I’m not sure why the unexpected continues to surprise me, but it does.
After forty-plus years of life on terra firma, you’d think I’d have this figured out: I should expect the unexpected.
On a regular basis, like weekly, something happens to me that surprises me. Sometimes it’s a good surprise, and sometimes it’s not, but I can’t tell you how many times something happens and I think, I didn’t see that coming at all!
Why do relatively intelligent people have to deal with a regular barrage of what is often seen as stupid surprises?
Why do most of us struggle so much with things seemingly out of our control?
Why do we humans have the ability to reason, to ponder, and even to plan, and yet we are forced to deal with the unreasonable, the unexplainable, and the unforeseen?
And perhaps the biggest why of all is why does God, who knows everything, allow his kids to confront the unknown and the unexpected?
Maybe, the answer is found in this mysterious reality: surprise is a special teacher.
Perhaps, when God brings or allows us an unwelcome event or experience, he doesn’t do so to frustrate us but rather to form us.
That being the case, here are four things that will help you:
- First, stay tender. Difficulty has a way of leading us into cold-heartedness. When we get smacked in the head or the heart with something we didn’t see coming, we can become mean and emotionally ugly. Wouldn’t it be great if struggles and trials always brought the best out of us? In reality, the opposite tends to happen; we go sour and can get foul. Don’t go there; stay tenderhearted.
- Second, stay faithful. I suppose being faithful can mean a lot of things to people. Here’s how I see faithfulness defined in the Bible: to stay faithful is to stay true, trustworthy, reliable, and committed. So when the unexpected comes, one of the great tests you will face is this issue of faithfulness. Will you remain loyal and stay the course—no matter what? When surprised, you can react in fear or respond in faith. For the record, faith is always best.
- Third, stay aware. Never forget you are in a spiritual battle. Sometimes the unexpected happens because we live in a broken world filled with broken people. Sometimes it happens because we make boneheaded decisions. Sometimes, however, what is unexpected to you is a diabolical plan of the evil one, Satan, who hates God and wants to control you. Stand firm and resist him.
- Finally, stay teachable and you will grow. One of life’s greatest truths is that you and I grow best in crisis. I don’t like that reality. I wish it weren’t that way, but it is. Once again, unexpected situations and difficulties can make us bitter or better. We can go through the struggles or grow through the hardships. In fact, the only way to “count it all joy,” as James suggests, is to have a radical change in your perspective regarding trials. The unexpected can be a tool that shapes and builds you rather than a hammer that demolishes you. It’s up to you to choose.
How will Jesus surprise you?
I have no idea what’s going on in your life right now. I don’t know if you’re in the best or the worst days of your life. I don’t know if you’re lovin’ life or thinking about ending it all. I have no way of knowing what’s ahead for me, let alone you.
Sometimes I cry out in something between anger and despair to God, “I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Why is life so crazy? Why is life so difficult? Why didn’t I see that coming?” (Yes, I get rather raw with God at times.)
As I write this, I’m at the end of a long week filled with a boatload of unexpected struggles. What’s more, I’m wondering about the week to come.
Then God quietly spoke to my soul.
When have I ever abandoned you?
Where have I ever led you astray?
Name a moment in your past when I screwed up.
I am that I am, child.
I am here.
I am not finished with you yet.
I am worthy of your trust, so lean into me and rest.
Kurt, I’ve got this.
I’ve got you.
And he does.
I’m still learning that I am not I am, and I must expect the unexpected. To do any less is unwise because life is full of things you and I will never see coming.
So once again, the choice we face is to become either bitter or better. We can drift into despair or get drawn into God’s presence. We can resentfully fight the unforeseen, the unexpected, and the inevitable, or embrace the fact that we are not all-knowing.