The Blessing in the Unexpected

I can be quite a control freak. I’m a terrible passenger. I’m not a fan of flying or roller coasters either. If there’s chaos, I need to bring order. If there’s clutter, I need it gone. If there’s something to be planned, I’ve got the list.  And when I was younger, I couldn’t stand surprises.  (We’re talking the good surprises here.)  I always wanted to know what gift I was going to receive (anyone else as a child snoop around their home for hidden presents at Christmastime? I’m so sorry, Mom!), or if there was going to be a “surprise” party for me…forget about it.  I needed to know about it ahead of time.

There are two types of people. Those who love surprises and those who don’t.

I think those who struggle with enjoying surprises probably share my ‘control freak’ nature.  A surprise comes our way and we’re suddenly reminded that we’re not in control, right?

However, as years went on, I learned to appreciate the element of surprise.  In fact, I even grew to love surprises. I think I turned the corner when my college roommates woke me up at the crack of dawn on my 20th birthday to take me to a mystery place, only to be revealed when we arrived.  We landed at my favorite breakfast spot, and I soon discovered my closest friends were all there.  Pure joy.  Somewhere along the way, I tasted the freedom that came in knowing I wasn’t in control, so the only option I had was to simply relax, enjoy, and receive the unexpected blessing.

Any one of us can claim to be a control freak all day long, but the reality is, God is the one in control.

I have found time and time again that when I try to manipulate and control circumstances (you know, in order to avoid any “surprises”), I’m usually setting myself up for disappointment. God’s plan is ALWAYS better, even though I may not understand it at the time.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 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

When I told my husband, Matt, that Good Word Project’s word of the month was “Surprise”, without hesitating, he posed this question to me:

“Do you know what the surprise of Christianity is?”

I paused to answer because I thought there could be countless answers… or maybe this was a ‘trick’ question…

“The surprise of Christianity is that obedience and submission lead to freedom and blessing.”

Can I get an Amen?

Not only is that good truth right there, but those words, “obedience” and “submission”, called out exactly why, for years, I could not stand not being in control of an element around me. Obedience and submission involves at lot of trust and a lot of patience. Yikes. I was too busy trying to control everything around me to be patient, must less trust that there might be another way.  But God reminds me there is another way and it’s a better way.

If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; – Isaiah 1:19

He reminds us that good things come to those who are obedient. But it’s hard, right?  If I let go of this worry or that plan… what might happen??? If I trust God, and I am obedient in submitting to his ways, doesn’t that mean I’ll lose freedom – the freedom to do (and control) what I want to control???

Actually, this control freak says no. I’ve learned that obedience and submission bring abundant freedom, and yes, unexpected blessing.  (Note: submission comes in handy with those surprises… remember, relax, enjoy, and receive the blessing that comes. Ever hear the phrase “let go and let God”?)  God has so much in store for us if we just get to know Him, let Him in, and submit to His ways.  And friends, when you invite the Lord in, his presence creates many wonderful surprises. After all, surprise is a part of the world He created.

According to BibleGateway, there are 5,262 references to surprises in the Bible. Perhaps the one the stands out to me the most as I was writing this is when Saul, obsessed with his anti-Christian crusade, was suddenly stopped by Jesus on the road to Damascus. (Acts 9:1-9) Surprise, I, the one whom you are persecuting, am now going to radically alter your life and you don’t even know it yet!  Saul certainly never expected Jesus’ appearance to him.  And then he really had no choice but to be obedient and submit to what was coming next.  Ananias was also surprised by the commission to lay hands on a sightless Saul, welcoming him into the community of believers.  The radical change in Saul of Tarsus was certainly unexpected by those who had heard of him or had experienced his tirade against Christians.  It was Saul’s obedience that set Saul turned Paul on a journey that was far better than the one he was on. Roughly 28% of the new Testament was written by Paul.  That surprise and his obedience led to countless people over countless generations coming to know Christ. That’s more than just freedom, that’s a surprise and unexpected blessing of epic proportion!

Even when Jesus was faced with difficult circumstances, His obedience to God eventually gave him the ultimate freedom – the freedom from death.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” – Matthew 28: 5-7

Surprise is a part of the world God created.  He wants us to receive the best surprises. And as we learned from Erin in her blog “Surprise, But God…”, He’ll use your obedience and submission to bless you even during the worst of surprises.  Because He loves us, and that’s what He does.

So my fellow ‘control freaks’*, let’s learn to relax a bit more when we really don’t have control, because we can trust that what’s on the other side can be much better and much more fully enjoyed… and lead to unexpected blessings.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

Lord, thank you for surprises.  Thank you for reminding me that when I release my control, I can gain freedom and joy.  Please give me the discernment and strength to let go of my posture of control, so that I may receive the blessings of the surprises you have in store for me.  For those not-so-good surprises that will come my way, I pray for submission to you, having faith and assurance that you you will take care of me.  Thank you for being a loving Father who wants Freedom and blessings for me.  Amen.  

*15 Bible Verses For The Control Freak can be found here.