The God of the Unexpected

The God of the Unexpected

Am I the only one who prays (i.e. asks God for something) with a generalized idea of how I think God should (or could) answer that prayer? Please tell me I’m not alone in this. Well, this summer has been a massive test in Faith-Building 101. I mean, I thought I had faith, but God showed me what’s up (and that I don’t have as much faith as I thought. Ok—that I am more or less riddled with unbelief.)

And basically what has come from all of these “trials” has been a new name for God: The Unexpected God. This part of God delights in answering my prayers in the most unusual ways—just to make sure there is no room for boasting on my behalf, I’m pretty sure. (Because pride is that ever present sour note seeking to wreck the symphony of life as I know it.)

And since you’re on the edge of your seat dying for specifics (surely I’m not the only one who wants to know all the details), I will whet your appetite with some examples.

Health:

This summer was the first time the “c” word came into play (cancer). I was hit with a crisis of conscience, so to speak, and faced with the reality that my life wasn’t as invincible as I thought. Maybe even that “I know the plans I have for you” could include leaving the earth sooner than I would have dreamed. I said I trusted God for a lot of things (like the safe-keeping of my one and only child) but faced with this possible crisis, my true heart was revealed. No, I didn’t trust God; I trusted my control and decision-making skills regarding the raising of my child—and not much else. And what would become of my precious baby if I wasn’t around to make sure it all turned out ok??? “Touché, Lord. I see now. I’m supposed to trust you before the crisis, not when trust is the only option I have left.” In the end, after a lot of uncomfortable testing, the issue turned out to be what I call, “The Un-sexy diagnosis”. God has a sense of humor too, does He not? I’ll spare the details, but this unfortunate illness, while quite painful and even embarrassing at times, is not going to send me to an early burial (and I am thankful for that!).

During the wretched times of waiting (as I’m sure any of you who have been thrust into the modern health care system have experienced) were many anguished prayers, “Lord, just give me another 15 years…” after all, that wasn’t too much to ask, was it? Then the Unexpected God swoops in to deliver an answer, albeit a bit slower than I would have liked. “No, child, you don’t have cancer, instead, you will undergo an array of embarrassing and uncomfortable tests only to find out you’re pretty much stuck with this for a while—oh, and you won’t really even want to talk about it, that’s how un-sexy this health issue is.” He did answer my prayer though—not in the way I imagined (and with more irony and humor than I would have thought possible), but an answer none-the-less.

Finances:

Towards the beginning of the year my husband and I decided we needed a little Dave Ramsey in our lives. We were tired of merely “existing” as far as finances goes—we knew there had to be a better way because playing the lottery hadn’t panned out for us (imagine that). So we sacrificed and sacrificed and said “NO” to our somewhat spoiled only-child as well as to ourselves. I mean, we said no a lot. It was kind of depressing, to be honest. I mean, who doesn’t like instant gratification? But we kept our eyes on the prize and pressed on. In only a few short months we managed to pay off three of the credit cards. At the same time, my twelve year old Ford Taurus was breaking down every five minutes, and my precious kitty (yes, I’m a goofball of an animal lover) was diagnosed with diabetes. It seemed for every financial move forward we took two steps backwards. The savings would be built up, only to be used again and again for health, car, or pet issues.

I can’t tell you how many times my prayers were uttered so eloquently (and with a screechy tone of desperation), “Lord—help!” Of course, I had my ideas of how this help would come—but so did the Unexpected God. Turns out, He had a two-for-one deal in the works.

He laid it on our hearts to look into purchasing a new car (something we have never done, and even when purchasing a used older car, had high interest rates nothing short of highway robbery.) I thought, “Buy a new car, God???? But that will just increase our debt!!!” “Trust ME,” He says. So we bought a new car—and got a loan with an extremely low interest rate. Turns out, paying off those three credit cards had significantly improved my husband’s credit score, even though it had only been a few months. On top of that, we were not required to give money down (Hallelujah—the savings account was SAVED!!!). So in the end, we sold our beat up Taurus for cash, and used the cash to pay off more debts. So much so that the monthly payment of those debts almost equaled the monthly car payment. And our new car insurance premium? It went DOWN! So all in all, the monthly cost of the new car was nearly entirely offset by paying off a few other things (vet bill is gone!).

I came away from that experience in awe, “Only You God, only You could have worked that one out in that way! Your plans seem to really work out well, especially when I stay of out of them.”

