Surprised by God

Surprised by God


Surprised by God?

When I awake, I am surprised.

I am surprised how much God will allow me to suffer.

I am surprised when I look into my heart, then remember, God loves me, anyway.

I am surprised while spiritually wandering from path to woods I finally come to a clearing in the distance. Psalm 77:19 reads, “Thy way is in the sea, Thy path in the great waters, and Thy footsteps are not known” (NASB). A modern translation (NLT) reads,

“Your road led through the sea
Your pathway through the mighty waters—
A pathway no one knew was there.”

Life alarms us or comforts us with a pathway we did not know was there. We’re often puzzled: Where is God? (Job 23:8-10); What’s going on? We want to know. But the answer is either not forthcoming, one we don’t like, just a mystery, or a sheer surprise. God must love surprises, I suppose. There are so many of them. Every day. Watch and see.

How many biblical characters were surprised by God? One that stands out to me is the Moabitess, Ruth. Ruth follows her mother-in-law, Naomi, back to Bethlehem. No husband. No one to care for them. No Moabite men to marry. Desperate. Hungry. Abandoned. Even Ruth’s mother-in-law changed her name to, “Mrs. Bitter.” Like the end of an Agatha Christie novel, something new is about to happen that solves the mystery. So, out in the barley fields Ruth grazes. She looks for leftovers from harvesters. Then one day, zap! Again, “—a pathway no one knew was there.” Boaz appears. He’s smitten by this young lovely. You get the picture. God loves surprises. And he loves romantic rendezvous, too.

Look at the Garden of Eden. Eve is fresh from a rib. She’s walking toward Adam. What’s Adam thinking? Surprise! But our originals did not work out as hoped. Yes, they crashed, yet they did not burn. Boaz and Ruth?! Well, that’s another story. And who was their son? Little Obed. He was the grandfather of David. Get it? God’s surprise: a young Moabite woman and a rich old Jew—the ancestors of Jesus Christ. …Then, what about Jesus’ mother, Mary? Surprise! You’re pregnant!

I am sure you could tell your own life-story through your own surprises. Think about it. Some of your surprises were unexpected blessings. Some of your surprises were the most painful events in your life. Whether your surprises blessed you or shattered your world, you may also be surprised with God’s care and presence in the bad times as well as the good. The goodness of God is sometimes hard to believe. Boethius, the martyr, had to work that one out. Habakkuk had that same objection to God’s care–or lack thereof: He had two questions: “God, are you there?” and, “God, do you care?.” Habakkuk is like a Christian book of, “Why? Why? Why?.”

Wait for it.

Sometimes we lose our way. Our motivation, interest and purpose evaporates. We feel we are wandering and can’t find help. You’ve got a surprise! There is an answer. There is a way to a clearing in the distance by a pathway you may not know is there. His name is Jesus Christ. He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” He’s the Surprise you’ve been looking for all along. Francis Thompson was an addict and derelict, wandering the streets of London. He avoided God. He didn’t want God in his life. The Surprise pursued him as he poetically penned his own story, “The Hound of Heaven.” Equally, George Herbert reflected on God’s surprising love for us in his short poem, “Love.” I quote only a part:

LOVE bade me welcome: yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and shame.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lacked anything.
“A guest,” I answered, “Worthy to be here.”
Love said, you shall be he.

There are more titillating, exciting, excruciating, tragic, and disappointing surprises God superintends either directly or allows. Both the Old and New Testaments are full of them from Abraham to Malachi. If you know your Bible, you may be amazed by God’s surprises; for example, Abraham lying, Isaac’s foolish deception, Jacob’s thievery, God’s people (the Jews) in slavery for 400 years, Joseph’s rise to power, David’s dysfunctional character and kingdom but still dubbed by God himself as “a man after my own heart.” Other than being the inspired Word of God, the Bible is the most interesting book I’ve read, and re-read. It’s like reading The Confessions of Augustine, The Brothers Karamazov and The Idiot (Dostoevsky), The Divine Comedy (Dante) The Lord of the Flies (Golding), the poetry of Sidney Lanier or Shakespeare’s Sonnets, Richard Sibbes, Knowing God (Packer) and C. S. Lewis, The Art Spirit (Henri) or Richard Schmid, and The Question of God (Nicholi,Jr.), all smashed and shaken together, trying to keep the story straight or figure out the plot. The plot? The plot continues in the Old Testament Introduction…