Last week I joined in a celebration for a friend’s birthday. All those in attendance gathered together awaiting our blindfolded friend, and then as the blindfold dropped, together we exclaimed, “Surprise!”
A dear friend who owns a residence in Surprise, AZ. She shared her home so Gary and I could get away to enjoy some rest.
Then when walking Grace, I experienced an unexpected surprise. A dark grey “stick” startled me when it suddenly moved, revealing its true nature as a snake seeking covering in the grass.
Surprise – an unexpected or astonishing event, fact, or thing; a feeling of mild astonishment or shock caused by something unexpected.
I know people who love surprises and others who do not. What about you? How do you feel about surprises?
As I ponder surprises in life, I notice a few significant realities.
Whether good or bad, surprise often elicits discomfort, accompanied by deeper emotions. In reflection, occurrences of surprise lead to opportunities to experience the grace and goodness of God. Consider a few examples from the Bible:
- Zacchaeus experienced surprise and anticipation when Jesus declared he would visit his home (Luke 19).
- The Pharisees felt surprised when Jesus confronted their denial with reality (Matthew 3).
- During the days of Noah, surprise blended with unbelief when the rain started to fall from the sky (Genesis 6-7).
- Surprise and reflection paired together as Saul the persecutor of Christians became Paul the promoter of Christianity (Acts 9).
- When Nathan confronted David, surprise lead to repentance (1 Samuel 12).
- Mary and Martha encountered surprise when Jesus brought their brother, Lazarus, back to life (John 11).
- As the dead bones came to life, Ezekiel watched with surprise (Ezekiel 37).
- Surprise and discouragement accompanied Jesus as he caught His friends overcome with sleep during his darkest hours (Mathew 26).
- Onlookers knew surprise and shock as Ananias and Sapphira took their last breath (Acts 5).
- After walking on the road to Emmaus, surprise and reflection overtook two of Jesus’ disciples when He broke the bread them and disappeared (Luke 24).
The unexpected and astonishing moments of the unforeseen create instances to recognize the movement of God and receive His grace and goodness. God’s grace meets our need for acceptance and kindness in the midst of fluctuating stirrings within the soul. The goodness of God points to His good character and advocacy for His follower’s good and His glory. Through surprises in life, God reveals Himself and invites us to know and experience Him more fully: to know the full life Jesus came to give (John 10:10).
My friend’s shock at his surprise birthday party highlighted a committed community, great friendship, and loving care from his family. Resting at my friend’s home in Arizona evoked the surprising gift of perspective, presence, and peace. And, anytime I see a snake, the surprise of discomfort comes with the gift of knowing God kept me safe.
I wonder about the times we resist surprises in life…
It seems that an averse posture towards a surprise might reveal an interior fear of not being in control. We often don’t like surprises because it challenges our ability to exercise authority over the circumstances of life. When an incident occurs “without our permission” – we find ourselves in unexpected spaces that reveal our vulnerabilities and expose areas of weakness.
What if we considered the surprises in life as a part of God‘s divine purposes to offer His gifts, grace, and generosity?
Notice the gift of God’s grace and generosity throughout the Scriptures already mentioned:
- Zacchaeus embraced a fresh start free from duplicity.
- Nicodemus, a pharisee, sought connection with Jesus.
- Noah and his family floated in safety away from the worldwide flood.
- Paul received God’s invitation to new life.
- God’s generosity evoked heart transformation within David.
- Lazarus experienced bonus days with his family.
- Ezekiel watched the power of life flow from God.
- Jesus touched the hearts of his closest friends with favor and kindness.
- The early Church understood the importance of purity and honesty within the heart.
- The powerful presence of our risen Lord encouraged the confused and concerned early disciples.
Surprises take us to spaces for supplication, sincerity of soul, and singing. Spiritual rhythms such as prayer, repentance, and praise arise when we yield to the unexpected surprises of life. Although at times, uncomfortable, surprises present timely moments for connection with God and conformity to the image of Jesus Christ.
In what ways can prayer, repentance, and praise impact your encounter with the surprises in your day?
I wonder what might occur if we embraced surprises as promptings or interludes to notice God? Instead of resisting the unexpected and critiquing its impact upon us, can we receive these instances as invitations to move closer to God?
When you meet surprises, will you allow these unanticipated moments to draw you deeper with Jesus or drive you away from His presence?
Surprises provide opportunities to surrender and trust in God’s sovereignty and providence in our lives. Throughout the Bible, verses and examples remind us that God’s purposes prevail and He is trustworthy (Proverbs 19:21). God often works within circumstances and people to offer the gifts of growth and transformation. Are we receptive to God’s messengers? Are we receptive to the unexpected circumstances? These represent surprises from God to us. We can rest in His sovereign goodness and grace with the unforeseen surprises we encounter in life.
I’m curious if shifting our posture towards the surprises of life might bring more joy, more encouragement, and more anticipation of experiencing God in profound and fresh ways?
Enjoy the surprises God presents before you as ways for experiencing the full life He designed for you. He loves you! Look for the gifts of His goodness and grace as He tenderly proclaims, “Surprise!” throughout your day.
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Drips from the Word: Muse about these Bible verses. Let these truths impact your living.
Proverbs 19:21 – Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
Psalm 147:3-5 – He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.
Splashes from the Spigot: Drink from deep wells. Read these recommended books to fill your soul.
Fr Jean Baptiste Saint-Jure and Claude de la Colombiere. Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence: The Secret of Peace and Happiness. 2020.
Jean-Pierre de Caussade. Abandonment to Divine Providence. St. Louis, MI. 2010.
Sprinklings of Truth: Soak in meaningful songs. Check out these music videos to lift up your spirit.
The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. God Surprised Me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zc6h1gyC44o
Evan Craft, Danny Gokey, Redimi2. Be Alright. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NLnlPs-m58