What a world! Surprises! This year, for a lot of us, surprises were not limited to reading about changing world events. For some of you, surprises were not always welcomed. A position opened up in your company, and you expressed an interest in it. But when your boss interviewed you, he informed you that not only had management decided not to fill that position, but that the company was eliminating your job as well. Surprise!
Your phone rang one evening just after you had retired, and as you groped to find the phone, you thought, “Who can be calling at this hour?” It was a friend telling of the death of a family member. Surprised? Yes, you never thought it would happen, but it did.
After a long business trip, you come home and discover a thick Manila envelope in the mail. The return address is that of an attorney. You squint at the name, and as you rip it open you are thinking, “Wonder who he is?” It doesn’t take long to find out. You discover that you are being sued by a business associate whom you thought was a friend. Surprise!
How do you handle those unwelcome surprises?
Psychologists call it “coping.” Some think of it as “rolling with the punches.” With resignation, others say, “That’s life!” But when unexpected surprises come your way, you do one of two things: you fight them and become bitter, or you reach out for the grace of God and become better because of what you have endured.
What is this commodity of the heart called “grace”? In simple terms, it is the help of God that enables you to cope with the pain and unwelcome surprises of life.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Long ago the Apostle Paul faced many unwelcomed surprises, things which he did not deserve and certainly didn’t ask for; yet, strange as it may seem to us, he welcomed them. In responding to what Paul termed “a thorn in the flesh,” he said, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, `My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).
I’ve discovered that God gives grace to us to help us cope with the surprises of life which we neither expect nor think we deserve. I’ve also learned that while grace is available, tapping into it or accepting it isn’t always easy. Bitterness and anger seem to bottle its flow. A certain measure of humility is necessary for me to say, “Lord, this surprise is more than I can handle. I need your help!”
Do you remember the words of Jesus, who said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3)? The poverty of spirit is when you have depleted your resources, when your charm, your looks, your money, or your connections will no longer be enough to get you out of your jam. That’s when you need God. His grace is the only thing in the world that can counter some of the blows which hit us in life.
“When I am weak,” said Paul, “then I am strong.” When unwelcomed surprises confront you, learn about grace, God’s grace, and you will also find the strength to cope. It’s worth discovering.
Resource reading: 2 Corinthians 12:1-21