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?

Why You Might Need to Stand on Your Head

 

“I was so desperate; I would have done anything they told me to do, even if they had told me to stand on my head in the corner of the room for a week straight. I would have done it—anything to be free.” My sponsor shared her own story of recovery with me the first night we met. She had been sober from alcoholism for over ten years, and here I was, a newbie to the whole thing. At the time, though, I had not quite reached that level of desperation, and it would be two more years of addiction, bitterness, depression, mental illness, and overall internal misery before I experienced freedom from such things. In other words, I had to get to that level of desperation, that level of desire, before an authentic lasting change of behavior could take place. Until I reached that point, I continued in a “double-minded” state of living, oscillating between what I knew from God’s word and what I actually experienced in my day to day life.

And I’m not the only one who has experienced this tragic tug-of-war over the mind. Often, the mind is far more willing than the heart. Unfortunately, the two must meet in agreement in order for a real transformation to take place. And by transformation I don’t mean a temporary lapse of obedience to God’s word, but a true sustained inner peace that passes all human understanding. A peace that is characterized by freedom from entanglements that exudes through one’s countenance, which brings us to:

The Countenance Test

You can learn a lot about a person through their countenance. Luke 9:28-36 recounts the events surrounding Jesus’ transfiguration, and in verse 29 we’re told, “As [Jesus] prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered.” Even the Son of God was changed when in the presence of His Father through prayer. Much the same, when we wear the person of Jesus Christ (spending time listening to Him and believing what He says about us—experiencing life to the full) our presence (how we carry ourselves and how we express ourselves) will be affected.

When my family spent a day at Disneyland for our daughter’s fifth birthday last September, we had to cram as much in as we could in one short day. We arrived when the park opened and stayed until they closed the doors. We only sat down to eat one time during the entire day. No joke, folks, it was brutal. At first we entered the park practically skipping along with excitement. We were all smiling from ear to ear; we could hardly contain our enthusiasm. But by the time midnight rolled around we were exhausted, sore, hungry, and sunburnt. It wouldn’t have taken a psychologist to figure it out, either. One look at us would have told the story.

Most Christians have that sort of skip-a-long attitude when they first come to Christ. They’re excited and full of energy, “I’ve been redeemed! WOOOO!” But over time, as the reality of life kicks in, the believer wears down emotionally. Sometimes having to drag themselves to church through the doubt and discontentment they feel on a daily basis. The same is true for those who have experienced a personal revival or rededication to Jesus. The excitement eventually wanes and things go back to “business as usual”.

Week in and week out believers are walking into churches with saddened countenances. Their body language and facial expressions tell a far greater story than their words. And that story is not exuding peace, joy, and contentment. Instead, the countenance says, “Jesus, your burden is so heavy and your yoke is more than I can bear. You want too much from me. I want to give up. I’m tired.” How sad that Christ-followers are settling for this kind of existence!

When Truth Doesn’t Set You Free

I recently received an email from a stranger who had stumbled upon my website. This person was desperate for freedom (or so they said). But I had an uneasy feeling from the get-go, and in my correspondence I tried to pay careful attention to the responses I received. It became apparent that the struggling person was not, in fact, even a Christian (one who has trusted in Jesus alone for salvation). They were dealing with demonic interference and had dabbled in the occult/Satan worship.

When I presented this person with the gospel, their whole demeanor changed. They became angry and aggressive, even switching personalities and claiming to be someone else. At one point they told me the original author of the email was no longer allowed to communicate with me.

I assured this person that they could be set free, but only through Jesus Christ. But that wasn’t the answer they wanted to hear and submitting to Christ was not an option for them. In fact, it enraged them every time I mentioned the name of Jesus.

I’ve had experiences of a similar nature with other believers who come to me with their struggles. While they are willing to read books—especially the Bible—do studies, attend conferences, and join groups, they are unwilling to believe what God says about them or their circumstances, and they are not willing to allow God to circumcise their heart and purge the things that are holding them back from a full experience of freedom. Many times these individuals also get angry and defensive when presented with the truth. Unfortunately, they want the result (peace) without the effort (choosing to believe and live by the truth despite circumstances).

The only truth that will set you free is the truth you are willing to apply. <<<(Click here to Tweet this!)

