“This quote is exploding my mind.”

That’s the text I received this morning from my friend Janessa, whose birthday just happens to be today. Jesus sent Janessa a beautiful birthday sunrise and a quote so epic it’s exploding my mind too.

“Jesus is the fullness of our expectation” (Ellen White, Review and Herald, August 26, 1890).

Expectations are tricky things. Take, for example, birthdays. My fourteenth birthday was a letdown. My mom likes to celebrate people, so my childhood birthday memories are filled with parties and cake. But the day I turned fourteen, I realized that the people at my boarding high school didn’t realize what a big deal my birthday really was. We didn’t have a school-wide party. It wasn’t all about me. At the end of the day, I felt embarrassed. It was silly to expect more. I guess I need to lower my expectations.

Managing expectations is a thing, I guess. Self-help books, articles, and counseling sessions are dedicated to this practice, and rightfully so. Why? Because in order to be happy, our expectations need to match our realities. And it seems more realistic to lower our expectations than to heighten our realities.

…it seems more realistic to lower our expectations than to heighten our realities.

Somehow, we’re wired to anticipate amazing things. We can’t help ourselves. But these expectations bring a sting to every domain of life in the real world. The vacation you planned for two years ends up being a disaster. The job you thought was the perfect fit is actually the perfect storm. The person you’re counting on forgets to show up.

Welcome to reality. People let you down. Things let you down. You let yourself down. But it’s okay. As long as you lower your expectations, you can train yourself to be happy.

Or maybe not.

Maybe your body and mind and heart will continue to crave more pleasure and beauty and connection than you can possibly experience. Managing your expectations can help you be more content, but it can’t change the inherent biological reality that you’re created for something more. And if that’s the case, which I suspect it is, the ultimate answer doesn’t come in bringing your expectations down to meet your reality, but in letting Jesus transform your reality to match the expectations He’s created your heart to have.

“Jesus is the fullness of our expectation. He is the melody of our songs, the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. He is living water to the thirsty soul. He is our refuge in the storm. He is our righteousness, our sanctification, our redemption” (Ellen White, Review and Herald,  August 26, 1890).

In the earthly reality, the best way to be happy may be to lower our expectations, especially if they’re selfish. But in the eternal reality we should let them run wild. Not only can our generous Jesus meet them, He can also outdo them.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no one’s heart has imagined all the things that God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, CJB).

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us…

Did you get that? The deepest longings of our hearts fall short of the goods He’s got. The danger is not that we expect too much from God, but too little. He’s the God who can do “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

C.S. Lewis put it this way:

“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is not part of the Christian faith.

“Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak.

“We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased” (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory).

So what do we do with the cravings we can’t escape? Embrace the reality that all good desires are designed and fulfilled by the God of satisfaction:

“You who in heart long for something better than this world can give, recognize this longing as the voice of God to your soul” (Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 28).

May the God named Desire reveal Himself to you as the answer to your wildest expectations.

Elise Harboldt

Elise studies theology at Andrews University. A registered nurse, her background is in health ministry and resource development. She is the coauthor of Goodbye Diabetes, Diabetes Undone and graduated from ARISE in 2007.