I’m sitting in a coffee shop on a cool morning with my fingers wrapped around a warm cup of coffee. The air smells like nutmeg and the leaves outside are just starting to turn, signs of the season.
“I just want to know the right answer,” I say to my friend.
She nods in understanding. We are both in a time of not-knowing and it’s uncomfortable. We are checklist, color-inside-the-lines, follow-the-plan types. When life gets tricky, we read a book or listen to a podcast. We look for someone to tell us what to do. We are fans of clarity, certainty, of steady earth beneath our feet. But life doesn’t always work that way.
Lately I’ve been rewatching movies where I know the ending while creating art (I use that term loosely) in a color-by-number book. Because at the end of the day when it feels like I’m guessing all the time, I just want to know what I’m supposed to do and how everything is going to turn out.
Maybe you’re in this kind of season too. Perhaps a dream slipped out of your hands and shattered into a thousand shards at your feet. It could be that someone you thought would stay has chosen to go. The company might be doing lay-offs or your kids could be making inexplicable choices. Maybe the places that used to feel familiar — like church or your dinner table — now seem like a foreign land.
To be human is to live with uncertainty and change. So what are we to do? It seems the whisper of God to my heart in this season is this: Let go of how you think things are supposed to be. This is the gap we feel, isn’t it? We have expectations for how life will go, the ways people will behave, what the future will hold. We cling to those with clenched fists until our fingers and souls ache.
I remember sitting in a counselor’s office in my early twenties. She drew two parallel lines and pointed to the upper one. “These are your expectations, Holley.” Then she pointed to the lower line. “This is reality. Until you let go of your expectations, you’re always going to struggle.”
I didn’t like what she said then and I don’t like it now. But it has the ring of truth to it. Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
In other words, here on earth our expectations aren’t going to be met. We’re not always going to find the right answer. We may not know what to do. But there’s a bigger reality that remains unchanging. There’s a God who is writing a story that isn’t finished yet.
It’s not a checklist.
It’s not a report.
It’s not a spreadsheet.
It’s a story.
And the best stories aren’t neat and tidy. They’re not predictable. Things don’t always turn out the way we thought they would. But we keep turning the pages because we believe the author is taking us somewhere good. We think we want certainty, but all the magic is in the mystery.
When I walked out of the coffee shop that day, I still wanted the right answer. I probably always will. But I’m discovering something else I want even more: The holy courage to embrace an untamed, beautiful story beyond my expectations.
Are you in a season of uncertainty that’s increasing your anxiety? Holley’s new devotional book, What Your Mind Needs for Anxious Moments, shares encouragement and truth to calm your heart along with practical strategies to help you keep moving forward. Download the first 3 devotions for FREE here.
This seemed like it was written for me. I am definitely a color-inside-the-lines kind of person. Still going through a difficult situation at church and still have an estranged relationship with son. I need to let go of how I think things should be.
Holley Gerth says
So glad it was helpful to you!
Ariel Krienke says
Our expectations will not be reached here on earth because of sin but we can have high expectations in heaven. Because the Lord’s glory is so great and glorious.
Had the same sort of conversation with a therapist once……still working on it too….thank you for the reminder
This: “The holy courage to embrace an untamed, beautiful story beyond my expectations.” May God grant this to us each day!
Diane V Hunter says
Your words always bless me and God’s timing for your words bring comfort. Thankful for whom you are and the gift you have. God bless Hugs
I’m presently in the land of uncertainty. The one we forget about until we find we are here again. Very much like Monopoly. You don’t always have a get out of jail free card.
Your words are true. I’ve lived this truth much more than I’ve lived in sure things.
Magic? Not in any way. Not in our thoughts or beliefs.
God is no genie in a bottle.
Many of us will live out the rest of our lives in uncertainty.
What we do have is an anchor. In the storms, in calm times.
There is surety.
There is abundant hope.
He is All. He is enough.
Holley Gerth says
Well said, Kate.
Last summer when my life fell into utter chaos, I went searching for answers everywhere. I needed to know why it happened and how to fix it. I read so many books and talked to so many people, just looking for an answer. The right answer! I learned a lot. And I’m working hard at letting go of expectations, while still holding out hope for restoration. I don’t know how or when, and I’m learning to be okay with that. But I do know Who is going to making it happen.
Holley Gerth says
“Letting go of expectations, while still holding out hope for restoration.” Yes!
Ruth Mills says
Ironically I hung up the phone with a dear friend after whining in her ear that I don’t have time to read the book I want to read & see how the story ends. And then I read your post! Our lives are the unfolding story. Don’t know the twists, turns or details but know Jesus and know the end is secure! Holy courage resting in His mysterious security through all the uncertainties that we don’t like. How on earth do non-believers do this??? Makes me more grateful for His calling on my life and have a greater sense of urgency to share Him with others. Blessings & thank you for always pointing us to the right ONE!
BC from BC says
Thank you, Holly, as I can relate to you. I am reading your book “What your mind needs for anxious moments”. It was given to me as a gift from someone who cares. Thank you for being transparent, vulnerable, and honest (today that’s hard to find). I too live with anticipation that everything will work out, however, in reality as you have mentioned that they will work out according to God’s plan, that will always be better than we could ever imagine. Life is not easy, but I believe in the One who created me and want to Trust and Hope in Him. I pray for all those who struggle. 🙂
Holley Gerth says
Thank you for reading my book!
Going thru hard times with my kids right now. They are not bad kids, just making decisions I rather wished they hadn’t. My baby boy who is 21 moved out a year ago with his girlfriend and I wished he didn’t do that. I am old fashioned and don’t like the idea of cohabitation until you marry. I watched all this taking place and there was nothing myself or his dad could do to stop him. I am so deeply sadden. Maybe I failed somewhere along teaching him, teaching him what I thought was right…. I did let him know that despite my disagreement with him in this decision, he is still my son and I may not understand everything and I will continue to support him and walk beside him, choosing love over fear…. My hope is that he will feel the tug of God and do the right thing…. Thank you for sharing this needed message…
A beautiful piece Holley! How wonderful God is, not one small stone unturned.
Expectations are weighty and by sharing them in community makes lighter work of them.
Thank you for the conversation God bless.
Holley Gerth says
So true that expectations are lighter when we share them. Thanks, Susan!
Dawn Davies says
Written for my season! Thank you!
Beth Williams says
My life has had many twists & turns since 2019. First I was let go from a part time job. I was surprisingly happy & knew God had something bigger & better for me. Two weeks later I was hired as a part-time clerical in ICU Step down unit at hospital. Fast forward to the end of the year & my unit was shut down. Then Covid hit. My unit was once again shut down in Nov. 2021. I was put in ICU Covid unit to work as clerical. December 2021 they wrote a job just for me–now full time benefitted. Last fall the other clerical quit suddenly & my job changed once again. I’m not happy with this position. Through all this God has been with me. My story isn’t finished yet. My life verse Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not for harm. To give you a hope & a future.” I cling to that verse daily.