Surrendering Our Expectations
In continuing our series on surrender, I chatted with Sarah Rollandini on what it looks like to surrender our expectations. Sarah knows firsthand what it’s like to expect life to go one way and to have God change your course. Back in 1997, she and her husband began their long journey toward building a family. Through the twists and turns of infertility meds, tubal pregnancy, and miscarriage, Sarah questioned God’s plan for her life. She learned that God doesn’t close doors to open windows so much as smash the whole place to smithereens to make way for new dreams, His dreams for us. After years of chronic grief that followed her around like a heavy black cloud, Sarah said ‘Yes’ to a new idea of family. Her wonderful children joined the family first through domestic adoption and later through gestational surrogacy.
Now Sarah writes and shares her story of trust in a good God and the joy of hopeful perseverance. She longs for hurting hearts to know that they are not alone in their struggles. Her book, Life After Infertility: A Story of Hope for Those Who Wait, is currently in the launch process, due to release on May 2, 2020.
A high school teacher, mom of three, chocoholic, aspiring author, and faithful follower of Jesus, Sarah isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with Him with the hard questions of life.
Q: Whether spoken or unspoken, we all approach life with various expectations. Can you outline what some of those might be? And is it necessarily wrong to have these expectations?
A: If we’re being honest, most of us would say that we expect God to bless our plans rather than seeking out His plans. Really, we want an easy life with limited bumps and curves along the way. This is not necessarily right or wrong; it’s just human. Really, who would ask God to screw up their own hopes and desires? We all tremble a bit when we say, “not my will, but yours” because we know that the journey can be uncomfortable. It can be full of heartbreak and the humbling realization that we are not in control of our own destinies. Can we work toward our goals? Yes, of course. God lays desires on our hearts and expects us to move toward them, but we must hold every earthly thing loosely.
Q: What do we lose when we hold tight to our expectations without being open to the possibility that God has something different for us?
A: When we are so bent on our own expectations that there’s no room for any other possibility, we can lose lots of things. We lose/waste time banging our heads against the wall working toward goals that we’ll never reach. When we take over control and full responsibility for our lives, we lose the peace God offers when we rest in Him. God never walks away from us, but when we so tightly hold onto our own stuff, it is difficult to be in communion with Him and experience the abundant, joyful life that Jesus spoke about.
Q: What lies does the enemy of our souls throw at us when life doesn’t go the way we thought it would? How can we combat these lies?
A: Oh the lies! God’s not real. He doesn’t care about you. He’s just a mean God who wants His own way regardless of how it will affect you. The only way to fight lies is with the truth. Joyce Meyer’s Battlefield of the Mind is the best book I’ve ever read on the subject. Read the Bible, specifically verses that detail God’s good plans for you. Go to church and hang with people who have accepted God’s lordship in their lives. Look back on your life and observe where God showed up. You’ll see it in hindsight. Start every prayer with “thank you” for what you already have.
Q: How have you personally seen God’s faithfulness in your life as you’ve walked through the darkness of grief and unmet expectations? What joy and peace can be found when we surrender our lives to God?
A: God’s faithfulness in the midst of infertility showed up in the stories of how Jesus had so much empathy for the people he loved. Martha. The woman at the well. The bleeding woman. The man waiting at the pool in Bethsaida. The leper and so many others. I didn’t know how my story would end but it meant the world to know that I loved a God who hurt when I hurt and who counted all my tears and held them in a bottle. Even when I was mad at Him, I was aware that I was not suffering alone. We don’t serve a sadistic God who takes joy in our pain. We serve one who walks alongside us and holds our hand. Who cries when we cry. And in the midst of it all, He is still working everything for our good! Who doesn’t want that life and that God!? There is such joy and peace in knowing that you’re always right smack dab in the middle of His grace and there’s nothing you can do to screw that up or miss it.
Q: What word of encouragement do you have for the person who is hurting right now, unable to see what God might be doing in his/her life?
A: First, I would say be real. God already knows your heartbreak and pretending it’s not there just makes it more powerful. Talk to God as if He were the best dad in the world (He is). He will not stop loving you when you express anger or disappointment and doing so opens you up to His healing. Then, make daily trust your goal. You don’t know what’s going on but God does and His plans are always working for your good. Picture a balloon bouquet named for each of your worries and hand them one by one to Him. If you wake up the next morning and find you’re clenching those balloons in your hand again, repeat the process.
Choose safe people to share your pain with—ones who will listen, encourage, and gently point you to truth without answering in Christianese (don’t even get me started!).
God loves you. You are His child. Don’t buy the lie that “easy” is good and, therefore, “hard” is bad. Though He doesn’t directly cause all of the heartache in our lives, God is faithful to use the tough stuff to fashion us into Jesus’ hands, feet, and heart for a hurting world. What an incredible honor.
Sarah makes her home in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her husband, Mark, and four children.
Connect with her online at https://www.sarahrollandini.com/.