June 18, 2020
What to Expect When You’re NOT Expecting
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. (Isaiah 43:2a, NIV)
Friend to Friend
Sometimes we come face-to-face with bad and even tragic news that we never saw coming. Life can turn us upside down at a moment’s notice, leaving us spinning and searching for answers.
Ever been there?
“We just picked up your son for drunk driving.”
“I want a divorce.”
“Your position has been terminated.”
“Your electricity has been shut off until you make a payment on your bill.”
“You haven’t been accepted into our program.”
“I’m sorry, there has been an accident ...”
In 2013 our family received some unexpected blisterings ...
“You have a polyp on your right vocal cord and a nodule on your left vocal cord. In addition to that, Mrs. Smith, your esophagus is yellow and inflamed because of acid reflux. I know you sing and speak professionally, so I’m placing you on mandatory vocal rest for four to six weeks. You cannot talk at all. You will also need to adjust your diet and take medication in order to calm the acid reflux. If your condition doesn’t get better with rest, medication, and dietary changes, you may need to have vocal-cord surgery.”
As I sat in the doctor’s office, I felt numb.
The very instrument I used to minister and worship with was compromised to the breaking point. I wondered why God would allow me to experience a condition that threatened my ability to do the work He had called me to do. My feelings were a bit hurt. I pouted a minute in prayer, and then I saw a blessing in this blistering: the trial had driven me to His presence.
Two weeks later, my husband was told, “The biopsy and ultrasounds of your mass indicate that you have papillary thyroid cancer, Mr. Smith. We will need to schedule surgery to have it removed. Then, if the final pathology reports are conclusive for cancer, you will need to have a radioactive iodine treatment to ensure that all of the remaining cancerous cells are destroyed.”
Really, God? Geeeez! Can we not have a breakdown here?
A part of me wanted to throw a toddler tantrum and give God a good talking-to about all the reasons Brad and I should be exempt from these inconvenient health challenges.
Then, in His grace, as I prayed, wrote in my journal, and meditated on His Word, the Lord began to change my heart to see that good could come from the bad and that He would grow my faith if I would trust Him in the trial.
Through the cancer and vocal-cord trials, the Lord taught Brad and me lesson after lesson about how trials can grow our faith. These truths surfaced:
• We get to choose how we’ll respond to trials.
Trials happen to everyone. Doesn’t matter who you are, what you believe, how big your wallet is, how thin your hips are, or how dark or light your skin tone is. Trials are no respecter of persons. If you’re breathing, you will have trials. The game changer? How you react to them.
One of my favorite verses is Proverbs 31:25: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” Notice that it doesn’t say she is kept from difficult trials. And it doesn’t say that she is the source of her own strength and dignity. It says that she is clothed in it. She puts it on just like you and I put on jeans and a T-shirt. When we call out to Jesus for help, we’re putting on the power of God to have strength and dignity in our troubles.
Every challenge leaves us with an option of response. We aren’t destined for weakness or immaturity; we’re destined for strength and depth in Christ. But you and I have a choice: Will we trust in God’s strength, which is speak-the-universe-into-existence mighty, or in our own efforts, which pack no more power than the punch of a tiny flea?
Will we shake and flail in unbelief, or will we allow God to meet us in the wrenching and grow our faith? Will we waver in worry, or will we believe that God is with us when we step into the unknown? Will we acquiesce to the relentless waves of fear that come fast and furious or trust that Jesus can keep our eyes above the waves and teach us valuable lessons through the trials, even when the water is deep and choppy and scary?
Our trials reminded Brad and me just how important it is to choose godly responses, which of course can only come when our hearts are yielded to His leading. God grows our faith as we yield our hearts to His.
• Trials help us prioritize what really matters.
Brad’s and my health challenges brought the most important relationships to the forefront of our lives. We gave grace and apologized more quickly, spoke love more often, served one another without complaining, and were in constant fellowship with the Lord in prayer and His Word. God grows our faith as we unclutter our hearts before Him and ask Him to help us love others well.
• Trials are opportunities for God to showcase His strength in our weaknesses.
Our sufferings can be redeemed and used for God’s good. Brad and I had God appointment after God appointment because of our health crises. God gave us many chances to speak of the peace, comfort, and joy He was providing in the midst of our challenges. Brad said it this way: “He [God] moved my heart to look for what good He was doing versus focusing on my hardship.” God grows our faith as we join Him in the work He’s doing all around us.
• Trial blows are softened with thanksgiving.
Brad and I began to focus on what we had instead of what we didn’t have—and we thanked God for those things. The Bible tells us that we’re to give thanks in everything (1 Thess. 5:18). In doing so, the weight of our burdens was lightened. Yes. Brad still had cancer. I still had severely damaged vocal cords. The struggles were still very real, but our pain was anesthetized with gratitude. God grows our faith when we give Him thanks.
Now, on the other side of the cancer and vocal-cord damage, we’re grateful for those blessings that came in the blisterings. For the intimate invitation God gave us to walk closely with Him, to be held by His peace, and to depend earnestly on His strength and provision. We are thankful. Truly.
We’ve found that in our thanksgivings, there comes a release, because somehow in God’s glorious and mysterious way, He uses gratitude to connect our hearts to His hope.
Dear Lord, I admit that I sometimes fear the unexpected and do not fully trust in your perfect will. I know that you see the end from the beginning and that your thoughts are not my thoughts (Is. 55:8-9). Forgive me for my lack of faith and please teach me to trust in you so that when the unexpected storms of life come, I will expect peace in the midst of those storms (Mark 4:37-40), knowing that you are near, you hear my cries, and you are with me and for me.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Read the following verse: "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you." (Isaiah 26:3)
According to this verse, "perfect peace" comes from focusing our minds upon the Lord. What a promise that is! Find some verses about God's nature and His promises to you and write them in a journal or a special place where you can refer to them when life hits you with the unexpected. Use these verses to meditate on God through your trials to experience His peace!
Take my FREE 5-Day Psalm Challenge and experience the power and peace of God in fresh ways as you walk through His Word.
More from the Girlfriends
Today’s GiG devotion is adapted from I Want It ALL by Gwen Smith by permission of David C. Cook Publishing.
Studying the Bible is important to help you know and trust God more. It equips you with His power, presence, perspective and peace. It informs your emotions, increases courage, decreases doubt, and bolsters believing.
If you want to read and study the Bible, but don’t know where to start, this is for you! Girlfriends in God cofounder Gwen Smith has created a FREE 5-Day Psalm Challenge that will guide you on a personal journey with the Lord as you read, record, reflect on and respond to His Word.
PS. Have you listened to the GRACEOLOGIE with Gwen Smith podcast yet? Hang out with Gwen and friends for fun, faith-focused, grace-filled conversations as you commute to work, go on walks, exercise, fold laundry, run errands or travel.