In the support material of one of our church Bible lessons, we read of Ann Smith who spent thirty years as a missionary in Asia, but still dreamed of traveling to yet another Asian country to minister. Finally, at ninety years old she realized that dream. One of the important lessons she shared about Christian service was, “We should not live with expectations but with expectancy.”
Over the years, I’ve said about a thousand times, “It’s my expectations that get me into trouble.”
Expectations often lead to disappointment. Disappointment is how bitterness gets a foothold, and then it’s just a downward spiral from there.
Nobody’s life is an Instagram photo. And if it is, there’s a whole lot of mess that’s been cropped out. If we expect our lives to read like a story book, well, hello, frustration.
But expectancy, now that’s another kind of story.
So, what is the difference between expectation and expectancy?
Expectation means looking forward to what we believe will happen—it’s already set and we’re moving toward it.
Expectancy has to do with hope. We haven't prescribed what will happen, but we still hope for it. As believers, it means leaving it up to God.
So, yes, we always, always have hope for the future, but we don’t place demands on it through our expectations. That distinction will save us boatloads of heartache from the destruction that unfulfilled expectations can bring.
In recent years, there was a big event that caused me much pain, and in time, I realized it was because of my broken expectations. I had to go again to the Lord and ask Him to help me with them. There’s nothing for us to do but let go of what we thought life would be, and with hope, embrace what is and move forward.
It’s not easy and it often doesn’t make for a beautiful social media post, but I’m thankful that living with expectancy brings joy despite circumstances.
As Jeremiah lamented the destruction of Jerusalem, he wrote this, “'The Lord is my portion and my inheritance,' says my soul, 'Therefore I have hope in Him and wait expectantly for him'” (Lamentations 3:24 Amplified). Even as Jeremiah sat in the ruins, he reminded himself to hope and live expectantly in God.
If you find yourself wrestling with bitterness over what might have been, or locked into expectations of the future, release these to the only One who can lead you into a life of expectancy. And be amazed at how much lighter you feel when you’re not carrying around the burden of your suppositions or disappointments.
I did a little digging and found a few videos of Ann Smith. Here’s a link for one from about ten years ago when she was eighty-six, and it has so much wisdom in it. You can see that Ann truly does live in expectancy.