How do we manage expectations when the unexpected happens?

Have you ever planned a trip to a tropical locale—Hawaii, maybe—and ended up in Helsinki? Don’t get me wrong. Helsinki is probably a wonderful place. Though I’ve never physically ended up in a place not on my airline ticket, I’ve definitely had plans to go to one place in life and ended up in a very different location in my heart, mind, goals, and expectations.

When our boys entered high school, I felt confident about what the next few years should hold. Both had been “easy teens” in their early teenage years. We talked and enjoyed family times together. There was occasional friction, but we worked through it. 

Life would be good. They’d launch into their adult lives, and all would be well. Sure, there might be a few minor hiccups, but we’d figure them out, and boom. They’d launch and be well-adjusted, walking-with-God young men.

I know. Those of you who have sent children into their own lives can stop laughing now. These past couple of years have proven that launching a child into this world is m-e-s-s-y

The truth is

Here’s the thing. We all have preconceived ideas about where our life path will lead. When we end up on a completely different track, especially when it’s beyond our control, we are sometimes shaken. We don’t always know how to manage expectations in the unexpected place we find ourselves.

My Helsinki has entailed walking alongside our sons through turbulent high school years. Watching friends’ children thrive through these years, go away to college, and seem to be just fine sometimes thrusts a comparison dagger through my heart.

The expectation that everything would go as I expected was my Hawaii. And while other families seem to have landed there, our family traveled to Helsinki. 

We’ve walked through some hard, painful years with both sons. There’s been outright rebellion. Deception. Painful words heard and spoken. 

Hubs and are I learning when and how to let go and give our sons more control. This has come through many discussions and sometimes through the boy-man yanking control away from us.

My heart has been broken by some of their choices . . . and by some circumstances they’ve faced. 

This is my mothering Helsinki.

Honestly, managing expectations for our sons and myself has been both humbling and humiliating. God challenges me regularly to entrust my precious young men into His hands. 

How to manage expectations in life

How do we manage expectations when the unexpected strikes our lives? 

Look to the Lord

When we face struggles in our lives, it can be oh, so easy to view our own trials through the lens of those around us. We see all the amazing things happening in their lives. And we hold that unrealistic filter over our personal failings. When I look to others’ seeming successes rather than the Lord, I always come out on the failure side. 

When God directs our proverbial planes to Helsinki rather than where we thought we were traveling, He still sees us. Though we may flounder, the Lord is never taken by surprise. Our Father promises to bring us through to the other side of our trials. We need to hold onto this truth.

3 Effective Ways to Manage Expectations in Unexpected Times—Our Father promises to bring us through to the other side of our trials. We need to hold onto this truth #tellhisstory #manageexpectations #trustinggod Click To Tweet

Let go of expectations

The “other side” we come out on from our trials will look different than what we planned. When we grapple with a detour in our path, we must lean into the Lord. If we attempt to take back control, things will not go smoothly. 

Our response to the detours determines our next steps. Instead of doubting God’s redirect, let’s ask for His perspective. Pray for His guidance for the next step forward.

Remember God is with us

An important truth to cling to is that when our paths lead in a different direction than expected, God is with us. He loves us, even when we don’t see His hand explicitly working in our lives. 

Sometimes He’s weaving the tapestry from behind-the-scenes. We don’t see our Father, but He’s still there. Working in us. Loving us. And creating something beautiful through our unexpected trials.

A path through a forest, symbolic of how life paths sometimes lead to places where we must manage expectations


If I sound like I have this all figured out, I don’t. We’re still in the throes of working through different issues with each son. I’m learning to manage expectations and talk with God when things go south.

Hubs and I pray more now than we ever did when our sons were young. We still make mistakes in how we handle things. But we’re trying to stay engaged with each son as we’re able. Learning to manage expectations is often choosing in every moment where we will focus. 

And wouldn’t you know, Helsinki isn’t so bad because we know we’re not here alone.

The next time we find ourselves en route to Helsinki, let’s look to the Lord and remember His plans for us are always good. Rarely easy, but always good. Especially when they seem so different from where we thought we were going.

What about you? What helps you manage expectations when life takes an unexpected turn? What have you learned in your personal “Helsinki”?

A few updates:

***I created a Scripture printable page for you with verses that can help us focus on the Lord in unexpected times. Feel free to click and collect it for yourself!

Due to a family emergency, we’ll be meeting back here next week for the Tell His Story linkup. Mark your calendars!

Lastly, a huge thank you to those who took the time to fill out my survey on my last blog post. Your insights were so helpful! The winner of the $10 Amazon gift card is Michele M. I’ll email it this week.

Come share your story at the Tell His Story linkup. Connect and be encouraged by like-minded friends! #tellhisstory #linkup Click To Tweet

Most weeks, I link up with Grace and Truth, Anita Ojeda, Instaencouragements, and sometimes Let’s Have Coffee. Come join and read more encouraging posts!

Each week we gather here as storytellers, word weavers, and encouragers to make His name known. Our story is God’s story and this small corner of the blogging world, where we come together each Tuesday, needs you. This is a place where poetry, snapshots, prayers, and stories find a safe spot to nod in agreement that what we have to say matters. I am glad you are here and would love to have you join the #TellHisStory community. Add your own encouraging post through the link below. Spread some love by visiting your neighbor and leaving your own encouragement. Click over here to read more about the #TellHisStory community and find a button to add to your site.

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