There is a small difference between desires and expectations. But this small difference makes a huge impact on our relationship with God and with one another. A desire is a strong feeling or wanting to have something. An expectation is the belief that you will have that thing. 

They are so similar it is hard to distinguish between the two at first. However, if we can look closely at how we react when a desire or expectation goes unmet, we can discover the difference between these two words and why we need to pay closer attention to them in our relationships.

I’ve only been married for twelve years but I have learned in that time a lot about the difference between desires and expectations. Let me give a personal example…

I love coming home from work to a clean house, a hot dinner and happy kids. I really enjoy that. It makes me so happy that I want to start handing out money, toys and hugs. When we were first married, this desire of mine happened all the time! I remember, while living in Finland, I would come home from soccer practice and there would be a nice hot meal waiting at the table for me. 

Then we had a baby. A precious baby girl! Thank you Jesus! 

Then another one…a boy named Isaac. 

Then Sam. 

Again?! Meet Joshua.  

Wait what?!?! Eleanor…help us, Lord. 

We are blessed and our quiver is full (I think)!

I remember somewhere in that season of blessing I came home and the house was a disaster. Think Walmart gets hit by a tornado. I could hear sounds of crying children in the background, my wife was stressed and there was no smell of chicken pot pie. For a moment, I was tempted to think that my wife was not being loving or kind towards me…because she knows how much I love a clean house, a hot meal and happy kids. It was at this moment I had to decide whether this was a desire or an expectation.  

If it was simply a desire, I could come home and hop right into the chaos and help my wife carry the load. However, if it was an expectation, I would take this situation personally. “

“Why wasn’t the house clean? She knows how much this means to me? Does she not care about me?”

I wish I could say it was a light switch moment but it wasn’t. I screwed it up and got my feelings hurt plenty of times. But In order for an expectation to become a desire, we have to stop taking things so personally. That day it wasn’t about me. My desire for those things was trumped by my wife’s reality of having to deal with kids and all the duties of keeping a house. I had to let that desire go to really love my wife and my family. That can be painful but it always produces life.

The difference between a desire and an expectation is this…

A desire is submitted to another person (or God) in love, trust and patience.

An expectation is shared with a demand, a “shot clock” and consequences (if unmet). 

In our relationship with God and one another, we must move to living by desire instead of expectations. The reason we place expectations on one another is because we believe that God is placing expectations on us. But I believe, in the New Covenant, God has put his laws into our hearts (see last weeks devotional) and so his laws and commandments become our desires! So God doesn’t demand that we do things, he simply reveals to us what He desires and he trusts that because we now love him, we will obey those commandments. If you really love someone, doing things for them doesn’t feel like obedience, it feels like love! 

Listen to Peter’s
Podcast on Old vs. New Covenant