My first major purchase was a submarine. I saw it on the back of a cereal box that boasted of its prowess as a "real" diving submarine. Through the power of baking soda, this little vessel promised to make me master of the seas—or at least master of the bathtub. I had to have it, even though it cost me several weeks' allowance. The day it came in the mail, I loaded the special compartment at the bottom of the sub with baking soda, and launched it.

The sub went straight to the bottom. It did not dive. It sank. Bubbles rose to the surface as the baking soda began to dissolve, and then suddenly it bobbed back up to the surface. After a while, it sank again. There was a kind of novelty in this, but overall it was less than I had hoped for. A wave of disappointment washed over me, and I realized that I had wasted my savings on a cheap plastic toy.

When I grew older, I put such childish concerns behind me. But disappointment would not be put off so easily. Instead, it insinuated itself into the more complex toys of adulthood, like my vocation and my most cherished relationships. My work, even when it is ministry, often seems like toil. People I love do not always love me back. Sometimes I take others for granted or treat them unkindly. I set out to make something of myself and glorify God in the process. Yet after making every effort to "expect great things from God and attempt great things for God," my accomplishments fail to follow the trajectory I expected.

Unreasonable Expectations

I am disappointed but not surprised. We live in an age of unreasonable expectations. Ours is a world where promises are cheaply made and easily broken—where hyperbole is the lingua franca. Advertisers ...

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