Handling the Unexpected

We like to think that we have control over our lives. We set schedules. We plan for events. We try to forecast the future. But, at the end of the day, we don’t know what the next moment will bring. Oftentimes, we find ourselves swimming in a sea of unexpected events. The car quits running. The computer won’t start. A kid gets sick. 

How do we handle the unexpected? Perhaps some of it depends on our personality. Some of us are more go-with-the-flow type people, while others like to know with great precision what will occur. But at some level, all of us struggle with handling the unexpected gracefully. We expect things to be a certain way, and when that doesn’t happen, we tend to get frustrated. And, we all know that there are times when our unexpected events are much more disruptive than a check engine light or a sniffly nose.

Although it might be hard to see at times, if we look long enough there is often a rainbow in the cloud. As we sometimes say, there can be a blessing in disguise. This is not to say that every storm contains a rainbow, or that every burden contains a blessing. We all face things for which there seems to be no good explanation. My only point is that there might be times when we fail to see how God is at work in the midst of the unexpected. 

How often does God do things according to our expectations? I think most of us would admit that experience teaches that God’s ways our not ways (Isaiah 55:8). Along those lines, Jesus was a Savior who did not fit the people’s expectations of the time. Jesus came from Nazareth. Jesus was viewed as being a carpenter’s son. Jesus hung out with fisherman and rode a donkey. And at the end, He died on a cross. This is not a portrait of a triumphant king like the one the people were hoping for. According to the wisdom of the world, this is no king at all. But we must remember that “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27).  

Many of the people could not fathom that Jesus was the promised Savior. The reason they missed it is because they had their mind firmly set on what this king would be like. Powerful, pompous, prideful—somebody that would really knock the Romans down a few notches. Read the Sermon on the Mount in this light. It’s interesting to consider that just about everything Jesus says in Matthew 5-7 stands in stark contrast to their understanding of the king and the new kingdom.

If 1st century people could get it wrong, what makes us think that we are that much better in the 21st century? Perhaps there are ways that God wants to be at work in our lives and we’re missing it because something doesn’t line up with our expectations. We need to always be “steadfast, immovable” not pursuing what we think is best, but “abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). This is God’s expectation of us. In order to be immovable for the Lord, I might have to move my expectations of what tomorrow will bring.