Just Be Real—Be You

 

I could ramble on about the dozens of other Unexpected God moments of the summer, but the moral of the story for me? Just be real. Be real with God (about your fears, doubts, and insecurities) because He can see through that façade of religiosity anyways. He knows how to get to the heart of the matter.

Part of being real for me is writing in a “real” way. I don’t want to be a “preacher” of words, but a “sharer” of life with my readers. Like two buddies having a beer together, (ok, two proper ladies having a tea-time—whatever floats your boat). For so long I have attempted to disjoint my personality from my writing to be more “likeable” and build a bigger audience (because trusting God to increase my platform is too hard, right?). But you know, life is too short for all that bravado and I don’t intend to waste any more of it. I especially don’t want to waste it on doubt, insecurity, and the most hideous of all diseases—pride. Because in the end, putting up a front, as they say, is just another form of pride; as well as telling God how to answer my prayers or make Himself visible to me.

After all, God really does know what He’s doing. Who would’ve known?!

In what ways has the Unexpected God visited you this summer? How has He increased your faith and trust in His plan for your life—and that all things really do work together for your greatest good?

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Paper Thin

“Do you have Netflix? My husband and I like to watch Monk together after the kids are in bed. We find it’s a nice way to relax.” My jaw dropped. For the longest time I believed my friend didn’t even own a television, let alone a service like Netflix! I can’t express how much that one sentence of transpareny helped me.

One of the lies I have believed has revolved around not being a good enough Christian. There have been certain people in my life who, when I am at their house, I assume don’t do some of the things I do. (Like watch Netflix) I make the conclusion that they must be a better Christian because they don’t allow their kids to watch T.V. like I do, allowing the cycle of inner insuffiency to continue.

The moment my friend said what she did, God spoke loud and clear, “Things are not the way you perceive them.” I was thrilled to know my friend was more human than I had imagined! (I can hear her laughing about this right now.) Last week as our kids played together she suggested they play their Wii game system. I remember thinking, “She has a game system??!!” Once again I was surprised to know her kids occasionally played video games.

It was through this second revelation that I began to understand why it’s so important not to compare myself to other people. Truthfully, I don’t know what goes on in their lives behind closed doors. I make my own assumptions and crucify myself against them.

I was also motivated to continue being transparent. I usually don’t have a problem spilling the beans about my personal struggles, but these situations encouraged me even more. Maybe someone else out there could be helped if they knew a Christian like me has struggled with eating disorders and depression. I am a new creation in Christ and I have been set free, but I’d still like others who may not be there yet to know there is hope. I want them to know things aren’t always what they seem with the people they think are perfect. I want them to know their transparency could be useful for someone else who is struggling.

God used my friend to help me get through one of the most diffuclt (and wonderful) times of my life. I am thankful she opened up to me about  personal issues that brought her off the pedastal I had placed her on. She’s normal just like me. We may struggle with different specifics, but the end result is the same. We’re both redeemed children of God on the same journey through His school of transformation.

I am also thankful she doesn’t preach at me. Even when I was deeply distressed, on the verge of suicide, she never preached to me. The only thing she did was ask to spend time with me in fellowship. Over the past 6 weeks we have grown closer as friends, but I’ve also experienced life in the family of God as it was meant to be; transparency, openness, truth, and encouragement. Through us our kids have learned what authentic relationship looks like. They pray together before lunch, play together in the sun, and worship together in church. (Mother’s Day was interesting with 4 kids ages 5 and under and 3 adults trying to mainatin order during the sermon.) I love her kids as if they were my own, and I know she feels the same about mine.

(Here she is playing with my daughter at the park.)

(Our kids: Caleb, Samantha (mine), and Micah.)

I would  urge those of you who want to put your best foot forward: while there is nothing wrong with this, consider being a little paper thin in your approach. Reveal yourself as you really are, and don’t worry about “what they’ll think”. Maybe there is someone who needs to hear that you’re a real person who does real things and has real struggles. Don’t waste your journey by keeping it a secret; allow God to use it.

Confidence

Confidence

“I will speak to kings about your laws, and I will not be ashamed.” Psalm 119:46 NLT

Confidence in the presence of God gives us confidence in the presence of men. When we are confident of whom we are, who Christ has made us, and how he sees us, we will have boldness in the world to speak the truth. The fear of man’s view of us, what we believe and how we choose to live stems from an insecurity in our relationship with Jesus. If we truly understand who he is and how he feels about us, it should spur us on with all assurance.

