The headline I just read says, “Sinkholes leave Florida neighborhood looking like cratered wasteland.” Apparently, residents of a Central Florida neighborhood are stuck in a nightmare after a dozen sinkholes opened, forcing the evacuation of a bunch of homes. Residents said the holes burst open as water started exploding into what looked like a geyser shooting out of a now-empty pond. Central Florida is sinkhole alley with porous limestone resembling Swiss cheese close to the surface. The holes in the limestone existed long before the neighborhood was built. Apparently, no one called in geologists to extensively examine the underlying soil and rock before all those houses were constructed. What strikes me is that Florida sinkholes are notorious yet people bought those houses and moved in any way, probably expecting the solidness of the housing construction to keep them safe. One resident said that he’s hoping they (city engineers) fix it so he doesn’t have to “worry about those sinkholes happening anymore.” It’s limestone! Limestone dissolves. Porous limestone dissolves faster. I learned this in geology classes in college. Those expectations of a permanent fix need to be released, or the residents will be continually disappointed.
Those sinkholes remind me of a topic of conversation at a women’s retreat recently. We were talking about the storms of life and how we respond to them. The speaker shared that there are really two types of storms that hit us—those caused by our own disobedience and those that hit through no fault of our own. Hurricane Harvey hit my Christian friends hard on the Gulf Coast. An otherwise healthy and very godly young mom is battling cancer that just won’t go away. A happily married couple, who love Jesus, can’t get pregnant. When we go through such difficulties of life, we all have what we would consider acceptable outcomes. Expectations. Expectations that can become sinkholes if we try to hold onto them too tightly.
In our small group discussion at the retreat, one woman brought up the concept of obedience to the Lord and expecting a reward from him for that obedience. That seems to be biblical. God commands our obedience. He certainly implies that we will be rewarded in some way for our love and obedience. We feel his pleasure and his joy as we follow him closely. Then, troubles hit. Two people who kept themselves pure for marriage experience infertility. That doesn’t fit the expected outcome of sexual purity before marriage. A pastor suddenly deserts his wife and three children. She is stunned. Wasn't she being obedient to the Lord with her life? That desertion doesn’t fit the expected outcome. How hard it is to release those expected outcomes and find joy in the trial.
I read an article recently that stunned me with this statement: “Joy requires us to release our expectation of what is an acceptable outcome.” I think expectations of acceptable outcomes are like sinkholes waiting to happen. When we approach troubles with expectations of what we think are acceptable outcomes and then something else happens, our disappointment and anger can explode like geysers shooting out of a “now-empty pond.” It’s okay to ask for specific answers to prayer. But, we need to hold onto those expected answers with open fingers. Release them to Jesus, and let him decide what to do. That’s releasing expectations.
It reminds me of both Martha’s and Mary’s response to Jesus in John 11. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” That was their only acceptable outcome. But, Jesus had a greater purpose. What floors me is that John 11:5 says that Jesus loved them. Loved them, and still let them go through that pain. They did nothing wrong. He wept with them. But, he had a greater purpose. When they saw him, they had to trust his goodness in whatever he would do for them in their trial. What would be his acceptable outcome?
By faith, we can avoid the sinkholes of unreleased expectations. How? Release them. We can know with certainty that Jesus loves us and knows what is going on in our lives. We can have confidence in his power to do something about it. But, the way to release expectations is to trust in his goodness in whatever he chooses to do. Ask for your heart’s desire, but leave the decision in his hand. Accept the outcome that he provides. And, let him fill your heart with joy in whatever he chooses to do.
What trials are you going through right now? What in your mind do you expect to happen as acceptable outcomes? Maybe it’s time to release those expectations, avoid the sinkholes that leave your life cratered, and stay on solid ground.
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