It was Wednesday, January 19, 1977 and it was snowing. Now that doesn’t seem very unexpected unless you are in West Palm Beach or Miami, Florida or Nassau, in the Bahamas! You can view the next day’s frigid headline here. It had never snowed in that part of the world before then, as best anyone knows, and it hasn’t snowed there since. My wife and i remember the day well. Traffic virtually came to a standstill, and people stopped wherever they were in order to turn their heads toward the sky. What was this foreign substance falling to earth? I remember trying to catch a few snowflakes on my tongue. Bear in mind, i don’t think any snowflakes actually made it to the ground! The snowbirds who had come to Florida to escape the snow indeed felt cheated, but the natives were simply amazed.
A story is told that early in 1976 while the political campaigns for the U.S. presidency were underway, Jimmy Carter was considered by many to be a long shot for the Democratic nomination. As the story goes, a radio talk show pundit, Neal Boortz, was conducting an on-air interview and asked his guest about Mr. Carter’s chances of being elected. The guest replied that it was highly unlikely, and to add emphasis said, “It will snow in Nassau before Jimmy Carter is sworn in as President of the United States!” By the way, President Carter was sworn in as our 39th President on Thursday, January 20, 1977. Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?!?
But, as i think of that day, i am reminded that our God is the Master of the unexpected – not only with snowflakes in South Florida – but in much greater and much more significant ways. He said, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV).
Over the last several months, as i have begun to focus full-time on writing the remaining books of the Lessons Learned In The Wilderness series, i have heard from many readers who have shared their heart-breaking stories with me about how their lives have taken an unplanned turn – through illness, through the death of a child or a spouse, through abandonment, through an unexpected job loss, and on and on. Let me hasten to say before anyone connects an unintended or incorrect line between the dots, that i am NOT saying that God is the Author of those unplanned and unexpected turns! Rather, i believe He is the Author and Creator of the unexpected answers in the midst of those turns!
Time and again i have been reminded, just like Joseph said, that what the enemy intended to bring about for evil, God intends to use to bring about for good (Genesis 50:20) in ways we could have never expected or understood.
In recent days, i have again been studying the account in each of the four Gospels of Jesus’ resurrection. i have been reminded that not one of His followers – not even His closest followers like Peter, or John, or Mary Magdalene – believed or expected Jesus to rise from the dead. Mary Magdalene came to the tomb that morning with the other women to anoint Jesus’ dead body. When she saw the stone that was supposed to be covering the tomb rolled away, her reaction was that someone had taken His body – not that He had risen! When Peter and John ran to the tomb, they were convinced that Mary and the others were wrong; they weren’t looking for a risen Savior, they were looking for His body. When Jesus appeared to the rest of His disciples that night (except Thomas), they freaked-out! They thought they were seeing a ghost! Not one of them expected Him to rise again. They were a sorrowful, fearful and defeated bunch! That’s why Jesus’ first words were “don’t be afraid”, “peace be with you!”
i don’t mean, in any way, to minimize the grief, the sorrow, the hurt, the disappointment or the sadness that you may be experiencing over the unplanned turn that your life has just taken. But we would all do well to remember, if we are His followers, that our God has promised that we will NEVER walk through that circumstance, situation, tragedy, or disappointment alone. He has promised that He will NEVER leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:6). Even when – not if – we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He promises that He will be right there with us to comfort us (Psalm 23:4). If we are walking through a financial crisis, the psalmist would remind us that “I have been young and now I am old, Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken Or his descendants begging bread” (Psalm 37:25). We would also do well to remember that we haven’t heard the last word in any situation until we have heard from Him.
And more often than not, we will see Him show up and accomplish the unexpected – His immeasurably more (Ephesians 3:20), His boundless love and kindness (Titus 3:4-7), His greater victory (1 John 4:4) all for His glory (Romans 8:28).
Don’t be afraid! Whatever your situation is, peace be with you! Turn your eyes toward Jesus – and expect the unexpected!