How to Manage Expectations with a Simple Statement

"Tomorrow, if the Lord wills."

I will remember 2020 as a year when I had little to no control over my plans. For a planner this is hard. But it is also good.

For everything the pandemic has taken away from me, it has given me the opportunity to acknowledge that ultimately God reigns over this huge COVID-infected world, as well as my small world raising a medically fragile son.

I like how Jen Wilkin says in her book, None Like Him, "We live differently when we regard the future as a place we will go "if the Lord wills."

Things change rapidly as COVID-19 stats about the virus pour in from across the country. Doctors, scientists, and epidemiologists are struggling to understand it. Local authorities are grappling with how to lead people in response to it. And parents are breaking the golden disciplinary rule of parenting—be consistent with your kids. We have no idea how to establish rules and routines when those rules and routines are constantly changing.

It seems the ambiguity started in March when the school district communicated plan A only to be forced to roll out plans B, C, and D for distance learning and graduation. We are still waiting on what is going to happen in the fall and my guess is that, again, it will also be a tiered plan full of waiting and adjusted expectations.

In June we went ahead with Nathan's out-of-state surgery scheduled months in advance. Leading up to the trip it was unclear as to whether or not it would actually happen. As the COVID cases began to decline we saw it as a window of opportunity. Fully committed to the medical trip a mere days before we left, we got insurance approval the night before we drove out of town. I did not expect that.

My neighbor’s birthday is on the 4th of July which she traditionally celebrates with her family on the lake fireworks and all. Not only was the plan for fireworks up in the air but so was her plan to go. It switched to drive out to an isolated ranch and celebrate without extended, more vulnerable family members. To finally, staying home and social distancing with the neighbors. Her expectations were rerouted three times.

If you’re like me, these types of situations are not only frustrating but you can quickly begin to feel aimless. It seems like a cruel trick to play with our expectations. Our expectations determine our plans for how to prepare or not prepare.

It’s no fun driving along in happy anticipation of going somewhere only to be driven off the road. The problem in this new COVID infested world is we don’t merely have to get back on the road, we have to keep looking for new off-road paths at every twist and turn.

Our plans are not our own.

How do you rest in God’s plans if they aren’t your plans? Like children testing our boundaries, we think we know what’s best for ourselves but that’s not usually the case. We only have to look at the redemption story found within the Bible to know of God’s unlimited, sacrificial love for His people. He persistently pursued them to rescue them from themselves.

When people pursue their own desires, shutting Him out, they ultimately end up in ruin.

When God pursues their hearts, and they soften toward Him, they are saved.

His way is better.

While you are sitting around bored to tears from the government shut-downs and societal changes, reflect on His goodness by practicing gratitude. In the big things and the little things, we can capture and record the goodness God is giving us right now. We had to make a family list on our pantry door.

We were never promised a life free of sorrow and suffering. Perhaps suffering itself is one pathway to confessing His goodness.

Nor were we promised knowledge of His plan. This is a lesson for me as much as anyone. I am a type-A planner. If I want it done, then I believe I’m the person to schedule it, craft it, create it.

When the calendar is erased, the stores are closed, and I can’t be with friends, I’m learning to more deeply settle into the work He established for me to do. The mundane work right before me of cooking, cleaning, caring for—perhaps even educating—the people who live in my house, for however long I am called to do it. In this season it feels like a long time. Yet His ways are good because He is good.

For all the unknowns I am facing, I am grateful I know the One who does.

"Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.'" (James 4:13-15)

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