If you want to experience a freedom that exudes through your countenance (in other words, it’s infectious to those around you), you need to reach that point where you’re willing to stand on your head to get results. You’re willing to choose not to be a victim, not to have rights (because your rights are in fact God’s, not yours), you’re willing to be humbled, you’re willing to admit your way isn’t producing the fruit you’d like it to, you’re willing to listen to truth without defensiveness, you’re willing to embrace the relationships God has placed in your life—even the tough ones (some of my biggest spiritual epiphanies have come through the voice of my accusers); in other words, you’re willing to do whatever it takes to be free. You’re willing to believe God’s word and live by faith.

Are you weary, worn, tired, fearful, anxious, depressed, despairing, discontented, embittered, angry…? Are you tired enough to let God change it? Will you stand on your head if He tells you to? You can experience life to the full but you need to ask yourself how willing are you really?

If you are willing, but need help with the “how” of all of this, feel free to email me (RebeccaAarup@mail.com) with your questions. Please, don’t settle for anything less than perfect peace.

Related articles:

If You Really Want the World to Change, it Starts with This

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profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

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Opinions

“I consider all your precepts right.” Psalm 119:128 NIV

Opinions

What do you think about the word of God?

It matters.

What you think about the word of God will translate in to how you live the word of God.

In some areas of spirituality our opinions really don’t matter. For instance, what we think of God doesn’t change who he is or his character. However what we believe and how we view God and his word will always play a huge role in how we obey him.

The Psalmist recognized Gods word for what it was: right. If we truly believed the word was right, every last stroke of the pen blotted down, would we live differently? This question was recently posed in a Sunday morning class I attended and we all sat kind of stumped as we realized we really don’t live like we consider the word of God to be true.

 Silence and stares.

We often walk around thinking we know our stuff, we talk our talks, we walk our walks, and boy we have a lot of knowledge! But when it comes down to it, the unbelief, doubt, worry, anxiety, angst, and care speak for itself.

Our behavior shows what we really think of what God has told us.

“God…will supply all your needs…” Phil. 4:19

If we considered that true, would we ever worry about our physical needs, possessions, material wealth, or finances?

“He cares for you.” 1 Pet 5:7

If we recognized that truth, would we question the circumstances he has allowed in our lives?

“Your plans are too numerous for us to list.” Psa. 40:5

If we acknowledged that truth, would we wonder if God had a purpose for our lives?

“He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psa. 103:12

If we thought this to be true, would we agonize over the past?

When all is said and done, the Bible is full of God’s heart towards his creation-us. This book is a great gift to us, full of his love and truth, his great Gospel message and salvation along with life promised and peace eternal. There it is, all for the taking! We read, smile, nod in agreement, then we close the Book and walk through our day consumed with-our own understanding. We just don’t trust his word! We say we do, we want to, but our behavior gives us away!

I’ve lost my job, how will I pay my bills?

God could never use me for anything after what I have done with my life!

I don’t even know why I am here, I am useless.

My marriage is falling apart, I don’t know how to fix it, what will I do?

God must be punishing me for all the horrible things I’ve done, no wonder all these bad things keep happening.

We need to start recognizing these attitudes as doubt, unbelief, and distrust in the word and promises of God. Read his word, believe it, and act on it! Do as the Psalmist did, consider the word to be right!

Knowing the word of God is like knowing the answers for the test called life.

The answer is trust; the result is peace.

Prayer

As I lay my head to sleep this night, I thank you Jesus for your righteous word of truth. I thank you for your promises that give peace and life. I confess my doubt and unbelief. Let me sleep well knowing that I can trust your heart for me, trust your words for me, and trust your plan for me even if I don’t understand the moment by moment circumstances. Surround me with your peace as I sleep, and let my mind meditate on your truth as I rest in you.

Let’s Talk FAITH

Let’s Talk FAITH

Faith is choosing to believe the Bible is true regardless of circumstances, emotions, or cultural trends.”- Life Builders (Campus Crusade For Christ)

As I find myself falling deeper in love with my Creator, I become consistently overwhelmed with His incredible hand of design and care over every detail of my life. I find myself in a constant state of marvel and worship, always with a song on my heart bursting from my lips. However, it’s not always peaches and roses. As I draw closer in divine intimacy with my Eternal Lover, I become acutely aware of the desperate failing health of hearts around me. Most notably are those of the ones I love most. While I am experiencing, and living a peace beyond compare, and a purpose that literally puts a spring in my step, my closest family members are often the ones suffering the deepest pains as they stagger through life aimlessly. Desperate and hopeless; if nothing else with the appearance of merely existing, which in and of itsef is its own horror. God is orchestrating the symphony of my life and creating the most joyous music I have ever known, and yet my own loved ones wander in darkness. I find I’m tempted to wonder why they don’t want this glorious life so freely offered to them, the life they know of in their heads, yet refuse in their hearts.

