It’s not a surprise!
One of the favourite activities for me whenever I visit my sister’s house is to play with my 3-year old niece. This little munchkin is a delight to watch and play with. Amongst all the games that she loves to play, her favourite one is hide and seek.
As soon as my presence is known in the house, she would pull me to play this game. I am surprised at the fact that she doesn’t grow tired of playing the same game time and time again. And more surprisingly, the spot she chooses to hide every single time hasn’t changed either.
Although I know where she would run to hide, I behave in an unpredictable manner so the victory would be all her’s. At the end of it she erupts into her victory song believing it was her smart move that saved the win when in reality, her move wasn’t a surprise at all.
I wonder at times if God would think about us in the same way.
Numerous times when incidents of life hit us hard and toss us over, our instant reaction is- ‘I never saw that coming. I wonder what God was doing. Why couldn’t He prevent it from happening in my life?’ We may perhaps reach a conclusion that it must have been a surprise to God as much as it had been for us. But I’m sure God would whisper from the other end to say – it’s not a surprise!
When life’s tempest storms hit us hard, we may call it a surprise, but not so for God. I love how it is written in Psalms 31:15 (NCV), my life is in your hands.
The famous evangelist, Billy Graham, who recently went away from us to be with the Lord once said, “Nothing in our lives takes God by surprise”.
To the question, “Is it true that nothing ever takes God by surprise?”, John Piper responds… Yes, that is true. God is never surprised. To be surprised you have to be uncertain about what is coming. You have to be ignorant. God is never ignorant about the future or about anything. He is never uncertain about what is coming.1
We have to be assured that whatever happens in our life is not news to God. Everything that happens in our life is according to the perfect plan of God. Yes, some of them would have resulted in bitter disappointments, but I wish to assure you, even those disappointments are ordained by God to refine you and bring the best out of you.
Well, on one hand, you would say there are God-ordained sufferings and on the other hand, sufferings that have resulted due to our own bad moves. Although I wouldn’t deny that there can be situations which may have occurred as a result of our misjudgements and pre-mature moves. Nevertheless, I wish to reinstall your confidence in believing together with the psalmist (31:15) that when our life is in God’s hands, everything, I repeat, everything that happens in our life is with the knowledge of an omniscient God. It has happened because He has allowed it to happen. Let that sink in deep within us!
C.S. Lewis says, ‘pain is the megaphone of God.’ He continues to say… “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains.’
Stop for a minute and think, what is God shouting out to you?
When life catches us by surprise, we begin to question God. We begin to question the plans He has for us. Do we begin to ask where is this good God that I have been hearing all along? It is in those moments that we often begin to articulate difficulties in our life to that of punishments from God. Let me list some examples from the Bible to help you correct that thought.
In John 9: 1-3, Jesus Christ explains that the cause for the man being born blind was not a penalty for his own or his parent’ sin that they might have committed but rather ‘that the works of God might be displayed in him.’ Further, we see in John 11: 1-6 that even after knowing that Lazarus (who he loved very much) was on his death bed, Jesus did not hasten to see him because in raising Lazarus from the dead God’s name had to be glorified through him. Lastly, even in Job’s life, the introductory chapters (book of Job) reveal that he was “blameless” in God’s sight. However, the calamity that befalls him occurs not as punishment, but as part of a divine plan to defeat the adversary (Job 1–2).
Before restoring a man’s sight, Christ explains, his blindness occurred not in a penalty for sin, but rather “that the works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:1–3). Another one, Christ delays travelling to meet the family of his loving friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus, even as Lazarus was in a death bed so that in raising him from the dead he might glorify God (John 111–4).
Each one of us that loves God, must pass through the season of disappointment/setback/suffering – (whatever you may call it) at some stage or the other. Bishop T.D. Jakes in his new book, Soaring uses the metaphor of wine – comparing the season of crushing, fermentation and transformation one might go through, to the process of how a grape becomes a fine wine to be shared.
We love that stage of producing fruit or being fruitful for God. We yearn to label ourselves as fruitful. After all, that is what God called us to do – bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples (John 15:8). I love how The Message (MSG) translation records it – you produce grapes when you mature as my disciples.
Then comes the next stage – the crushing of grapes producing beautiful wine and becoming a delight to many. God is allowing this season of suffering in your life now because there is a next level that God wants to bring out in you. There is a season of soaring that awaits you. Surely God will not leave you until He is done with you. There is no escape route!
I am amazed by the life of Biblical characters who had to go through times of desperation, disappointments and frustrating moments only to realise later that God’s unseen hands directed their moves even amid those situations.
A.W. Tozer says “it is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”
I always get thrilled when reading about Joseph in the Bible. A young man who had to go through a tough season in his life for 17 long years for no mistake of his own. His brothers hated him (Genesis 37:4) because of a dream. However, at the age of 30, at the end of the “expiry” of his suffering season, Joseph says, God has made me lord of all Egypt (Genesis 45:9).
One lesson that I would take away from Joseph’s life is, setbacks prepare you for a future that you have never dreamed of!
Who loves to go through the season of disappointments? Certainly, not me!
If I were the reader, I would probably be asking for that magic wand to take away all my troubles in a whisk. Hence, I would understand your mind if you asked the same. It is easier said than done.
In conclusion, I would leave you with this analogy – ask an athlete, they would attest that training is not done in a stadium full of spectators. Trainings are done in private, far away from the eyes of the crowd or when the stadium is empty. Finally comes a day when the athlete would step out in the open field to display the upshot of training. When the finish line is crossed, no one remembers the painful hardship that they endured during the days of training – sacrificing that smell of fresh bread, that brand of chocolate, that junk food, the pleasures and comfort of life… the list goes on!
Bible gives us the affirmation that any suffering we endure is less than nothing compared to the magnitude of glory that is about to be unveiled within us (Romans 8:18 TPT).
Quit blaming people – they are not the reason for every hurt that you had to undergo. They were in fact used by God to crush you, tear you into pieces and then bring out the best in you.
Don’t lose heart. Like everything else, this too shall pass. God is with you in this.
– Jaison Joseph