Cultivate Reasonable Expectations, and Be Joyful

“I FAILED again!” How many times have you said something like that because you were unable to accomplish what you set out to do? A young Christian mother may express such sentiments because she feels overwhelmed by the constant attention demanded by her newborn child and is frustrated that she cannot pay more attention to spiritual interests. Another Christian may feel limited because of his upbringing and think that he never does enough in the congregation. An elderly Witness may feel dejected because she is unable to share to the full in Christian activities she enjoyed when she had more energy and mobility. “A talk encouraging pioneer service is sometimes enough to make me cry,” notes Christiane, whose family situation prevents her from doing as much as she would like in Jehovah’s service.

How can we deal with such feelings? How have some Christians been able to cultivate a realistic view of their circumstances? What are the benefits of having balanced expectations?

Be Reasonable

The apostle Paul gives us a key to maintaining our joy when he says: “Always rejoice in the Lord. Once more I will say, Rejoice! Let your reasonableness become known to all men.” (Phil. 4:4, 5) To experience joy and satisfaction in our service to God, we need to cultivate reasonable expectations in the light of our own abilities and circumstances. If we strive to attain unreasonable goals regardless of the cost, we subject ourselves to undue tension. On the other hand, we should be careful not to become too lenient with ourselves, using our perceived limitations as an excuse for slowing down more than is necessary in the Christian ministry.

No matter what our circumstances, Jehovah requires that we give him our very best​—our whole-souled and wholehearted service. (Col. 3:23, 24) If we were to give Jehovah less than our best, we would not be living up to our dedication to him. (Rom. 12:1) In addition, we would deprive ourselves of the deep satisfaction, true joy, and other rich blessings that come from whole-souled service.​—Prov. 10:22.

The word translated “reasonable” in the Bible contains the thought of being considerate. Its literal meaning is “yielding.” (Jas. 3:17, ftn.) The word also conveys the sense of not being overly strict. So, then, if we are reasonable, we will be able to take a balanced look at our circumstances. Is that difficult to do? For some it is, even though they may be able to view others with consideration. For  instance, if a close friend was showing signs of exhaustion because he was overexerting himself, would we not try to help him to see the wisdom of making some adjustments in his life? Similarly, we need to learn to recognize the signs that may tell us that we are going beyond our own limits.​—Prov. 11:17.

To have a reasonable view of our limitations can be more challenging if we have been brought up by overly demanding parents. Some felt during childhood that they always had to do more or be better to earn their parents’ love. If that was the case with us, we might have a wrong idea about Jehovah’s view of us. Jehovah loves us for the wholehearted way in which we render our service to him. God’s Word assures us that Jehovah “well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” (Ps. 103:14) He knows our limitations and loves us when we serve him zealously in spite of them. Remembering that our God is not a strict taskmaster will help us to be modest in what we expect of ourselves, recognizing our limitations.​—Mic. 6:8.

Still, some find it difficult to cultivate such a balanced attitude. If that is true in your case, why not seek the help of an experienced Christian who knows you well? (Prov. 27:9) For example, do you want to serve as a regular pioneer? That is an excellent goal! Are you having difficulty realizing it? Perhaps you need help to simplify your life. Or your trusted Christian friend might discuss with you whether your many family responsibilities make regular pioneering a practical goal at this time. He or she could help you to see if the additional activities you want to take on are within your reach or what adjustment might enable you to do more. A husband is also in a good position to help his wife to find a pace that fits her capabilities. For instance, he could suggest that she get some rest before starting a new month of increased activities. This may build up her energy and help her to preserve her joy in the ministry.

Look for Things That You Can Do

Advanced age or failing health may place certain limits on what we can do in Jehovah’s service. If you are a parent, you may have the impression that you benefit little from personal study or Christian meetings because much of your time and energy is taken up by young children. However, could it be that concentrating on your limitations could at times prevent you from seeing what is still within your reach?

Thousands of years ago, a certain Levite expressed a desire that was impossible for him to satisfy. He was privileged to serve for two weeks every year at the temple. However, he expressed the laudable desire to dwell permanently  near the altar. (Ps. 84:1-3) What helped this faithful man to be content? He realized that even a single day in the temple courtyards was a unique privilege. (Ps. 84:4, 5, 10) Similarly, rather than dwelling on our limitations, we should try to discern and appreciate possibilities that are within our reach.

Take Nerlande, a Christian sister in Canada, as an example. She is confined to a wheelchair and felt very limited in what she could do in the ministry. However, she changed her perspective by viewing a nearby shopping mall as her personal preaching territory. She explains: “I sit in my wheelchair near a bench in the mall. I find joy in witnessing to people who come and sit down to rest for a moment.” Sharing in this valuable form of the ministry gives Nerlande much satisfaction.

Make Adjustments if Needed

A sailboat may be coursing along at full speed with the wind blowing in its sails. However, when the sailor at the helm encounters a fierce storm, he is forced to adjust the sails. He is not in control of the storm, but by making adjustments, he may remain in control of his sailboat. In a comparable way, often we have no control over adverse stormlike circumstances that we encounter in life. But we can keep control of our life to the extent possible by adjusting the way we use physical, mental, and emotional resources. When we take into consideration our new circumstances, we will be helped to preserve our satisfaction and joy in God’s service.​—Prov. 11:2.

Consider some examples. If we have a limited amount of energy, we may find it appropriate to avoid exhausting activities earlier in the day so that we will have strength to attend a Christian meeting in the evening. This will allow us to take full advantage of our association with fellow Christians. Or if a mother is unable to share in the house-to-house ministry because her child is unwell, she may find it practical to invite a Christian sister to her home to share with her in witnessing by telephone while the child is having a nap.

What if your circumstances do not allow you to study in advance everything that will  be considered at the congregation meetings? You can determine how much you can prepare and do that as well as possible. By adjusting our immediate goals, we can stay active and happy.

Adjusting our goals may require determination and effort. Serge and Agnès, a couple in France, had to make a big change in their plans. “When we learned that Agnès was expecting a baby, our dream of being missionaries vanished,” says Serge. Now a father of two lively girls, Serge explains how they set a new goal as a couple. He says: “Not being able to serve abroad, we made up our minds to be ‘missionaries’ in our own country. We joined a foreign-language group.” Did they benefit from setting this new goal? Serge notes: “We feel very useful in the congregation.”

Odile, a Christian sister in France who is in her 70’s and suffers from osteoarthritis in the knees, cannot stand for long. She was discouraged that her physical problems prevented her from having a share in the house-to-house ministry. However, she did not give up. She adjusted her activities by sharing in telephone witnessing. She says: “It is easier and more enjoyable than I thought!” This method of preaching restored her motivation for the ministry.

Reasonable Expectations Bring Blessings

Cultivating a reasonable view of what we can do will spare us many frustrations. By setting balanced goals, we have a sense of achievement despite our limitations. We thus rejoice over what we can accomplish, even if it is relatively modest.​—Gal. 6:4.

As we cultivate balance in what we expect of ourselves, we will become more considerate of fellow Christians. Aware of their limitations, we will always be grateful for what they do for us. By showing appreciation for any help offered, we contribute to a spirit of cooperation and mutual understanding. (1 Pet. 3:8) Remember, as a loving Father, Jehovah never asks more of us than we can give. And when we have balanced expectations and set reachable goals, our spiritual activities will bring us more satisfaction and joy.

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To experience joy and satisfaction in our service to God, we need to cultivate reasonable expectations in the light of our own abilities and circumstances

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Nerlande finds joy in doing what she can in the ministry

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Learn to “adjust the sails”

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Serge and Agnès benefited from setting new goals