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.