“Expectation is a planned resentment”

November 22, 2016

I read the following from the November 22 entry in The Mockingbird Devotional. I’m including the first paragraph here, so I can remind myself of it from time to time:

Alcoholics Anonymous has a popular saying: “Expectation is a planned resentment.” We expect to get the promotion at work, and when we don’t, we are resentful. We expect our fellow motorists to follow traffic laws (and common sense), and when they cut us off, we are resentful. We expect our spouse to meet all our needs, and when they don’t, we are resentful. We expect the church to be a functional, loving institution, and when it isn’t, we are resentful. Yet resentment is useless, like a weapon aimed at a target that always, somehow, boomerangs back at the shooter. And over time, resentment can turn into bitterness, or worse, hate.[†]

To these examples of unmet expectations that turn to resentment, we can add plenty more. I myself have been, at times, a raging cauldron of resentment—whose culprit, I now see, was an unmet expectation, a sense that life wasn’t going the way it ought to go; that life wasn’t fair; that I wasn’t getting what I “deserved.” Worse, I felt as if other people were getting something I wanted, which they didn’t deserve.

Last week, I wondered aloud how we can “enjoy God forever,” as the first article of the Westminster Shorter Catechism says. One way, surely, is to surrender to God our expectations: If I recognize I have no right to anything good, I can receive the good that comes my way as nothing but pure gift.

Wouldn’t that be something? Don’t you want to live that way? Wouldn’t you be happier if you could live that way?

On second thought, let’s hold on to one expectation only: that God will continue to love us and work through every circumstance for our good. Let’s replace every other expectation with that one. Let’s learn to say, “This may not be what I planned. This may not be what I wanted. But it is what God wanted for me at this moment. God will give me the grace to handle it. And God will use it for my good.”

There’s probably a Thanksgiving message in there somewhere.

David Zahl, “November 22” in The Mockingbird Devotional (Charlottesville, VA: Mockingbird, 2013), 388.

6 Responses to ““Expectation is a planned resentment””

  1. Tom Harkins Says:

    Timely thought. Certainly many of my “expectations” about how life was supposed to go are not being met. Good point to accept that God is nonetheless working through the experiences actually being undergone and not to be bitter about them.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you!

    • brentwhite Says:

      Me, too. Do we have the faith to believe, however, that God wants this for us—and he’s infinitely smarter than we are?

      Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family, Tom!

  2. Grant Essex Says:

    I believe that Romans 11:36 is very helpful here.

    “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”

    What I hear Paul saying is that God has plans (“From Him”), God is involved in carrying out those plans (“Through Him”), and all plans are ultimately for the glory of God (“To Him”).

    So you are right; when we are disappointed with something, it’s because it didn’t follow, or conform to our “plans” – “Our Expectations”. This is very deep and worth considerable thought.

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! Have a good one. Give thanks to God.

  3. bobbob Says:

    this is perhaps the most important thing you have ever written

    • brentwhite Says:

      Thanks! I’m not sure I disagree. In last Sunday’s sermon, I made reference to this statement and elaborated on it in relation to Mary’s expectations.

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