Have you ever had those moments when you’re pretty sure you wanted to go one way only to discover that circumstances beyond your control took you the opposite direction? Have you ever arranged and organized something (like an outdoor wedding in August), and nothing went according to your master plan?
Of course you have. We all have. And being the recovering control freak that I am can make moments like that very stressful for me.
I planned on my website working this week as I began the pre-launch for my upcoming book, but it got goobered up.
I scheduled two very important meetings, but people got sick (the nerve!), and the meetings got canceled.
I had every intention of getting back into a routine of exercise, but my back and the weather had other plans.
Life happens. Rather than get freaked out when things go sideways, here are some lessons I’m learning about dealing with the unexpected:
- Chill. Take a deep breath and remember, “This too shall pass.” Trust me, I realize how hard it is to do this when you’re in the midst of a storm. I know the LAST thing we want to hear from some well-meaning friend is, “Relax.” But let me ask you, when has your anxiety ever really made any situation better? Here’s a crazy idea: Maybe Jesus was right when He said in Matthew 6:27 (NLT), “Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Answer: No. So stop, breathe, and wait patiently on God. Even if you end up dealing with this current challenge for the rest of your life, remember, this life is not the end of the story.
- Step back and look up. I often speak and write about perspective. Why? Because our perspective changes everything. We are being self-centered and faithless when we zoom-in, lose perspective, and get overwhelmed by the unexpected. Typically, when we get lost in the maze of life, it’s because we are no longer God-centered or walking in trust. We’ve taken our eyes off of Him and focused on the problem rather than the One who promised to never leave or forsake us. God challenged Jeremiah in his struggle with these words, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jer. 32:27 NIV). Answer: No, there is nothing too big for God. So trust in Him. Nothing is beyond God’s power to redeem, restore, and renew. Nothing.
- Pray your guts out, and pray with praise. Prayer is a huge part of changing our perspective because it turns our attention to God. Prayer is also an emotional safety valve. Rather than verbally vomit on my wife, kids, or even a friend, it’s always best to take my pain to God first. He can handle my frustration. He knows and understands me better than anyone. And somehow in the weeping and wailing before Him, it opens my heart to receive His peace. As I empty my mind of all that worries me and try to find something (anything) to be thankful for, then the place where stress resided in my soul is now able to receive a peace that goes beyond my comprehension. Here’s how the apostle Paul put it:
6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. 7 Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 (CEB)
Today, tomorrow, this week, this year . . . something will happen that you didn’t see coming. You’ll be whistling along headed down a sunny path of bliss when all of a sudden you will find yourself in a dark and scary alley.
I’m sorry. I ache for you. I know how hard it is to find yourself in a place far from what you ever imagined. But stay fixed on Jesus and hold on. Even when you end up somewhere you never would have chosen—you are not alone—He is with you always.