Our routines are often interrupted by the unexpected. You know, the neighbor who drops in unannounced, the surprising bank notice in the mail, a sudden shift in the weather, the virus your child brought home from school, the dead car battery, and a long list of unplanned crises. Most of us know about alarm batteries beeping at 2:00 a.m., clogged drains, misplaced car keys or glasses, botches in our day planners, miscommunication about schedules, and dealing with unpredictable friends. Sadly, there's also the harsh reality of tragic death and disease, moments of personal test and trial, career malfunctions, and societal ills that reach into our homes, families, and circle of friends. They usually require decisive actions that alter the routines of our regulated days. The unexpected elements of life are hard.
After the death of our son in July, 2011, Harriet and I dubbed these abrupt bombshells "without warning" episodes. The first chapter in the book I'm currently writing, The End of Grief, is titled "Without Warning". It is a thought based on Matthew's record of Jesus and the disciples traveling the Sea of Galilee. Matthew wrote---
Without warning a furious storm came up…
Matthew 8:24, NIV
The disciples were alarmed and fearful with the sudden appearance of this "furious" storm. Most of us wonder why so many fishermen among them were that frightened. Oddly, they seemed unprepared for the "without warning" winds and surf that were common on this familiar lake. They thought they were going to perish. Jesus' response to their fear is notable, especially when considering unexpected life realities. He said, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" (Matthew 8:26, NIV). Evidently Jesus expected his most intimate followers to have countered this "without warning" event with the sure tenets of their faith!
So, the question of the hour may be, how does my belief system prepare me for the unexpected. It's been one of the lesson plans that has marked our experiences the last seven years. it was brought into clear focus the morning after Brian's death, in a Tweet by Florida Pastor Ken Whitten. I didn't write a verbatim of that Tweet so my memory reconstructs it as, "in crisis we ask, how do I get out of this? It is the wrong question. We should ask, what do i get out of this?". It is a teachable moment when the unexpected calls on us. Our learning has been that personal faith had prepared us for what we could have never planned or expected. These beliefs are summarized here for the sake of brevity.
1. Ours is a fallen world.
The Apostle Paul wrote about the sinful nature of man in this fallen world in his letters. His letter to the church at Rome is an example. He wrote, "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—" (Romans 5:12, ESV). These "without warning" events punctuate life at every turn. We cannot plan or expect them. But, they are real. We should be prepared.
2. Believers are secure in this fallen world, but not sheltered.
Jesus told his followers, "For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45, ESV). He also told them. "I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, ESV). Bad things happen to good people. it is a truth about life in this fallen world. That he has overcome the world and it's fallen ways is our security.
3. Life is transient and brief.
Many Scripture verses amplify the brevity of human life. Life is a vapor, a mist, grass that withers, a shadow, a wind that passes, and many other comparisons. In this thought life moves rapidly, is always complex, always in a state of change. We are often caught in the currents of transition and movement, the unexpected along with our best laid plans.
4. God's promises are real.
2 Corinthians 1:20 summarizes the certainty of God's promises to his people. Paul wrote, "For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory" (ESV). God taught Harriet and me that we could rely on his promises in every unexpected experience of this life.
5. There is a way through the unexpected.
One of God's promises became dear to us in Brian's death, and many other unplanned surprises in this life. Peter wrote, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:6, ESV). God taught us in the ordeal of Brian's death a truth that sustains us in every unexpected trial. God cares for his people. He will lift us beyond these events if we remain obedient and humble in them.
What he has taught us is that he faithfully guides and leads us when our schedules and routines are interrupted by life's unexpected and often harsh realities. We cannot plan or anticipate them with any degree of accuracy. But, as people of faith, we can be prepared for them.
Copyright: <a href='https://www.123rf.com/profile_endomedion'>endomedion / 123RF Stock Photo</a>