Expect Nothing, Hope Everything

Expect Nothing, Hope Everything

MKs and TCKs such as myself are very good at lowering our expectations. We don’t expect to live in stability. We don’t expect friendships to last. We don’t expect to fit in or belong. We don’t expect to be home for the holidays or to see our family often. We may not even expect to have control over the transitions in our lives, instead being moved by parents, circumstances or God.

I, personally, expect very little from people and from God. I don’t expect people to care about me, I don’t expect people to accept me and I don’t expect people to know me. In God’s case, I expect the worst. I expect God to use me. I expect God to see me as a pawn in his great tapestry of life, a tapestry that is filled with the healing, salvation and love for others but a tapestry that has left me broken.

I expect God to get his way by any means possible.

In Hebrews 11:6, the author makes the point that “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” I wholly believe that God exists, I believe that the Bible is truth and that Jesus Christ made the sacrifice so that I could be saved from sin. I do not believe, however, that God will reward me for seeking him. In fact, I am so cynical at times, that I believe that the opposite is true. That the more I seek after God, the more it will hurt me.

How does one go from expecting the worst from God to expecting reward from God? This is the journey I am on and it is a fluctuating one. I have a fear of anticipating good; to trust in the good is to be vulnerable to disappointment, disillusionment and humiliation.

It isn’t just God I expect the worst from either. This is why I hate standing in lines and prefer to have my back up against a wall; at a physiological level I am afraid of most everyone, expecting them to become volatile at any moment.

Unpredictable is the way I see the world. It is the way I see God.

When our home was ransacked in Indonesia, I wasn’t surprised. I had already lost a home to a fire and had already experienced robbery both to my home as well as to my person. I expected to be hurt and this expectation comes from a place of pain, humiliation and fear. It is self-preservative and while self-preservation has its place in times where running and hiding is necessary, it cuts me off from hope in times of peace and normal life. At its darkest, it keeps me from running when I should, accepting too quickly the abuse of others.

I have a longing to trust. I have a longing to throw off the burden of fear. I have a longing to be confident in the goodness of God and the reward he promises but it’s a wishy washy trust at best. The inevitable worst is always looming over me whispering dread in my ear.

The tattoo on my forearm, one of many, states, “Hold fast hope.” It is a reminder to me that hope can be easily lost and that the act of clinging to it is an act of force that requires grit. I imagine it is like clinging to driftwood in the face of a tsunami. There is violence in both the storm and in the grip. It’s a desperate and active grip on hope and this tattoo is forever my reminder. It won’t be stolen from me, it can’t burn down with my house or get lost on an airplane during travel. Every day I look at it and I find a hold onto my hope again.

Hope that God is good.

Hope that God sees me.

Hope that God loves me.

Hope that God is bigger than my fear of him.

Maybe there is value in being flexible and having low expectations of governments and their bureaucracy or an airplane’s ability to be on-time but there is no value in having low expectations of God. None.

I have to believe that God is for me and not against me. I have to believe that he allows suffering in my life and protects me from suffering also. I have to believe that underneath it all, God is doing a thing that I cannot see.

I expect the worst of God but I hope for the best and maybe one day I will find, miracle of miracles, that I expect the best of God and I can hope for the extraordinary.

What do you expect of God? How does he meet those expectations and how doesn’t he?

Photo by Olga Kozachenko on Unsplash


  1. Rose Farmer November 30, 2020

    I’m not an MK although my dad was and I come from a long line of missionary grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. I was homeschooled and homeschool my children. Have had a journey out of extreme fundamentalist Christian thinking toward more well-rounded, biblical thinking that has resulted in my being uprooted from the safety of the “camps” of thinking / Christian circles I was raised in. Currently my husband and 4 children and I are living in a state far from my family, most of whom I’m only marginally close to, and somewhat close to his family that has nothing to do with us. We recently left a church that had devolved into cult-like tendencies toward its leadership and had no opportunities for us to minister or be ministered to. My only friend in the area, that was mainly someone I mentored, just moved far away. I haven’t been able to find a local moms/homeschool group that even comes close to my values or lifestyle. I was just telling my husband last week that I feel like an island even in one of the most populated states. Sometimes I want to uproot and move closer to my brother who is my only emotionally close family, but he’s not settled anywhere yet so it would be foolish to try following him around. I also feel frustrated at times holding onto the standards of living and truth that I am undeniably sure God has led me to, which I feel has cost me a lot of the “mainstream”ness that would probably have helped me fit into circles.

