This week's message was by John Abernethy, our pastor for marriage and families. I've only heard John teach one other time, but I've always heard exceptionally good things about him from people I trust. Today's message was on expectations in relationships. Rather than a single sermon text, he taught from several passages throughout Scripture. As such, I'll quote those in the text as we go along.
Psalm 33:18-22, NASB
Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him,
On those who hope for His lovingkindness,
To deliver their soul from death
And to keep them alive in famine.
Our soul waits for the LORD;
He is our help and our shield.
For our heart rejoices in Him,
Because we trust in His holy name.
Let Your lovingkindness, O LORD, be upon us,
According as we have hoped in You.
The passage points us to focus on God: on His promise, his name, his all-sufficiency. His lovingkindness is hope, he is help and shield, he is our trust, he is hope. No one but God will meet our needs; no one but he can meet our needs.
With this as his foundation, John moved on to discuss how so often our relationships suffer because of our expectations.
Proverbs 13:12, NASB
Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
He argued that expectations are not only a regular source of conflict in many relationships, especially marriage; they're also something we can actively deal with and change. "Understanding, verbalizing, and changing expecations can have a large impact," he said. The expectations that we have are learned, so they can be relearned; the things we pick up from friends, family, and media can be substituted for better, healthier (more Biblical, I add!) expectations of each other, no matter the relationship.
John commented that there are three ways he sees expectations causing problems, summarized by three U's: Unaware, Unreasonable, Unspoken.
We are often unaware of the expectations we have. We expect our days to pass, our spouses to interact with us, and our friends to behave in rather particular ways, but we often don't realize exactly what it is we're anticipating until our hopes have been deferred. Then we find ourselves frustrated and angry because of those expectations. We need to carefully think about what it is that we're expecting of our days and our relationships - even as simply as writing a list.
Unreasonable expectations can upset us just as quickly, and have unpleasant consequences. John pointed to the example of Peter: a man blessed for recognizing that Jesus was the prophesied messiah, and then moments later rebuked for telling christ he wouldn't go to the cross. Peter's expectation was for an earthly king, but that wasn't what Christ had come to do; his expectation was unreasonable. We require humility to hear that our expectations are unreasonable, and gentleness and kindness to tell others as much.
Finally, we often deal with the consequences of unspoken expectations. People cannot meet expectations they are unaware of, even if they are reasonable. Especially in marriage, this one is both one of the most common and the most easily resolved problems: it simply requires straightforward communication.
I thought the message had a lot of good content, and it was filled with a lot of practical application. John's heart for marriages came through very clearly, and he's both a good communicator and a good teacher. I did wish that he would have spent some more time dwelling on Christ as our soul-satisfier. It is good to deal practically with our expectations, but in the end we will always be thirsty until we quench our thirst in him.
John 4:10-14, ESV
Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock." Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."