For some reason, it can be so easy to view the word unexpected negatively. All the commercials and ads that remind us to plan for or prepare for the unexpected reinforce it. Don’t misunderstand. It is important to do. That is why we want insurance for and on all sorts of things and why we try to put some money away “for a rainy day”. If we have lived very long at all, we know how important that is. We never know what is going to happen so preparing for as much as we can is a good thing.
One of those times happened to us this summer when our HVAC system had to be replaced. Ouch! I kept thinking it wasn’t that long ago when we did that, but somehow those sorts of things don’t seem to get recorded accurately in time.
I know several people who were slammed with big-ticket items that needed to be replaced in recent months. In one case they had multiple things happen within a short period of time. The stuff we have never lasts as long as we hope and in our modern era we have come to rely on more things than ever before to help us accomplish things handled more simply even 50 years ago.
Beyond expected ‘things’ breaking down, there are those other events that come into play. A job loss is often unexpected and so are so many medical issues that happen in our lives. And of course there are accidents of all kinds that ruin our cars, our homes, our property, and our bodies. It is little wonder that the word unexpected gets a bad rap. The word is usually attached to something negative.
As a result of the history we have with the word, it can tempt us to anxiety and fear. Somehow we all feel better when we have more control. I am not sure why we keep forgetting that we really don’t actually have control over very much except for our choices and our responses to things.
All this bad news about the word unexpected can cause us to forget that some times the unexpected is something good or even better than that. Maybe we miss it because we tend to use a different word then. We choose the word surprise. It’s odd because a surprise may not always be a great thing, but our connotation of that word is much different than unexpected tends to be.
I don’t think the unexpected takes the Lord by surprise. Because of that I wonder if He also hopes we will trust Him enough to know the unexpected will come, but so will He. He will be there with us to shepherd us through it all, provide, show a way of escape, or bring healing and comfort. If we are tuned in to listening to Him in the midst of the unexpected and respond in obedience and lean into Him, we will be reminded of how faithful He is. He has never promised us that life would be easy or without trials and suffering. The Lord admonished the disciples as he sent them out that their life would not be easy on any level and it is no less true for us today.
But let’s get back to what I wanted to remind you of about that word unexpected. Do you remember when Jesus was at the wedding in Cana and the host ran out of wine? When Jesus changed the water into wine (the very best wine at that), was that not unexpected by the guests as well as the host of the wedding? When Jesus invited Peter to meet Him on the water where He was walking was that not an unexpected invitation and faith builder when Peter actually did?
Sometimes the unexpected happens in our life in less dramatic ways that are no less impactful. One of my granddaughters who is in her last semester of nursing school had a very tough week with several major tests. One of them really left her frustrated and unconvinced she had passed, while another seemed like it was probably going to result in a good grade. The unexpected happened when she learned she did do well on the test she felt good about, but the one she felt not as good about actually resulted in an even higher grade.
Barry C. Black reminded me of that in his new book, Nothing to Fear, when he said,
“God delights in doing the unexpected in our lives, saving the best for last. He wants us to experience life to the fullest, and he has given us principles and commandments to keep us from the pitfalls of sin. He surrounds us with the shield of his favor, and he delights in surprising us in the eleventh hour.”
One other unexpected comes to mind that we must not forget is that the return of Jesus will happen suddenly and unexpectedly as Paul describes it in 1 Thessalonians 5 “like a thief in the night”. We are to be prepared as the story of the wise and foolish virgins tell us, but as his children that unexpected day (or night) will be the very best ever if we remain committed and watchful versus careless in our words, actions, or spiritual growth.
Expect the unexpected, but never forget it doesn’t surprise the Lord.