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At a recent Future Marriage University (FMU) live event I suggested this: expectations hold the key to happiness.

I know. I was supposed to say Jesus holds the key to happiness.

Only Jesus never said that.

From a worldly perspective, you might think bacon would hold the key to happiness. Or chocolate. Or donuts. Or chocolate donuts wrapped in bacon.

Or put it all together “Merica-style” and look for happiness from a chocolate Jesus. With a bacon sash. And a donut halo.

Faith-based answers and forbidden food aside, think about it.

If you hold the wrong expectations can you expect to be happy?

Example 1: You hope that one gorgeous specimen of humanity will like you back. But they don’t.


Nope, because your expectations weren’t met.

Example 2: Gorgeous homosapien likes you back! A lot! And so you rush into a whirlwind romance hoping they are “The One,” only to find out they are “the one” who grows tired of you. Rather quickly.


Only until your chemically-induced romance crashes into the reality of the relationally-initiated rejection you never saw coming (ie never expected).

Example 3: Gorgeous human likes you back and so together you dash into another dimension of delight, only to find out they aren’t the person you thought they were. In fact, they’re downright irritating. And unhygienic. And maybe psychotic. So you want out of that relationship like a mouse wants out of a trap.


Only until your feelings of desire are overcome by the fear and dread of living another day with the person you once expected would bring about the end to your search for “true love.”

In contrast, what if you acknowledge those mushy gushy feelings for what they are: just feelings. And as feelings, not something you should try building a pyramid scheme of expectations on top of. Feelings which, though real (perhaps even powerful), are not necessarily right (and maybe even dangerous due to their power).

Then, instead of hoping for the whirlwind romance of your (Teenage) dreams, you set a reasonable goal of simply getting to know the other person as. Ah. Um. A person. You know, instead of the answer to your prayers. Prayers molded more by Hollywood than the Holy Spirit.

Then with your emotionally charged expectations in check, you seek to spend time with this person in low-pressure situations at school, work, church, or the neighborhood cafe. And when you do, you do so in the company of other friends who already do know you and/or know said-person-you-find-attractive. Friends, who want to help you manage your expectations by keeping your focus on where your relationship is at the moment, not where it might be if the shooting stars of love align.

Expectations hold the key to happiness. This reality doesn’t just apply to relationships, but everything. If you learn how to tame lofty expectations, you’ll live a life of far less disappointment and far more contentment.

And, wouldn’t you know? Contentment is one of the three crucial life decisions for relational success we present in our first study guide in our discipleship series: Beyond Sex & Salvation. So for further thoughts on expectations, here’s a quick excerpt from that study guide below.

But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. – 1 Tim 6:6-8 (NAS)

Paul appeals to us to change our expectations. Instead of determining that we will only be content once we find the trophy spouse, achieve financial independence and live in perfect health (or have 1.5 kids, buy a home or whatever else you may want), He says lower your expectations. Be content with food and clothing.

As we consider this, we can’t ignore the fact that the goals we strive to obtain in our Western civilization – things like financial independence and perfect health – are completely out of reach of the vast majority of the world’s population. Indeed, these goals are so lofty as to not even cross the mind of most of the world’s inhabitants. And not just today, but throughout the history of mankind.

Imagine if I told you I couldn’t be content until I completed the first real estate development on the planet Pluto and sold it at a 500% profit to Darth Vader.

First, you’d tell me that Pluto hasn’t been considered a planet since 2006 and Darth Vader is presumed dead, along with Elvis. Then you’d tell me my requirements for contentment were far too high.

That’s how the billions of people living on less than a dollar a day would feel about our discontentment.


At the end of the day, if we can’t be content with just food and clothing, what hope is there for our brothers and sisters in developing countries that lack even that?

And yet, if you’ve ever spoken with such “needy” believers, they will speak of – more than that demonstrate in their attitudes and actions – a contentment, a joy, a freedom we could never comprehend. Why do you think that is?

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what He sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. – Romans 8:18-25 (ESV)

Questions for you to consider and discuss with a friend, mentor or small group:

  • What kind of expectations does Paul encourage us to set in this passage?
  • Could you really be content with just food and clothing? Any food and clothing? If you required more for your own contentment what would your minimum requirements be?
  • Does our culture consider the minimum requirements for contentment?
[This is but a taste of the first book in our discipleship series: Beyond Sex & Salvation. It presents three critical life lessons for relational success; lessons best learned BEFORE you fall in love. Find out more or purchase the e-book book at this link.]