Can We Have Confidence in Life's Surprises?

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The emotion of surprise is different from the emotions we’ve discussed in our “All the Feels” series so far. Surprise is a bit more complex. The emotion of joy is consistently a comfortable emotion, while fear is consistently an uncomfortable emotion. Surprise, however, can be both comfortable and uncomfortable.

How Can an Emotion Be Comfortable AND Uncomfortable?

We can be surprised and shocked by someone’s foolish choices, words or actions (uncomfortable). We can also be surprised and in awe of someone’s thoughtfulness toward us (comfortable). These are just two examples to show how the emotion of “surprise” is multifaceted and can impact us in different ways. Surprise tends to be a temporary or initial emotion that leads into another, more primary emotion. Looking back over the two examples listed, we may experience surprise and shock initially, but then experience hurt or happiness quickly after things “sink in.”

The element of surprise is in every story told. From movies to books to conversations, surprise is one of the most captivating parts of the story. Even the Christian faith has surprises all throughout the history of Scripture.

The Element of Surprise Found in Scripture

  • Moses saw a burning bush, not consumed by the flames, with a voice coming forth (Exodus 3).
  • Jonah was swallowed by a fish (Jonah 1) and then spit out by said fish (Jonah 2).
  • Ananias and Sapphira were killed on the spot for lying to God about their financial offering (Acts 5).
  • Peter denied Jesus three times (Mark 14; Luke 22; John 18).
  • Jesus Christ was killed on a cross (Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19).
  • Jesus Christ rose from the grave (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20).

Each of these accounts are examples of surprise, evoking both comfortable reactions and uncomfortable reactions. 

A Personal Story of Great Surprise

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About a year ago, I was invited to join my husband, Josh, on a mission trip to South East Asia. Of course, being a woman who loves missions and travel I immediately jumped at the opportunity and internally screamed, “YES! Sign me up!” But, because I’m also a woman who trusts God’s plan and leading, I wanted to take time to pray and fast about whether or not I should join Josh on this trip. So, we decided to pray and fast for a week. 

Now, I’ve seen God move in very clear ways before, so there was no trouble having an expectant heart and mind. I kept my prayer simple: “Lord, please confirm through provision.” 

In less than 12 hours of that prayer, Josh sent me a picture of a check with the exact dollar amount needed to join him on the trip! I was in such surprise and shock I began to cry! In that exact moment, I was reminded of how God sees me. God hears me. God knows me. And God loves me. 

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A personal Story of Scary Surprise

Also about a year ago, I received a phone call from my parents informing me that my grandma was placed in the hospital due to heart complications. 

My grandma is one of my secret keepers. She gets me. She taught me how to cook a good Southern breakfast every Saturday morning growing up. She taught me how to take a time out and enjoy the company of friends and family when they show up unannounced. She even taught me how to use some cuss words appropriately! She and I are thick as thieves. 

So you can imagine the surprise and shock that took control of my mind as my parents’ words sank in. The feeling of surprise was quickly replaced by fear and feelings of helplessness. I was 6 hours away and uncertain if I would see my grandma again. But in those moments of weakness and confusion I was reminded of God’s truth: God sees me. God hears me. God knows me. And God loves me.

God and the Element of Surprise

We are human and the element of surprise, both in comfortable and uncomfortable, is part of our humanity. But we serve a God who is never surprised. He is all knowing and never taken off guard. He ALWAYS knows what’s happening. 

Consider the examples mentioned earlier:

  • When God was speaking to Moses from the burning bush, He knew Moses would lead his people to freedom from Egyptian captivity (Exodus 14).
  • When Jonah was swallowed by a fish, God was preparing Nineveh for a great revival (Jonah 3).
  • When Ananias and Sapphira died due to their deception, God was teaching his people that we should never attempt to deceive and lie to His Spirit (Acts 5). 
  • When Peter denied Jesus three times, we are taught that even the strong will be weak at times, and despite our weaknesses, God still chooses to use us. Peter later became one of the boldest preachers of the gospel in the New Testament (The Book of Acts).
  • When Jesus died on the cross, it seemed all hope was lost and Satan had the victory, but God knew a perfect sacrifice had to be made (Isaiah 53; John 1).
  • When Jesus rose from the grave, people initially thought his body was stolen from the grave, or that he was a ghost, but God was displaying his power and perfect will (Phil. 2).

In our human-ness we are surprised by circumstances because we are limited in our knowledge, but we serve a God who is never surprised and is always working for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). We can turn to him and celebrate our comfortable surprises and mourn our uncomfortable surprises. He’s right there beside us during the surprises of our lives. Never forget God sees you. God hears you. God knows you. And God loves you.