Oh, I Never Expected This!
By Jill Briscoe
So here you are, and you can’t believe what your life has become. Maybe you went through a very thorough decision-making process, and maybe you thought you knew what you were getting into, but when you got on the other side of your “Yes, Lord, anywhere, anything, anytime” response to the call of God, you found yourself saying, “Oh, I never expected this.” How do you live with it, when you know you are where you should be, but you hate being there? How do you deal with God’s surprises?
I have felt desperately inadequate to execute most of the things in ministry that God has surprised me with. In the early days, being more or less a single parent with my husband continually on the road was one of those things.
When I would want us to look for an easier place to serve, Stuart would say, “Jill, we know we must stay here until God leads us out as surely as He led us in.” And he was right. We looked back at our guidance and couldn’t see how we would have chosen differently, given the information we had at the time. God knew ahead of time what was coming and yet He still led us in that direction. It comes down to God’s love and His sovereignty. Either He is leading us in a loving way or He is not. Sometimes knowing that you did follow God’s command is the only comfort that can be had when you find yourself in an unexpectedly difficult situation.
So look back if you have any doubts. Check on your guidance. Are you in the place of His appointment? At times that will be just about all the ground you have to stand on. He shows us the past and we remember. Look back and see His working.
I have come to look at following God’s will in this way. Once I sense the direction that God is leading, I need to have a personal Gethsemane, a personal Calvary, and a personal Pentecost.
The Gethsemane: pulling myself alongside the will of God when I don’t want to do that thing. My prayer then becomes – like His – “Not my will but Thine be done,” and “I must be about my Father’s business.”
The Calvary: dying to what I would really like to do. Or what I had hoped to do. This is where the “I” gets crucified with Christ. Remember all those personal rights we thought we had? The little deaths we suffer as our homes become Grand Central Station? Those are chances to “die daily,” as Paul put it. Some people think that God’s sole purpose is to give us happy, healthy, wealthy, problem-free lives. It comes as a shock to remember the real meaning of discipleship. Once your expectations have been brought into line with reality, then God’s surprises will no longer be shocks, but become exciting experiences. It’s too easy to absorb the world’s values and priorities; quite frankly, we are too often self-centered and self-seeking. These things have to be stripped off before our lives in Christ make any sense or offer any real fulfillment.
The Pentecost: receiving the power to do what I know deep down I need to do. The goal should be to live in the power of our personal Pentecost. We need to pray, “God, give me the power to live well in this difficult situation.”
As we walk a step at a time in obedience to God’s call, we will find that the power is there for that one step. If it’s God calling, then He is responsible to give us the resources He knows we need to get through. He, ultimately, is the dynamic of all He commands. Hold Him to that. Although life seldom works out as we expect, it does work out, and it’s a bending and enriching thing to experience.