Let’s imagine we’re having coffee this morning. I’m definitely drinking a latte, whole milk please. You have your drink of choice in hand and we’re sitting down in two chairs in the corner of some local joint.
You’re grappling with an unexpected circumstance in your life – because who isn’t? Maybe you’re disappointed because of what didn’t happen. Or angry at the reality of what did. Or feeling lost with no idea how to move forward from here. I just finished telling you my story from 2015 and you ask what I’ve learned to help you navigate through what’s pretty trying today.
Well, below are my thoughts. They’re not complete or perfect nor do they necessarily apply to your circumstance. But they’re what I would tell the Caroline of a year ago who felt hurt and angry and completely lost. If she sounds like a familiar friend to you, maybe you could use some of these words too.
So here’s what I’d say…
There’s an opportunity here to intentionally steward the unexpected. What I mean is that the season doesn’t have to be defined by chaos, confusion, and continued wallowing until a breakthrough comes. Instead, it carries the opportunity to take us to deeper dependency on God, community, and his promises. It could grow and shape us. But we have an active role in determining the outcome of the unexpected. Our small, daily choices matter.
Find who God is in it. Through whatever happened, God has invaded ordinary life and completely disturbed your plan. It happened and it’s okay. It will also happen again. The opportunity is for you to focus less on what happened and more on who is with you. The question is not if God is doing something. He is. Nor is the question necessarily what he is doing, because it may not be the time to understand. With the journey of faith being centered on knowing God, the best question to ask is, who he is revealing himself to be in the midst of this? Write it down, hold tightly to it, and let it be a source of stability in the middle of what may feel like sinking sand today.
Fight the urge to fix. We live in a culture that is obsessed with fixing problems and managing pain. Slogans, commercials and culture shout that all we need to do is fix what is broken. But resist the urge to do that. Because if you move too quickly to solve your problem, you may in fact eliminate yourself from experiencing the actual purpose of why you are even here. Not all brokenness demands our interference. Sometimes the wisest move we can make is to not move at all but allow ourselves to be present in our pain.
Remember that the destination does not shape, change or grow us. The process does. It will always be in the process where we will become more of the person we are longing to be because life is the process. We are easily fixated on this ideal destination we’re aiming to arrive at while all along Emmanuel, God with us, is in the unfolding process of today. So if the unexpected flung you smack dab in the middle of a messy process, it’s okay. You’re likely right where you will change and grow the most.
Intentionally give an offering of thanksgiving and praise to God. This is when we respond despite feelings and press into faith for more than what we see. This is when we say even with what happened, I will thank you for what you are doing and I will believe you for what is coming. I remember just days after Mark lost his job, we found ourselves home the night of his company’s holiday party. We desperately wanted to wallow in the loss by curling up on the couch watching Netflix to pass the hours. But instead we responded contrary to our feelings. We put on worship music, got our faces to the ground, and cried out some guttural prayers. Saying “thank you” in the midst of unexpected loss or uncertainly is a precious offering to God and one that can only be given when we have no idea where or how to move from here.
More to come later this week…
Photo credit: Neo_II