Greek 1680) means ‘joyful, confident expectation of never-ending safety with God’

Well – he could be a god of vengeance, a mean god, a god that is picky or incomprehensible or impersonal or …..you get the idea.

Second – Paul doesn’t just pray that we receive a bit of joy, or a taste of joy, but ALL joy. This term ‘all’ or ‘pas/3956’ means the highest degree or maximum amount.

Third – what kind of peace is this? Is it connected to our temporal (literally ‘secular’) earthly circumstances? No! The Blue Letter Bible website describes Christian peace (Greek ‘eirine’/1515) as the “tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ and so fearing nothing from God (is) content with its earthly lot…,”

Fourth – How do we actually receive this joy and peace? Instrumentally through/as we take God at His word, as we rely on Him, as we ‘put all our eggs in the God-basket’, so to speak. And what exactly are we relying on God for? For everything. For whatever we do or say in our daily life is only considered ‘good’ by God if it is done and said in faith, in dependence on Him. God does not want self-reliant children. Then He would get NO credit and we would implode. Humans are created to reflect God’s glory, not absorb glory. Lest we are tempted to think that relying on God is an action that we DO, to our credit, it really is just a matter of resting, of ceasing to strive via our own efforts. We get to rest and receive all we need from our Daddy just as a weaned baby snuggles safely next to mom.

Psalm 131:2 – But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content.

Fifth – what is the outcome of trusting God in everything? We will overflow with cheerful expectation of a happy and good God-infused future. And that spill-over hope will refresh, entice, intrigue, annoy?, stimulate, confuse others so that some will be drawn to God.

Sixth – just to reinforce or remind us that the joy, peace and hope truly are not linked to anything WE actively do (besides ‘abide’), Paul reminds us that the outcome from reliance is achieved BY the Holy Spirit’s power and strength working in us. Because the HS has lived in each believer since their spiritual birth day, He is always present to strengthen the child of God with Christ’s power to do the daily works the Father has prepared for each of His sons and daughters.

So do you see, that just by taking each bit of God’s word and asking questions about what it means and what it DOESN’T mean we get rich spiritual food, enough to last an entire day?

Which of God’s promises is nourishing you these days?

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