Expectations and desires are such a beautiful and yet dangerous part of life. To have a dream, let alone seeing it fulfilled, creates a feeling in your heart that is essential for a meaningful life. To have desires is to have a heart that is alive. If you feel nothing, hope for nothing, never have a dream, it probably means you have lost your heart and passion for life. But how do we maintain joy when we have unmet expectations, for as the Bible says in Proverbs 13:12, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
The Bible Says We Must Keep Our Hearts Alive, Even With Unmet Expectations
Everyone who dares to be honest knows deep down there are strong desires in their hearts. Some may want to invent the next cure to a disease, be a mom, be a husband, or to simply make more money to provide for their family. It doesn’t take a counselor to know that if these good desires go unmet for too long, it’s totally understandable for someone to begin to lose heart, for hope deferred make the heart sick.
Although it is understandable, God does not make it excusable. He instructs through his word, “Guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). So we have these facts we must make sense of: It’s good to have desires, desires unmet will make the heart sick, in life there will be many desires that go unmet, and God expects us to guard our hearts so they don’t get sick. It seems these facts are on an unavoidable collision course causing us to fail and lose heart.
The Bible Says God Must Reign Over All Our Desires, Including Our Unmet Expectations
So many think the only solution to avoiding a broken heart is to put an impenetrable wall around our desires. We think to guard our hearts means to starve our hearts of dreams. But God does not instruct us to guard our hearts of all desires; he instructs us to guard our hearts so our desires are placed in the correct place – ultimately in him. 1 John 5:21 (NLT) states, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.”
If David’s ultimate desire was to build God a temple, he would have been crushed when God said “no.” But God did not condemn David for this desire. He actually said that although David was not the one to build God the temple, it was good of David to have this desire. David’s desire was unmet but his heart did not grow sick. Why? Because although he desired to build a temple, this was not his main desire. His main desire was to please the Lord. God said it was good of David to have the desire to build the temple even though it would never happen because at the root of this desire was to please God.
David was acting like Jesus when he stated his desire was to not go to the cross but then followed it up with, “yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Jesus did not lose his heart when his desire to avoid the cross was rejected because his truest desire was to please his Abba. Jesus brought every desire under the authority of his ultimate desire, which was to glorify his Father.
If Pleasing God Is Our Ultimate Hope, We Don’t Have to Be Crushed by Lesser Unmet Expectations
Even though every desire we have will not be met, God is happy with every desire we have that is rooted in pleasing him. Every Christian has had moments where an idea for ministry came to them and they thought it was certainly from God. But then the ministry never happened, so they think either it wasn’t from God or he is just cruel for not fulfilling it. Clarity comes to our lives when we simplify our desires down to one desire – to please God. So whether the specific dream takes place or not, we can be happy in the root desire to please him no matter how life turns out.
When pleasing God is our greatest hope, then even when the surface details don’t pan out our foundation will still remain unshaken. When David was dying and he was preparing for his son Solomon to build God the temple, David was overcome with joy. He was not sick at heart even though he would never see one of his desires fulfilled because his greatest desire was being fulfilled – God’s will being done. Notice David’s prayer for the people just before he dies:
I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. LORD, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you.” (1 Chronicles 29:17, 18)
As an old man at this point who had spent his whole life walking with God, David shared with us the secret to keeping our hearts alive even when certain desires go unmet. Unmet expectations are difficult to deal with, but when our hearts are loyal to God above every other desire, the one desire that matters the most will always be realized – pleasing God.