    I have closely evaluated my life to make sure that I am following God’s leading in marriage and child raising, personal spiritual walk, and community testimony. I could list dozen of examples that confirm that I am indeed exactly where God wants me. It does feel like He wants me to be miserable so that He can get glory. It feels like He is so sensitive to my tendency toward pride, complacency, or getting lost in the joy of earthly relationships that He jealously keeps me away from all these “normal” things for Himself alone. I have had numerous counsel (mostly from online articles by spiritual leaders) that I should find my completeness and my everything and all satisfaction in someone that I’ve never seen, and cannot hear speaking audibly, nor touch.

    I have absolutely no doubt that God does exist. But I can sometimes see why some of the great thinkers and Founding Fathers of US tended toward deism, the belief that God exists but interacts very little in the world.

    Another thought I’ve been toying with lately is that I feel we may be living in the last days, the very last of them, and evil truly has greatly increased in the world. People who think a lot try to remain intellectually honest and say, we aren’t going to fall for the “the good old days” nostalgia when people implied times were more wholesome, because we’ve read our history and know that there has always been egregious and heinous sin among people from Creation to pre-flood to post-flood to the Roman empire to Middle Ages and so on to today. But perhaps there really has been a huge increase in demonic work on earth and God probably has a lot going on just to keep the gospel light going into the world…until the end appears and the Holy Spirit is taken away (there is some disagreement on eschatology, I know) and the antichrist gets full reign. As long as we still have faith in Him, we don’t need to see results from Him that look like what we expect. There is a much bigger play going on and I have to trust that I truly can handle the life He’s given me. There’s nothing wrong with seeing the hurt and longing for it to be fixed but I guess that’s really what looking forward to heaven is for.

    A couple books I read lately that encouraged me were “Imagine Heaven” by John Burke and “The Pilgrim’s Progress” (a re-read, of course) by John Bunyan. If you have the latter find the section in the last half of the book where Christian talks about Little-Faith. I found it very relatable and encouraging.

    Thank you for your post. I found it encouraging. I am putting a fake name in case one of my relatives sees this and gets their feelings hurt but you can email me if you need to know exactly who I am. 🙂

    1. Joy Smalley November 30, 2020

      Thank you, Rose Farmer, for sharing your story with me. I can relate to the difficulty of fitting in and finding my place among people. I am sorry to hear that you are distant from your family, it is a grief when you know you need to cut ties with the ones who raised you. It is hard not to view God as distant and cold when we have been exposed to pain before we can understand how to deal with it. I find that my relationship with God closely resembles the relationships I have close to me and when I feel unloved by them, I feel unloved by God. I haven’t read ‘Imagine Heaven’ but I love ‘Pilgrims Progress’. I find a lot of peace when I read the words of long-dead men and women whose words resonate so deeply with me. I take it as a sign that I’m not crazy, lol. Again, thank you for sharing and blessings to you!

    2. Phyllis December 3, 2020

      Yes! I’m also not an MK or TCK, but I’ve been a foreigner long-term, and what you’re writing about here, Joy, is so familiar for me. Thank you!

      Rose Farmer, I think I understand some of what you’re talking about with being an island, too.

      1. RF December 3, 2020

        Joy & Phyllis,
        Thanks for your responses! It is encouraging to know that others are seeking God, too, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

  2. Phyllis December 13, 2020

    I had to come back and add a quote from a book that I just finished rereading, Phantastes by George MacDonald: “I know that good is coming to me–that good is always coming though few have at all times the simplicity and the courage to believe it.”

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.