I don’t welcome surprises. Oh, I’m good with happy ones like surprise parties, surprise gifts, and serendipitous turns of events, but for most things I like to know what I’m getting into.
By nature I’m cautious and I’ve also been burned a few times. To avoid the deer-in-the-headlights feeling I like to prepare and think things through ahead of time.
When faced with a new situation or change of course my usual defence mechanism is to ask questions. “Why me?” “What will I say?” “Who else is involved?” “How long will it take?” “Is there a cost attached?” “What exactly do you want?” Sometimes my analysis causes paralysis and I miss opportunities from God for blessing and growth.
I know I’m not alone. While at the pinnacle of Egyptian power, Moses attempted to free the Israelites from slavery. It went poorly so he fled to the wilderness in disgrace and fear for his life. There he slid into obscurity and underachievement of tending sheep for 40 years.
God surprised Moses one day by appearing to him in a burning bush and calling him to be Israel’s deliverer. How did Moses respond? He too used the defence mechanism of questions. “Who am I…?” “What shall I say…?” “What if they will not believe me, or listen to what I say…?” (Exodus 3:11,13; 4:1 NASB).
Notice Moses’ responses were “I, I, me, I.” His eyes were focused inwards. He felt inadequate so he was defensive. Finally Moses tried to plead inability, “I don’t talk well. I’ve never been good with words, neither before nor after you spoke to me. I stutter and stammer” (4:10 MSG). When God answered with a statement of His sufficiency because He made Moses’ mouth Moses finally said, “…please! Send somebody else!” (4:13).
The prophet Jeremiah tried a similar ploy in response to God’s surprise call. He said, “Alas, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, Because I am a youth” (Jeremiah 1:6). Jeremiah’s eyes were also focused inward. The Lord’s response to him was,
“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’
Because everywhere I send you, you shall go,
And all that I command you, you shall speak.
“Do not be afraid of them,
For I am with you to deliver you,” declares the Lord (1:7–8).
God turned Jeremiah’s attention back to Himself.
It’s human nature to be self-centred. When God surprises us with an opportunity our first reaction is to view it from the perspective of our own sufficiency. We fear the unknown and we fear rejection and failure, which cause us to use our defence mechanisms.
With every surprise and opportunity God also brings answers for our fears, objections, and defences. His answers in every instance point to Himself and His own sufficiency as He did with Moses and Jeremiah.
Here are four promises God’s answers offer us.
1. His plan. “I have sent you.” There is a sovereign purpose and plan for everything including our lives. He planned with us in mind. What we consider surprises in life are not surprises to God. They are part of His plan for His ultimate glory and we are a meaningful part of His plan.
2. His presence. “I will be with you.” We are not alone as we participate in fulfilling God’s plan. Knowing He is always with us brings peace amid tumultuous times and comfort amid challenging days.
3. His provision. “I have made you, I will give you the words to speak.” God designed us so He knows exactly what we need. God is sufficient not just for words to speak but for all our needs in every situation He surprises us with.
4. His power. “My power is with you.” Our weakness is not a defence against doing what God asks. We are told to be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. And when His power is at work through us His plan and purpose will be fulfilled.
The next time God surprises us with an opportunity, a challenge, or a change in life, we need to take a moment to pause before we get into defence mode. We need to think about who we are focusing on—ourselves and our limitations, or God and His unlimited sufficiency.
Knowing He is sufficient in every way we will begin to welcome surprises.