I was finally brought to my spiritual knees as I had to face face my precious Jesus, my Champion who has gone before me and continues to intercede for me daily working on my behalf-I had to admit to Him that while I may have faith to move mountains and trust Him to provide all my needs I had major doubts about the hearts of the ones closest to me, and whether they would ever change. Would they ever want to change? Why don’t they want freedom? Who wouldn’t want it?

Ah, but no surprise to my Friend, for He knows my every thought and concern. Any more prayers for these “loved ones” filled with doubt would simply be a wasted breath. It was an honest release necessary for me to see my own spiritual weakness of faith (or lack thereof). And I implored with my God earnestly.

Why, Jesus, why? Why do I trust You to provide my every need? Why do I trust You with the life of my daughter and even the most impossible of tasks and yet to change a couple of hearts I pray with cynicism and doubt with much wavering. (James 1:6) So I sat back and listened. Literally, with my eyes closed, hands lifted, and repeating:

Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him.”

Psalm 62:5 (NLT)

It seemed like an eternity as His love enveloped me, He wrapped me in His gentle presence. No guilt trips for my bluntness. It was my honesty that He desired, not as if He needed it, but it was for my benefit. I knew He would speak to me in His time. I waited.

He took me back to a place thousands of years ago. It was a heart wrenching scene to be sure. Jesus could have come sooner to save Lazarus, but chose not to. It was not the will of the Father. It didn’t make sense to everyone else. Lazarus died, and had been dead 4 days. Jesus tells them to roll the stone away from the tomb and initially Martha balks at the idea, noting the horrible stench they would encounter from the corpse. However, something deep withing her remembers. She knows who the ultimate authority is, and her spirit submits to the process that on the surface appears to be illogical. She says,

Even now I know God will give you whatever you ask.”

John 11:22 (NLT)

Does she know the outcome of this story? Of course not! She does know that Jesus can ask anything of His Father, and she truly believes whatever happens is for their greatest good. (And she had never even read Romans 8:28!)

Jesus responds to her simple act of faith with a statement that initially seems to be unrelated:

I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

John 11:25-26 (NLT)

Looking into the eyes of her Savior she is questioned. Do you believe? I am life, do you believe? You will never die, do you believe? Life is more than your physical body, do you believe? I came so you could have life abundantly, do you believe?

She could look Him straight in the eyes and say truthfully, honestly:

Yes, Lord.”
John 11:27

And what happens next is the real meat and potatoes of the story:

The doubters (all of us-or is it just me?) say:

This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

John 11:37

Or as we like to put it: God, I know You can change this situation and I want to trust You, but I’m really having a hard time. It’s coming across to me as if you enjoy watching me suffer. I’m starting to lose heart here. I’m not sure about that thing called “faith”, especially when these circumstances are less than appealing.

Jesus responds:

‘Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?’

So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, thank You for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so they will believe You sent me.’ Then Jesus shouted, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ And the dead man came out…”

John 11:40-44 (NLT)

And so it happened. The big light bulb clicked on and a little more of God’s truth was illuminated in the depths of my wayward heart that night. Everything, even down to the smallest detail has a purpose. Do I believe that? Yes, I do. And I know what that purpose always is: bringing glory to Jesus Christ and His Father in heaven. Can He change hearts? Of course He can! Do I believe He can use every choice (good or bad) that my loved ones make (or I make!) for their greatest good and for His ultimate glory? You bet I do!

Yes, Jesus, I do believe.

When the enemy tells me my prayers are pointless because “they’ll never change anyways”, I can tell Satan to get lost because with my God, the Only True God, the God of Life, ALL things are possible, and that is the truth my soul rests on!

For we live by believing, and not by seeing.”

2 Corinthians 5:7 (NLT)

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe…”

Hebrews 11:6 (NLT)

Faith is the confidence that what we ask for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

Hebrews 11:1 (NLT)

And so you’re loving Comforter asks you to be sincere with Him. Where do you lack faith? It’s there right now, and you can hear Him calling out to you to lay it at His feet. Ask Him to simply help you’re “unbelief”. One of the most beautiful prayers you can utter and He wants to hear it is this:

I believe; help thou my unbelief!”

Mark 9:24 (KJV)

It’s the best place to start! When you can be honest before you’re Maker and allow Him to build you’re faith one small brick at a time, you’ll soon find yourself rejoicing passionately:

Satisfy [me]…with Your unfailing love, so [I] may sing for joy to the end of [my] life.”

Psalm 90:14 (NLT)

Do you believe?