Trusting God in the Unexpected

My five-year-old son discovered last night that he has a loose tooth.

It’s not a big deal, I suppose. As Eli is my fourth child, it’s not even a unique event for me. But this mundane little happening is one of several that are working together to foreshadow a change that I’m not ready for: this year, Eli will enter kindergarten and I will enter a new season in my life, one in which I no longer spend my days, as his Dad says, “thick as thieves” with my little man.

And five years goes just like that.

I can so clearly remember when I first knew without a doubt that I was going to have another baby. A fourth. Unexpectedly. At forty years old. To say it was a bit of a surprise is a grand understatement.

I remember the shock of realizing this unplanned addition was going to re-orient my life completely. I had stayed home with my three older children prior to my divorce from their father, but as a single mother I had re-entered the workforce years earlier, and I had no plans to change that. But with a new baby on the way, I knew I would want to stay home again. That would mean giving up life as I’d come to know it, again.

So, for the last five years, my life has looked markedly different from what I would have planned for my 40’s. I’ve been home with Eli and also watching a few other little ones out of our home to help make ends meet. I’ve never worked harder in my life; I’ve wiped more noses and changed more toxic diapers than I care to count.

A lot of other things changed too.

For the first time in my life, I had the opportunity to take a women’s Bible study during the day, and through those studies God began to really grow my knowledge of His Word and a hunger to know Jesus. This season, while certainly busy, also gave me the flexibility wherein I could agree to help start a new divorce ministry at The Crossing three plus years ago, alongside my husband. And being at home – albeit encumbered with lots of little people – gave me the freedom to spend a significant amount of time developing and deepening friendships with other women who were also pursuing God.

This unexpected, unasked-for, unscheduled change of plans which took me by such surprise six years ago made my life much harder, and redirected me in ways I never would have chosen. However, looking back, I can now see it was also the catalyst God used to really change me and deepen my relationship with Him. Looking back, it seems evident to me that through this change in trajectory, God was working to create a fundamentally different version of me than I would have been had Eli not come along, and I had continued to work outside the home.

Maybe you’ve had a major change in the trajectory of your life lately, too. Maybe, like me, you’re reeling at the unexpectedness of your life being turned upside down. Or maybe you’ve actually chosen to take steps that are going to spark major changes, but you don’t really know what life is going to look like for you and are as full of questions as I was years ago. How is this all going to turn out? Fear of the unknown has you wondering what on earth God is going to do in your life.

I can easily think of someone else who must have felt the same way. When Joseph woke up one morning after a particularly cool dream, I have to think he had no idea that sharing his dream with his brothers (Genesis 37:5-8) would be the straw that broke the camel’s back, provoking such jealousy that his own siblings would want him dead (Genesis 37:18-20). Finding himself in the hands of slave traders, he must have looked at this abrupt change in his life and wondered the same thing; “God, what are you doing?!” (Genesis 37:28)

Given that Joseph was raised as a clearly-favored child, and apparently felt no reluctance in telling his brothers that he was having dreams that he would rule over them, I imagine that Joseph must have struggled with pride and arrogance as a young man. We know he was a bit of a tattletale, and doted on by his father, beyond what his brothers received (Genesis 37:2-4). There was work to be done in him.

And of course, over the years, being treated with such humiliation over and over – abandoned by family, sold into slavery, unjustly accused of sexual assault and then imprisoned and forgotten (Genesis 39:7-20, 40:23) – Joseph’s future must have looked hopeless to him at times. While we know that ultimately his faith in God strengthened him to persevere, these trials were also undoubtedly used to change who Joseph might otherwise have been, had he lived out his life in relative ease and comfort as the favored among all of Jacob’s sons.

Looking forward, young Joseph must have been filled with fear and anxiety and maybe even anger, wondering what his life was going to look like. Looking back over the years, however, we know that he was able to see God’s hand in all of the unexpected events of his life, and His great plan not just for Joseph, but for many others (Genesis 50:19-21).

God’s Word assures us that as believers, we can trust Him to work in our lives today just as he did in Joseph’s thousands of years ago. His plans for us are always for our ultimate good (Jeremiah 29:11), even if temporally speaking things are about to get rough. Joseph’s story attests to this truth. That ultimate good is slowly revealed as God uses all things in our lives – the unexpected, life-altering blessings, the ominous dark clouds of trial, and everything in between – to slowly transform us more into the likeness of our Lord and Savior, His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:28-29). Will we trust Him to work His perfect plan in our lives through all of it?

I’m not sure how well I trusted God five years ago when we were faced with making serious changes to our lives to welcome another child into our blended family. I know that at the outset, I worried too much about our family’s finances and how this new little one would be accepted by our five older children, among other things. Looking back, though, I can see how richly God has blessed me through all those changes, even the hard things, drawing me to Him in ways that might not otherwise have happened.

Blessedly, the next season for me is not completely unexpected. I’ve been given fair warning that Eli’s wiggly tooth will fall out one day fairly soon, and that is a little reminder that kindergarten is around the corner. Will I also trust God with whatever other unexpected changes might come along?

By God’s grace, and by reminding myself that His steadfast faithfulness in the past can give me confidence in His future grace, not just to me but to all His children…I think I will.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and buckler.

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