If we could map our routes through life, most of us would opt for a smooth ribbon of freeway, with no bumps, construction zones, or detours. But life has a way of taking unexpected turns—forcing us to take alternate routes, some that aren’t even on the map.
Gordon McDonald, author of The Life God Blesses, calls these bends in the road life’s “disruptive moments.” Disruptive moments confront us with life’s harshest realities. They often force us to move in directions we never wanted to go and probably would have gone to great lengths to avoid because they are characterized by pain and suffering. They confront us in the form of death, divorce, illness, disease, accidents, and more, and most of the time they change our lives irrevocably.
M. Scott Peck introduced his best-selling book The Road Less Traveled with three indisputable words: “Life is difficult.” I know that somewhere along the way you’ve probably found that life is sometimes difficult. If you haven’t yet faced a bend in the road, one is probably coming, because most of us are confronted at some point with circumstances we never expected and never wanted to encounter.
And, as we face our disruptive moment, reeling with fear and uncertainty, questions emerge from the shadows to claw at us: Why did this happen? How will I go on? And, often most frightening of all, What’s next?
While the answers to these questions may never materialize, as one who has confronted a bend in the road, I’ve learned instead to focus on the declarations that God makes about life’s unexpected turns.
Promise #1: We’re Not Alone
During our darkest moments, God is there. When we are at our lowest point, a place where even those closest to us cannot walk with us, it is God who walks at our side. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me,” declares Psalm 23:4.
No one faces a bend in the road alone. If we knew God before the bend, He’ll be beside us as we take our first faltering steps to traverse it.
Before He ascended back to the Father, Jesus told His disciples, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). That was not an empty promise. Jesus knew that His disciples would face trials and hardships, so His final words addressed that coming reality with a promise to walk through each trial.
Suffering was no stranger to King David. The Book of Psalms records his many anguishes as well as his praises to the One who always stood beside him. David clung to the assurance of God’s presence. During his cave experiences, an intimate relationship with God developed.
In the depths of discouragement, when we’re so depressed we’re ready to flee all human companionship, God is the only One who will not let us go. “Where can I go from your Spirit?” David ponders in Psalm 139:7-10. “Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.”
Promise #2: God’s Word Will Comfort Us
So how do we feel the presence of God when we so desperately need it—when we feel devastated and deserted? The psalmist tells us that in our very lowest moments, God’s Word has the power to refresh us. “My soul clings to the dust,” he says. “Revive me according to Your Word” (Psalm 119:25).
When we read the Bible through the lens of pain, we see God’s handwriting with fresh, poignant meaning. His words can breathe hope back into our damaged lives.
Promise #3: God Cares That We Suffer
Most people naturally turn to God when trouble hits, but some are tempted to withdraw from everyone, including God. In our pain, confusion, and fear about where the next blow might come from, we are tempted to question whether God cares.
As we’re confronted by horrible circumstances, we have to wonder why God seemingly turned a blind eye when they were taking shape. Didn’t He care that the course of our lives was about to be changed forever—for the worse? After all, a sovereign God could have prevented these heartaches.
Very simply put, our sufferings do matter to God. We are exceedingly precious in His sight. In Zechariah 2:8, the prophet tells us that “he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.”
Many of the sufferings that come our way are not from the hands of God; they only pass through His hands. And in that passing, God takes full measure of them. He takes careful note of any pain being inflicted on the apple of His eye.
Promise #4: God Will Give Us Grace
As God permits pain in the lives of His children, He also bestows upon them equal measures of grace never experienced outside of suffering.
The apostle Paul experienced what I would characterize as several disruptive moments in his life. He identifies one such moment in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Paul points to a thorn in his flesh causing him pain. He never reveals the exact nature of this problem, but the intensity of his prayers concerning it lets us know that it was extremely bothersome.
As Paul came to terms with the realization that God did not intend to relieve his thorn in the flesh, he also heard God telling him, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:8). In his pain, Paul needed God’s strength and comfort. He would never have known the magnificence and magnitude of God’s grace without that thorn.
Suffering can result in an intimacy with God that makes any problem bearable. In trials and tragedies, we enter into a fellowship with Christ’s sufferings.
You can’t always prepare for life’s disruptive moments nor can you always avoid them. You may never even discover the answers to all the questions they raise. But this you can know: God is with you. He wants to wrap you in His presence where you can feel His love. And, as you take an unexpected detour, no matter how deserted you may feel, you’ll discover grace you never knew before. That grace will make the journey bearable.
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Dr. David Jeremiah is one of America’s most trusted Bible teachers. For more than 38 years, he has helped millions deepen their understanding of the Bible through 4,552 daily Turning Point Radio releases and a daily Turning Point Television program that reaches millions of people globally. He is the author of more than fifty books, including Hope: Living Fearlessly in a Scary World, Forward, The Book of Signs, Airship Genesis Kids Study Bible, and The Jeremiah Study Bible.