Psalm 119:43 “Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth.”

Verse 46 is the answer to this request. The truth has not been taken from the Psalmist, but rather validated in his life giving him boldness before rulers.  No doubt the Psalmist knew the promises of God well, and he trusted God in light of that.

Great holiness equals great boldness.

Silence, idle talk, cowardice, and bashfulness are all signs of the one who is ashamed. The Psalmist declares with force, “I will speak.” He has predetermined that he has the word of truth, God has given it to him, and he will speak of it. Indeed, he will not only speak of it rather than remain silent, but he will speak to kings about it! He will not only speak to kings about Gods truth, he will do so boldly and unashamed!

Imagine the opportunities we are given every day to be a bold witness with our lives. When we are living out his will our actions will back up what we speak of. That blameless life gives us confidence before men.

Have you ever been given advice about a situation from someone clearly not heeding their own words? It’s a little difficult to trust that kind of wisdom. I can’t expect my daughter to grow up with healthy eating habits by merely telling her to do so, I have to live it. It’s not going to have much weight if I’m gluttonous every day while telling her she cannot do as I am doing.

If I want people to see Jesus, I need to be a portrait of who he is. It’s more than just words and knowledge.

The fact is people are drawn to actions rather than words. I’m more interested in my daughter obeying me then I am in her telling me she loves me 500 times a day. If you love me, obey me! How interesting that a parent child relationship is mirrored in our relationship with Christ. He also tells us if we love him we need to show it! Stop the talk and start the actions.

The actions will back up our words and give us a holy boldness before men. We can speak of truth and not be ashamed. We can have the word of truth in our mouths and declare it before kings without fear!

So often we avoid speaking because we are afraid to offend someone. Really, it’s quite absurd. Jesus does not give us a politically correct example. He often offended people, mostly the Pharisees (the religious leaders!). Jesus was the ultimate example of speaking the truth in love. So often we think speaking the truth “in love” means keeping our mouths shut or sugar coating the truth; however we should never be ashamed of the truth he has revealed to us in his word! Certainly, we should never apologize for it. I’ve heard people say, “Hey don’t get mad at me it’s in the Bible, God said it not me!”

Listen folks, if God said it, we shouldn’t be ashamed of it! We should speak it boldly and have the life to back it up!

Could you stand before kings with confidence?

Bosses

Spouses

Friends

Siblings

Co-workers

Do we have confidence before them? Can they tell who Jesus is by what they see from us? Or do we have hollow words; or perhaps no words at all?

“I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

Prayer

Lord, teach me your word and let me never be ashamed to proclaim it! Help me to trust the promises in your word, and gain boldness from my relationship with you. I want my life to be a witness of who you are and I want it to point others to you. Let me be one who is deeper than just words, truly walking blamelessly before men.

Faithful

“Your faithfulness
continues through all generations.” Psalm 119:90a-NIV

Faithful

Let’s play a game.
Think of a person in your life with the following attributes. This person must
exhibit these qualities 100% of the time, without error. Who do you think of
who is:

Reliable

Competent

Authentic

Accurate

(I said 100% of the
time!)

Infallible

True

Honorable

Unchanging

Dependable (my
favorite)

Hmmm…it’s OK, I’m
having a hard time too. Hopefully it didn’t take you long to figure out that
only one person can exhibit these characteristics perfectly, and that is Jesus,
aside from that, well, you have us.

Disloyal

Unreliable

Fickle

Insecure (ouch)

Fake

Undependable

Dangerous

Maybe you can see
yourself in the negative list more so than the first? Or is that just a problem
I have? I can tell you what my nature is drawn to without Jesus, and it’s not
pretty!

2 Timothy 2:13 tells
us “If we are faithless,” (and we usually are) “…He is faithful [true, infallible,
constant, dependable] for he cannot deny himself.”

Throughout all time,
all eternity, God and every word he spoke remains faithful no matter how we
react to life. (Insecure, unreliable, fickle…) This promise of God’s character
is not only true for his children today but for every generation preceding and
coming hereafter.

Does the reliability
of people ever get you down? Take heart; rather, take refuge in the faithfulness of God’s word!

Prayer:

Thank you, Jesus, for your
faithfulness in spite of my unbelief and doubt. Remind me today of the truth
that you are loyal no matter how I feel or what circumstances have come over
me.