Life is filled with the unexpected. These are things that can be good or bad, but each day we are filled with the unexpected. It can be difficult to trust God in these moments, because these life moments can be hard. A death in the family, heartbreak, and watching people close to you fall away can plague our lives and cause us to enter into storms like none other. These unexpected events cause change in our lives, and change is scary. I had a chance to speak last night with our youth about how change can come at us all the time. These students are having to choose colleges and face the hardships of a high schooler in our modern era. This idea came at me in kind of a silly way, this week in an Instagram update, a feature called “stories” was added, a feature that is very similar to the app of Snapchat (*gasp* scandal!). While it is a silly thing, people seemed to be upset, and that made me think, if something this small can upset us, how do we react when the real issues affect us? Changes create unexpected moments in our lives, but God wants to use unexpected moments to make us stronger. John 16:33b says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” You see even though we will face hardships in the unexpected nature of life, we don’t have to fear, because Christ reigns supreme.
A few weeks ago after returning from Fuge Camps, I had mentioned an experience my serve team had with a horse, and now I will share the full story. The site we served at was a children’s daycare for low income families, it was such a wonderful place filled with the power of God. The second day we were at the site, after lunch the director of the ministry announced for the children to get ready for the horse. I looked at the site leader as we ate our lunch and we both had a very confused look on our face, whatever was about to happen would be unexpected. So, one of my students and I took point to walk with the kids to where this horse would be. As we arrived, two of the most stereotypical farmers were standing there with a horse, and by horse I mean that I’m pretty sure it was one. What stood before us was a very skinny animal, horse-like in shape, but not like a classic idea of a horse that one thinks of. As it trotted closer towards us we looked at two very crusty, sad looking black eyes. My student looked at me with a slight sense of fear in his eyes of what this creature might do next. The children were very excited, and the horse was now a mere foot away, then it happened. The horse moved its head towards the ground and suddenly threw up some of the nastiest green slime I’ve ever laid eyes on (a death like slime, not a fun Nickelodeon slime). The little girl next to me looked with wide eyes of terror at me, and one of our farmer friends took a big spit and then assured us he was fine, then called for the same little girl to step on up for her ride. This all happened within a matter of seconds and my student looked at me asking if it was safe, and all I could say was I have no idea. This was a moment that was truly unexpected. The rest of that day the image of a skeleton-esque horse throwing up would not leave my mind, but it left me with this idea of unexpected moments we will all face in life, and the ways we need to enter into these moments. We will face unexpected moments, so let’s step into these moments with the wonder of a child.
In the pain, God is there.
We have all experienced pain, a true pain. One that has left us feeling empty inside, like there is no hope. We have watched those close to us fade away or pass away, and we want to know why. It can be so easy to believe the enemy when we are told that God is not there. This is the greatest lie the devil tells us, that God is not there, when in reality he has and always will be there. That verse from the beginning doesn’t promise that trouble will never befall us, what it promises is that God has victory over our circumstances. Because of this fact, any situation where we feel alone or that there is no hope, we can simply turn to God for comfort and energy to make it through the toughest of times. When we realize that God is there, no matter how tough it is, we can have hope. In these unexpected moments of pain, God has a plan for you in it, you have the power to comfort those around you. You have a story to share with others. You can be a light in the darkness.
Learn from every experience.
Andy Stanley uses the concept of evaluated experience, an idea that in whatever circumstance, learn from what you did right or wrong. This is what makes leaders stand apart, they can see how to fix an issue that went wrong, or promote the things that went well to create a better experience for those around them. We need to know that God wants to use unexpected moments in our lives to build us into stronger people. In order to be a light to those around us, we have to learn from the experiences we have gone through so we can have a voice to those who struggle. You wouldn’t trust a car mechanic to perform your dental checkup, he wouldn’t have the experience to do anything to your teeth. We bring our cars to mechanics, and trust those who have been to dental school to work on your teeth. We need to learn and gain wisdom from our experiences so we can have a trusted voice for the situations of others in our lives. We need to learn from the unexpected.
Remember to have childlike joy.
My favorite moment in the aftermath of that gross horse, was the joy that came from the little girl moments after being horrified of the vile nature of the horse. As soon as she was able to ride on it in the parking lot of a low income neighborhood, it clicked for me, I have never seen someone smile as much as she did. I have no idea what her story has been like or what it will be like, but no matter how hard her life may have been, in that moment she had true joy. This key point is so vital to our lives, because even though life is filled with hardship, it is easily filled with joy. I’m sure some people may criticize my nature of being a goofball and not always being mister serious writer man (okay, maybe no one thinks that), the point is, I like to laugh because I believe laughter is a gift from God. Having joy and learning to enjoy the little things has helped me grow closer to God, because I believe life is too short to waste on always being serious. There is a time for everything, but in all things I believe we can have joy. Remember to have childlike joy, because God has blessed you and made you to be exactly who you were meant to be.
Life is filled with the unexpected nature of change. We are thrown things that push us out of our comfort zone and test the fibers of our being. In the midst of chaos and madness we need to always remember the core of John 16:33, to take heart because God reigns supreme over my unexpected circumstances. I will never forget being in Louisville, Kentucky with a bunch of kids walking towards a sad looking horse that would throw up green slime. The thing I remember the most is the smiles on their faces even when faced with a goofy creature. I don’t know what you’ve been through. Maybe you’ve lost a loved one, maybe you made a mistake that seems to follow you everywhere, or maybe you feel like life won’t give you a break. In the midst of whatever you may be walking through, remember that God is supreme in that struggle. He is always with you, he wants to teach you, and he wants to give you joy.
God reigns in your unexpected.