Managing Expectations

📅 July 27, 2020

Philip Pirrip, orphaned, lived with his sister and her husband, Joe Gargery, the village blacksmith. Pip was visiting his parents’ graves, when an escaped convict seized him and demanded Pip bring him food and a file.

The boy did as he was told. Later, the convict was captured and returned to prison.

Later, Pip was invited by a Miss Havisham to come to her house to “play.” When he did, he saw Estella for the first time and fell immediately in love. He became ashamed of himself and his humble home and lowly station in life. Every time he visited Miss Havisham he became more enamored with Estella.

When Pip grew up, he was apprenticed to Joe. One day a lawyer came to the house to inform Pip he is a young man of “great expectations.” He has a benefactor who wants Pip to move to London. Pip was overjoyed. His expectation: he will enjoy the good life, become acceptable in the right social circles, and become worthy of Estella’s attention.

If you have not read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, I will stop the story there, so as not to spoil it for you. I will only say: Pip’s expectations begin to evaporate. As they did, he got a good look at himself.  

This is a common literary theme…indeed a common theme of life.

Great Expectations which are thwarted, cause disappointment.

Ex– [out] –spect [look] A “looking out at”—hoping for a certain outcome.

Our expectations can be large or small—hoping for simple, ordinary pleasures, like a family dinner or get-together with friends or anticipating milestone events like graduations, weddings, long-awaited trips we have carefully planned and saved for.

Then: the guests cancel or someone is called into work. The graduate gets the flu. A storm blows in to rain on the outdoor wedding. There is an overturned semi on the interstate and you’re stuck in traffic for hours.

These kinds of incidents may flatten you, but often end up as family legends, tales to tell of our triumph over disasters…maybe even sometimes laughing at the chaos.

“Remember the time when—?”

However, unfortunate incidents, whatever size, taken together, can often cause us to get in the habit of thinking, “Why me?”

One misfortune gets piled on top of the other. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

And the person can become melancholy, forever looking back to the incident or circumstance, the bad break, the hurtful comment and be convinced “things just don’t work out for me.”

That circumstance, failed expectation, becomes a factor in all future interactions, decisions, attitudes, hurting not only the person who is clinging to the memory, but the circle of family, friends, colleagues he is with now.

Heartaches come. There is no stopping them, living in an imperfect world as we do, but how do we make the most of them, rather than let them get the best of us?

When our expectation—our “looking out”—our vision for the best possible outcome—is thwarted, what options do we have?

Look up.  “If our outlook is dark, our up-look is bright, so today we look up.”

Psalm 62:5. My soul, wait thou only on God, for my expectation is from Him.

God is unchanging, has a plan for our lives, and He is at work on our behalf. If people have disappointed you, take the opportunity to look Up at God, who is unchanging. If anyone suffered undeserved reproach, and was misunderstood on a daily basis, it was Jesus.

Having suffered on our behalf, He is our great high priest, who is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” Let us “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16

Look around.  You may not know it, but there are people all around you watching as you go about your daily life, how you respond, react. Not only your own family, but neighbors, fellow believers, unbelievers.

Your life is a stage on which God is playing out a story, a display of what He can do with a person who is wholly dedicated to Him. I Corinthians 4:9 …for we are made a spectacle [a theatrical play] unto the world, and to angels, and to men.

Someone today will be encouraged to keep going, because she is watching how you behave as you move through a dark hour.

Look forward. The hour is coming when this trial will be behind you. The time is uncertain. You may experience sudden deliverance, or be called on to move through “one day at a time,” for who knows how long.

In the meantime, know God is at work on your behalf, working all things together for your good, and is desiring your good. Be thankful for what is “going right”: the roof over your head, the meal on the table, the bed to sleep in; friends and family to help and cheer you on, the daily victories, continued provision of your needs.

Proverbs 23: 18. For surely there is an end, and thine expectation shall not be cut off.

No faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs through adversity. Tested faith brings experience. You would never have believed your own weakness had you not needed to pass through trials. And you would never have known God’s strength had His strength not been needed to carry you through. Charles Spurgeon

Someday you will look back at your failed expectations, and remember how God stood by you, how you experienced His presence in a dark and lonely hour, and the memory will be sweet.

II Timothy 4:17. …The Lord stood with me and strengthened me.

There is no expectation greater than that.


  1. Joseph Kotvas

    A wonderful reminder that our hope is in the Lord, and that Godliness with contentment is great gain. Thank you!


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Holly Bebernitz

Native Texan Holly Bebernitz moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1967. After thirty years of teaching speech, English, and history on the secondary and college levels, she retired from classroom teaching to become a full-time grandmother. The change in schedule allowed the time needed to complete the novel she had begun writing in 1998. When Trevorode the Defender was published in March 2013, the author realized the story of the Magnolia Arms was not yet complete.


Semi-Finalist - 2021 Royal Palm Literary Award Competition - Florida Writer's Association