Managing Expectations

by Julie Zine Coleman

Come, thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in Thee.
(Charles Wesley, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus)

The year my daughter left for college, she came home for Christmas break brimming with excitement. The house was decorated for the season and goodies were baked in anticipation of the big day. Expectation filled the air.

The family gathered downstairs on Christmas morning to open gifts and celebrate together. After the gift exchange was finished, I noticed my daughter quietly sitting on the couch, looking kind of glum. When I asked if something was wrong, she shrugged her shoulders. “I guess I was expecting too much. I feel so let down this Christmas.”

That’s the problem with holding unrealistic expectations. It dooms us to disappointment.

Expectation was a key component regarding the first Christmas morning, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem. For many centuries, God, through his prophets, reinforced what God promised to Adam and Eve just after the first sin. He would send a Savior to set humankind free from the bondage of sin (Genesis 3:15).

The promise was reiterated many, many times, sometimes giving further information about his coming.

  • Abraham was told it would be his descendant who would bless all nations (Genesis 12:2-4).
  • Moses knew he would be a prophet greater than him (Deuteronomy 18:15).
  • God told David that he would sit on David’s throne and have an eternal reign (2 Samuel 7:12-16).
  • Daniel prophesied when he would come (Daniel 9:25).
  • His birthplace would be the small town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

In fact, over three hundred prophecies in the Old Testament foretold many details about his coming and ministry on earth. So was he expected? You bet he was! When he came, the people had all they needed to know to enable recognition when they saw Him.

So then why did so many people miss it?

Because the prophecies were all mixed together, people didn’t understand that there would be two comings. The first would be to rescue people from the bondage of their sin and clear the path to a relationship with God. He would accomplish this by suffering on a cross, dying, then rising again. The second coming is still to come, when Jesus will finally rule the earth and every knee will bow to him. But for those waiting for the Messiah, it was hard to comprehend that the suffering servant and the victorious king could be the same person.

The people assumed the suffering servant in prophecy was Israel. They were looking for a messiah to lead them out of political oppression and restore their nation to peace and prosperity. A baby born in a stable to innocuous parents from Nazareth did not fit their expectations. So they missed him the first time around.

The same kind of blindness exists today when it comes to expectations. Some of our ideas about God are straight out of our imaginations. And when He doesn’t measure up to those ideas, we are disappointed. We are stunned when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer or whose life is cut short unexpectedly. But God never promised we would be protected from difficulties. His Word assures us that suffering will be part of his plan for us. We shake our fist at heaven when he does not give us what we ask. But we must ask in accordance to his will.

To avoid having our expectations crushed, we must inform what we think about God with what He tells us in His Word. When we base our expectations on His promises, His character, and His history as revealed in Scripture, we will never be disappointed.

One day, He will return. And no one will miss it this time around. “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27 NASB). Come, thou long expected Jesus. We await you in glorious expectation. And you will not disappoint.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).


About the authorJulie Zine Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or crafting. More on Julie can be found at and Facebook.

Does the Bible depict women as second-class citizens in God’s Kingdom? Jesus didn’t think so. Unexpected Love takes a revealing look at the encounters that Jesus had with women in the gospels. You will fall in love with the dynamic, beautiful, and unexpectedly personal Jesus.

Join the conversation: Has God disappointed you? What were you expecting?


7 thoughts on “Managing Expectations

  1. Beautiful teaching about how we miss things because our expectations are not grounded in God’s will and Word. I’ve reset my expectations for the rest of this year after hearing a Word of truth this week spoken through a bedridden friend. My heart and spirit rest now in God’s peace. Thank you for sharing you wisdom with us, Julie. “To avoid having our expectations crushed, we must inform what we think about God with what He tells us in His Word.” Such good advice in our troubling times. Peace, my friend.


  2. Julie, this is such a good and needed teaching on expectations. I like what you said about people deciding who they think God is and what He should do, and they are disappointed when He doesn’t come through for them. Your statement about God’s Word is so true to our understanding of life.
    Thanks, Fran


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