Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. John 14:1

Ordinarily, I love surprises—like the time I walked into a hotel dining room and discovered that my children had arranged a birthday party for me with friends and family members. And the time our office manager called me in to say I’d be receiving a substantial raise. Yes, I love those kinds of surprises.

But there are also the other kind, and I know we’ve all experienced them. When my son and daughter-in-law came to see me in the middle of the day and were both unusually sober-faced, I knew something was wrong. They positioned themselves carefully on the living room sofa and made a grim announcement: my daughter had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Some surprises are breath-taking.

Without even thinking, a response burst from my lips. “God isn’t surprised.” Even before I knew all the details, years of study, observation and experience assured me that God always goes before us and meets us at every point of our journey. I might be surprised, but he wasn’t.

Jesus knows that none of us is clairvoyant and sees the future, which is a good thing oftentimes. He also knows that life can easily take us unawares and bring about disequilibrium, confusion, and fear. And he made provision for all that. Just look at some of his reassurances to his fledgling disciples and to us: I’ll always be with you (Matt. 28:20); I give you peace, don’t be afraid (John 14:27); I have overcome the world (John 16:33); the Holy Spirit dwells in and with you (John 14:16-18); no one can take your joy (John 16:22); come to me, and I’ll give you rest (Matt. 11:28). And there are so many more words of comfort throughout Holy Scripture.

So, how do we deal with unpleasant surprises? We cast them on Jesus; we trust him to take them; we refuse to retrieve those pains; we glorify God in the middle of the grief; and we move on. Just as my son and daughter-in-law and I took our hurtful news about my daughter straight to our Father. That was twelve years ago, and my daughter today is cancer-free.

And what, you may say, if my daughter hadn’t been healed? Or a myriad of other desperate prayers hadn’t been answered? God’s faithfulness would have remained, and he would have provided exactly what we needed to maintain our witness and trust in him. He does not fail. He goes before, behind, over, and under us so that even unhappy surprises don’t dislodge us from our trust in him.

Father, I still love surprises, even the small ones like an unexpected downpour. You are God and a loving Father and only do wondrous things that will always work together for good. Thank you. AMEN.



Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail… Job 38:22 (KJV)

A few years ago we visited an orphanage in a village outside Nairobi. We arrived in time for the closing session of the small elementary school and were treated to recitations and musical performances. Scores of precious children in their brown slacks or skirts and white-checked shirts eagerly shared what they’d been learning.
It was near Christmas, and carols were abundant. My favorite song, however, was when they broke out into a cheerful, “Dashing through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh… Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…” Somehow, I think none of those sweet little children had ever or would ever experience snow, but they loved singing about it.
Here in the southwest, we, too, love to sing and think about snow. Just a few weeks ago, I was leaving a restaurant with my brother and sister-in-law and was surprised to be met by a serious snow flurry. I hadn’t been watching the weather (How many variations of hot to warm can one have in south Texas?) and was startled to see the magical flakes collapsed together in heaps throughout the parking lot. In fact, I had to wait a considerable time until the heater had melted the snow on my windshield so I could safely head home.
The following day a teammate and I headed south for the Rio Grande Valley through an absolute wonderland of white. The route down I37 that we negotiate so often is typically flat, straight, and downright boring. But with barren branches traced in snow, cactus covered with natural frosting, and miles of flat land touched by the unexpected whiteness, the drive delightful. My friend said she wouldn’t have known where she was if road signs hadn’t been visible.
We passed highway workers in bright neon yellow clothing throwing snowballs at one another. Children were constructing their first snow men. Animals were tentative at the wonder around them. And people were smiling.
Obviously, we do not live in the north where snow storms become hazardous, and we do not spend weeks or months shoveling snow or waiting for the plow to arrive. For us in the south, snow is an unexpected pleasure, and this snow was a delightful surprise. Social media was full of snow pictures. Even businesses took note of the snow.
Now with all our technology, resources, and wealth who among us could have brought so much pleasure to so many people with just a word? All the snow machines of the world couldn’t have created the wonderland we enjoyed in south Texas. The snow fell on the just and the unjust without discrimination. Isn’t that just like God? He doesn’t stingily hand out his gifts; they’re for everyone who will to receive. And all his gifts are just reminders of his intense love for his creation and his desire to give joy.
Can you imagine all those tiny snowflakes that God meticulously and individually designs? Apparently, he also delights in what he describes as treasure to be kept in his storehouses (Job 38:22). How many ways does he surprise us with his abundance? How many times do we receive and acknowledge his gifts with gratitude?
Let it snow.


Father, with a word you have created all things. And for your pleasure all things have been created. Thank you for your beauty that is just a foretaste of everything you have for us. AMEN.