What Do You Expect?
I went for a walk yesterday and the speaker in my iPod’s headphones was talking about expectations. What we expect has a lot to do with how we respond to experience. One’s reaction to an ordinary room with a bed, a table, a chair and a TV, for example, would vary depending upon being told to expect the penthouse suite or a jail cell. Expectations are everything.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the passage in John’s gospel, “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full” (John 10:10) What does Jesus mean by a full life? What ought we to expect? A life of comfort and ease? A life free from debilitating physical or mental illness? A life absent of jarring crises and ever-present need? A life with no hint of crippling doubt and paralyzing anxiety? A life without financial pressure or difficult and painful decisions between competing good options? A life where everyone you love makes good choices? A life where you always feel well-adjusted and optimistic? A life where God is without exception experienced to be good and true and kind? Is that what life to the full looks like? Is this what we should expect?
In this world, you will have trouble, Jesus says (John 16:33). Not might have trouble. Will. Trouble will find you. If it hasn’t yet knocked on your door, rest assured, it is coming. It will not wait for a convenient opportunity, either. It will not give you advance warning or make an appointment. It will not give you time to prepare or fortify your defenses. You will not have time to clear your schedule to give it the attention it deserves. It will come when you are tired or bored or lonely or sad or confused. And it will not come alone. It will bring its friends and they will come at you in waves. It will be messy and rude and belligerent and will refuse to leave you alone. Trouble is like that.
I have come that you might have life and to the full…
In this world you will have trouble…
Somehow, fullness of life can and must coexist with the expectation of trouble. Somehow, Jesus seems to be saying, it is possible to be at peace even when we know bad things will happen. Somehow, this peace and fullness can be experienced in the midst of trouble because of who God is and what God has done. Somehow, the fullness of the future trickles back into the land of trouble and helps us to transcend and redeem and lament and grieve and hope and persevere here and now. Against all odds, the experience of fullness can and does coexist with the expectation of trouble. For now.
… but take heart, I have overcome the world.
Expect that, too.