The 9th Beatitude
Eighteenth century British writer Alexander Pope, deliberately using the style of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), wrote this statement in a letter to English poet John Gay. He even called it “a ninth Beatitude.”
Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.
In all transparency, I often want to live as if Pope’s statement really is a Beatitude. With a tendency toward negativity, especially when stressed and tired, it’s sometimes easier to expect nothing than it is to hope for anything good out of myself or others.
I find myself regularly struggling with expectations in my earthly relationships. Learning to base my expectations on who God says is also a continuing struggle for me.
This struggle with expectations, especially fighting my tendency to expect the worst, exists as one of the root causes of depression for me. If not kept in check – if I give up and stop struggling – it pulls me back toward the pit.
Peace and Trust
Being reminded of the peace God promises and of how I can trust him with my expectations, especially when they are based on his word, helps aim my struggle toward victory.
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you. (Isaiah 26:3)
I don’t feel “perfect peace” today, and I recognize that is because my trust in God – my faith – is struggling. Other people’s struggles. Tested beliefs. Relationship disconnect. Loneliness. All of these lead me back to a desire to dispense with expectations.
Trusting in God requires that he remain my focus. That means that instead of expecting the worst, I can remember what he’s done, focus on what he’s doing, and place my hope in his promises. This happens by deliberate choice.
It happens by deliberately developing a habit of hope. It also comes through remembering that connection is crucial to victory. In other words, I must continue struggling toward victory over my own pessimism and believe that God wants me to hope in him and to expect miracles.
So today, I once again declare that I believe nothing is too hard for God. Nothing is impossible for him. He can do – and has done – far more than I can ask or imagine.
I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? (Jeremiah 32:27)
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God. (Luke 18:27)
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Refocusing on God gives new life to my struggle, and his offering of joy becomes more real.
Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. (Psalm 16:9)