In 1971, Carly Simon wrote the hit song “Anticipation.” In the chorus she writes, “Anticipation, anticipation, Is makin' me late, Is keepin' me waitin'.” Anticipation is about future expectations. It can, as Carly says, make us wait. We anticipate that something will happen or we will get something but not yet. We must wait. To anticipate is a lot like hope. Both are future-thinking. When we anticipate that something will happen, we have hope. Anticipation is powerful in that it drives us on, knowing that the desired outcome will occur if we keep pressing on. Anticipation gives us hope and hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5). There are two kinds of anticipation: one that looks to the future with hope and one that looks down the road and produces wisdom.
In this article I’m viewing anticipation in positive terms. Dread is probably the term I’d use if the result could be negative. Psychologists tell us that one aspect of emotional intelligence is the ability to anticipate outcomes before we speak or act. Jesus understood this type of anticipation. He posed this illustration, “What king on his way to war with another king will not first sit down and consider whether he can engage with ten thousand men the one coming against him with twenty thousand?And if he is unable, he will send a delegation while the other king is still far off, to ask for terms of peace" (Luke 14:31,32). People who are high in emotional intelligence have learned to anticipate the consequences or results of their actions or speech. For example, if I’m late for an appointment I might consider driving 55 mph when the posted speed limit is 35 mph. Emotional intelligence would cause me to anticipate several possibilities: a) I could be stopped and cited by a policeman for speeding, b) If that were the case, I would be fined and my insurance premium would be increased for several years, c) A substantial fine for speeding would shoot a hole in my family budget making it tighter, d) A tighter financial budget would put stress on my marriage since money is the number one source of conflict in most marriages, e) If I’m stopped for speeding I’ll be even later for my appointment plus I’ll be emotionally upset, f) Finally, I’d have to face my wife and tell her that I was stopped for speeding. That would be humbling and would create a rift between us. If you anticipate all those consequences it might cause you to drive more responsibly.
The anticipation that fuels hope comes into play for Christians as we pray and look for the return of Jesus Christ and the gathering of His church to Himself. Jesus declared to His disciples, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). That’s His promise to us. He will return for us and take us to the place He’s prepared for us in heaven. We anticipate His return. Anticipation creates a hunger in our hearts for Him. We want to be with Him. The Apostle Paul describes the power of anticipation for Christians saying Christians are “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus. . . (who will) purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:13, 14).
Whether it’s the ability to think ahead or the anticipation of Christ’s soon return, there is power in anticipation. It can motivate us to change how we think, speak, behave, and our future.