The following is an excerpt from my latest book, Uncommon Hope: The Path to an Epic Life.
It’s better and wiser to expect the unexpected. However, it’s also important to understand how to respond (rather than react) when life throws you a shocker.
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 out the best in us? In reality, the opposite tends to happen: we go sour and act 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.
Peter warns us, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” It’s bad enough hard things happen, but when we fail to recognize the source of evil, we end up fighting the wrong battle. When we forget we’re in a spiritual battle, we too often use human weapons against others rather than spiritual weapons, such as prayer, against our real enemy. By the way, resistance is not futile if we are fighting the enemy with all we have in Christ.
Finally, stay teachable, and you will grow. One of life’s greatest truths is you and I grow best in a 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 struggles.
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 have lost hope and are thinking about ending it all. I have no way of knowing what’s ahead for me, let alone you.
Sometimes, I cry out to God in a mix of anger and despair. “I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Why is life so crazy?
Why are people so difficult? Why didn’t I see that coming? Why am I so stupid sometimes?” (Yes, I get somewhat 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 was wondering about the weeks 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 have to expect the unexpected.
To do any less is unwise, because life is full of things you and I will never see coming. If my hope or yours is based on the success of our neat and tidy little plans, then we’re set up for failure. But if we choose to fix our eyes on the God of hope, our circumstances might not change, but we sure will.
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 and find hope. We can resentfully fight the unforeseen, the unexpected, and the inevitable, or embrace the fact we are not all-knowing. And that’s okay because He is.
Jesus is trustworthy.
He’s got this.
He’s got you.
And becoming a person of uncommon hope means accepting your humanness and your limitations as you surrender each day to the One who loves you more than His own life.
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