When we started on the adoption journey over ten years ago, we were required to fill out forms showing what kind of child we wanted—what health conditions, special needs, age ranges, countries, and ethnicities.
When I looked at the list of special needs that we would accept, I got nervous. Could I accept one thing and not another? How do we make this decision? With being first time parents, we were particularly cautious.
We wrestled with all kinds of decisions on our application, but finally made up our minds. We expected that our adoption paperwork would bring us a healthy, 6-12 month old Korean child.
Instead we got an African American newborn infant from the United States.
Because my husband was diagnosed with cancer, we had to change everything in our initial adoption paperwork including the program we were in, the type of child we could adopt, and what age that child would be.
It was a serious readjustment, but after cancer, everything seemed like a gift. We knew we couldn’t have things our way. Eight years of marriage, no baby, and a cancer diagnosis teaches you that.
We were thankful for second chances. Our list of desires dwindled and everything fell into place with the adoption of our daughter.
But if I had stuck to my original demands, we wouldn’t have the child we have now. In fact, it’s possible we wouldn’t have any child.
The experience taught me not to expect that I have a right to the demands I make, no matter how noble or well intentioned they are.
This process of letting go of my expectations is part of the key to a joyful life.
Making Demands leads to Disappointment
If there’s one thing that will destroy your joy in the Lord, it’s the cycle of trying to get your demands fulfilled by God and the inevitable disappointment that will follow.
When we expect that our desires should be met, these desires quickly become demands. When these demands aren’t fulfilled by God (or even other people), we quickly fall into judgmental and negative attitudes that often lead to a lack of discontent and self pity.
We become disappointed because we feel like we deserve to have things done our way. We think that because we have followed God or been a good person, we have a perceived right to our desires. This leads to a cycle of disappointment and discouragement.
God’s Grace is the Key to Joy
The problem can only be solved with a basic understanding that God’s love and grace has nothing to do with our demands and has everything to do with His character.
As Francis Chan says,
God is the only being who is good and the standards are set by Him…when you get your own universe, you can make your own standards.
Demanding things of God does not produce joy. In fact, it leads to a joyless existence that focuses on what we don’t have, instead of what we do have. It causes us to become self absorbed and distracted by our circumstances.
Only our relationship with Christ can gives us joy despite life’s circumstances. Because we are chosen and loved by God, we find joy in His acceptance of us.
Ephesians 1:4-7 explains that
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do and it gave him great pleasure.” (NLT)
In other words, nothing we have done makes God love us more. He CHOSE us to be in Christ.
That phrase, “in Christ,” appears 12 times in Ephesians 1. Being “in Christ” means he accepts us, even though we are imperfect and often focused on our own demands.
That’s why His grace is a gift.
When we see our mistakes and failings in light of what he has done for us and how we are chosen to be “in Christ,” we begin to understand a different view of God in our lives.
Ephesians 1:6 reminds us that
God gave that grace to us freely, in Christ, the One he loves.” (Eph. 1:6b NCV)
When we recognize the gift of Christ and his grace, we begin to let go our demands. We see that God not only provides all grace to us, but is also all that we need in life.
And God is able to make all grace abound to you
So that in all things at all times,
Having all that you need,
You will abound in every good work. (2 Cor. 9:8)
Instead of mentally filling out a checklist of demands, we see the world through the lens of God’s love, grace and mercy. We recognize what Christ has done for us and see that gift as our greatest source of joy.
We breathe gratitude for grace and mercy and learn that God’s grace is His Gift.
To read more about The Joy Plan, see this blog on The Joy Plan: Practical Strategies to Find Joy in your Life or this blog on How to Choose Joy (even when life is hard).