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How to Master Your Expectations

July 12, 2016 by  
Filed under Book Club, Vicki Burbach

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Life of Christ (Week 14 of 27)

The possession of a soul means the undisturbed mastery of oneself, which is the secret of inner peace, as distinguished from a thousand agitations which make it fearful, unhappy, and disappointed. Only when the soul is possessed can anything else be enjoyed. Our Lord here meant patience in adversity, trial and persecution. At the end of three hours on the Cross, He would so possess His soul that He would render it back to the Heavenly Father. — Life of Christ, Chapter 27, Paragraph 8

How to Master Your Expectations

Fearful, Unhappy, Disappointed.

Do these words describe you? Or anyone you know? No doubt they find meaning in each of our lives at one point or another. But let’s consider where these less than inspiring feelings originate.

Fear, unhappiness, and disappointment share a common origin: Expectations.

While to some extent, each of these feelings originates for a good purpose, they all have the potential to wreak havoc on our lives, and can cause incredible damage in every area, whether physical, intellectual, financial, social or spiritual.

Fear is good in that it helps us in the face of imminent danger. An adrenaline rush caused by fear can give us strength and speed we do not have every day. Ever heard of fight or flight?  Additionally, fear helps us to avoid past mistakes. I do not run up to pet every dog I see because, after a painful pre-school experience, I now have a healthy fear of being bitten.

But fear can also be distressing. It can be debilitating. Fear can cause us to irrationally project of our worries onto future events. I have a post on about an incident that happened to me many years ago that caused me to struggle with something as simple as taking out the trash. For over a decade I was afraid to be outside at night alone. For any reason. Not healthy.

There is a popular acronym that describes FEAR: False Expectations Appearing Real. Expectations created in our minds about real or imagined possibilities.

Oddly enough, unhappiness and disappointment stem from the same source. When we are unhappy, our discontent is based on expectations about how we think things should be. We find ourselves disappointed when activities, situations or relationships do not live up to our expectations. Somehow reality doesn’t measure up to images we’ve conjured in our minds.

Of course, it is in our DNA to reason our way toward the future. Without imagining or planning our futures, how would we accomplish all that we do? After all, contrary to popular movies, we don’t generally wander into a strong faith life, a solid education, a great marriage, financial success, happy families, and on and on. In each of these areas, the greatest success is achieved by setting goals, moving toward an ideal.

By the same token, when you imagined romantic strolls in the park and what you get instead is a few minutes over dinner where you can barely hear each other while the kids call upon you to referee as they bicker back and forth over who got what cup and who has to do dishes, disappointment can reign high.

When you envisioned a healthy six-figure income that would allow vacations and retirement savings, and what you got was a mortgage, private school tuition, and an outrageous grocery bill, you can become disillusioned.

Norman Vincent Peale has a famous quote:

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

Good advice. The problem is that when we don’t reach the moon, or worse – when we reach it and it doesn’t reflect the image we had conjured of its beauty, we become disillusioned.

Disappointed. Unhappy.

While expectations have their place, they are only good when coupled with a surrender to God’s plan, which is no doubt greater than our own. Whatever the situation – from small issues encountered from day to day to huge unimaginable and undeserved suffering that life may throw your way when you were least expecting it – God has a plan. Divine Providence is a thing. And it is leading you through life every moment of every day.

When things come up – small like an interrupted hour of work or huge like a deadly tragedy, we will be most at peace if we hand over the reigns, knowing that God really does have things under control.

There is no undisturbed mastery of self without the complete surrender of self. For the only self-mastery is one in which I recognize my absolute dependence on The Supreme Master. Otherwise, at the first moment I experience something beyond my control, I am lost. Where do I turn then?

In every situation, God is in control. While we might mourn the death of a loved one, we need not torture ourselves with trying to understand why me and not them? What if this or what if that? Peace comes with acceptance. Acceptance of a greater Wisdom than our own. Acceptance of a plan that is greater than anything we imagined in our wildest dreams. We need only accept, as a trusting child accepts the direction of his mother. We may not like it. But we can trust that there is a reason. And that reason is all-good.

There is no random action. We need not understand how all the pieces of fit together, only to trust that they do. And it’s all good. Because as long as we follow Him, as long as we Love Him, as long as we Trust Him, we know we will win in the end.

Like His son, we can have inner peace, knowing that we are carrying out His Divine Plan for our lives. In His Providence, we can rest assured that He will love and keep us till the end.


Note: For those who want to learn more about Divine Providence, Bishop Barron has a great video wherein he talks about how Divine Providence through generations of unrelated individuals may have helped Stephen Colbert deal with horrific suffering in his life.


Reading Assignment:

Chapters 29-31

Discussion Questions:

  1. Are there ways that you have allowed fear, unhappiness or disappointment to have too much power in your lives? How can you change it?
  2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!


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About Vicki Burbach

Vicki Burbach is a wife and homeschooling mother of six children ages four to sixteen years who relishes the calm inspiration of spiritual reading amidst the roller coaster of life. A passionate convert to the Faith, Vicki is an avid reader who started the book club so she could embark with like-minded bibliophiles on a spiritual journey through some of the greatest Catholic books ever written. You can also find her at

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  • Mary Therese

    That is the exact same quote I wrote down from this week’s chapters. Thanks for your reflection on it, it gave me a different perspective. I was thinking more of ‘controlling my emotions’ as a way to self-mastery, but didn’t go all the way to the connection of why my emotions would be disturbed at all–the expectations part! I have recently been wrestling with what I see as ‘unhappiness’ in my life, and had come to the conclusion that it’s most often due to pride, or too much self-awareness, rather than awareness of others and their needs. Yes, it all comes back to acceptance, or “Abandonment to Divine Providence” (book written by Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade). I’ve read that book, but it obviously hasn’t “stuck” yet. 😉

    Thanks also for the link to Fr. Barron’s video–will check that out too!

    • Vicki

      I’ve read it four times over 12 years – every time I find myself slipping back into old habits. But boy, when I finish it, I am always ready to face anything that comes my way – there is so much joy and peace to be had between those little pages! Thanks so much for your comments – God bless you!

  • EES

    “Reins” not “reigns”… But great article, thank you for some excellent insight!!

    • Vicki

      Thanks for the tip – often I am wrong, but this time I think I have the correct spelling: “reign means to rule or to possess supreme power over something or someone.” Please let me know if you notice other mistakes, though. I’ve definitely been known to slip up!

      • EES

        Yes, that is the definition of “reign”. But to “hand over the reins ” is a reference to horse-riding, the reins being what guides and controls. So you “hand over the reins” to God, thus giving Him control. -ees

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