Left field. I believe that’s where the unexpected comes from. So how are we supposed to process the unexpected? Truth be told, I’m not sure there’s a simple answer to this question nor a generic answer that applies to everyone. That said, ending a blog post here doesn’t seem right!
Thinking of our own situation, in particular, two points have come to my attention, both of which I believe are worth passing along. The first was a text Sarah read early this morning as part of her regular reading in Ps. 112, a portion of which says,
For the righteous will never be moved;
he will be remembered forever.
He is not afraid of bad news;
his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.
His heart is steady; he will not be afraid…
Don’t tell me God doesn’t providentially order our days and our reading! The righteous are not afraid of bad news which, almost by definition, comes most commonly out of left field. Sure, sometimes we can anticipate bad news, but when it is unexpected the effect is all that much more profound. And yet, those who trust in the Lord remain firm and steady, not because of anything native to themselves, but because the Lord himself sustains them.
This leads me to a second reflection that was brought to my attention by a friend of mine. He is an avid reader and sent me a text with a quote from a seventeenth century Puritan that said, “When God prunes us by crosses and afflictions, and sows good seed in us, it is a sign he means to dwell in us, and delight in us.”
It is, perhaps, especially when the reason why discouraging things happen eludes us that it is important to remember that we serve a God who is able to work all things together for our good. It is also worth remembering that when God works things for our good, it is because he is continuing to shape us into the kind of people in whom, with whom and among whom he can dwell for eternity – with delight. Much in this world tempts us to focus our attention on a low horizon, but God’s Word and work continually refocuses our perspective on eternity.
For those trusting in the Lord and leaning on his understanding rather than our own, disappointments and discouragements need not overcome us for, in the end, our hearts have been made firm and steady by the One who has overcome all things and, because of that, is our true Immanuel – God with us.