By Cortni Marrazzo, Crosswalk.com
“This is not how my life was supposed to go.” Every person has had this thought at least once in their life.
We have a plan of what we think our life will look like, but life throws us a curveball that changes everything--divorce, infidelity, loss of a job, struggles with your kids, serious health issues, infertility, bankruptcy, addiction, death of a loved one--the list goes on.
Circumstances like these leave us feeling like we’ve been punched in the gut and wondering how we go on from here.
How do you survive and pick up the pieces of your life when a dream or plan has died? It’s a normal part of the human experience to struggle with letting go of what was and to move forward to the unknown, which is why God is there to encourage and remind us that He is with us through all the pain, uncertainty, and struggle, and that He will lead us through to the other side.
You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Psalm 139:5 NLT
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10 NLT
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. Romans 8:28
Here are few ways God can use times of unexpected changes in our lives for our good:
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1. Alignment (or Realignment)
Unexpected life changes often cause you to rethink your priorities and your life, which can help you decide to stop running your life on autopilot and instead start being intentional about your life, your actions, and your priorities.
Things like marital problems, struggles with your kids, health scares--they all stop you in your tracks and cause you to re-evaluate what is really important to you.
Relationship with God, marriage, family (and close relationships) and health are the most common to come to the forefront during these times. COVID-19 and the resulting mandatory quarantines caused many people to reassess their priorities in life and the speed at which they were living.
For instance, a long-time family-owned outdoor recreation store in my town decided to permanently close in the middle of the pandemic, but not because of financial strain. Rather, after having to close their doors for a while, they suddenly had the time to stop and realize that they wanted to spend more time with their family and actually engage in the outdoor recreation that they spent so many years equipping other people to do. It enabled them to see that it was time to switch directions and focus more on what’s most important to them.
An unexpected change in your life can be a great blessing to help you realign your life and priorities to what you truly value.
Take some special time to take stock of your life, and if what you are currently doing and surrounding yourself with matches your God-given dreams, values, and convictions. If not, what a wonderful opportunity you have to change your life’s course.
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2. Renewed Surrender
If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. Matthew 16:25
The only way to truly move past the disappointment and heartbreak of your broken dreams and plans is to fully surrender those dreams to Jesus.
It’s often easy to surrender your life to God when you first decide to follow Him, but further in your journey with God, it can be easy to start to pick up your own plans and ideas, and forget the importance of surrendering to God’s plans for your life.
When I was in my 20s, I lived in a condo that was right on the beach of the Puget Sound near Seattle. One day when I went down to the beach to have some prayer and quiet time, I noticed a seagull repeatedly dropping a shell onto the rocks below it.
After watching it for some time, I noticed that inside the shell was a source of food, but since the shell was closed, the only way to get the food was to drop it in order that it would break open and expose what it really needed.
That seagull would have been pretty stupid to fly around with a shell it couldn’t eat because it didn’t want to risk losing it. That seagull taught me a lesson that day as I wondered how many times I’ve tried to hold onto things thinking that if I let them go, I would lose them, but in reality, that thing would only benefit me if I dropped it and let it break.
Only in the brokenness of that thing could I get what I really needed from it.
It’s so tempting to try to hold on to something you treasure and value in your life when circumstances change, but sometimes it’s only in the process of surrendering that thing or circumstance to God and accepting the resulting brokenness, that you will find the sustenance and blessing you really need.
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3. Deeper Dependence on God
Unexpected events in our lives have a knack for helping us remember that God is (or at least should be) the driving force in our lives.
This is such a beneficial reminder because it actually takes the pressure off ourselves to make things happen in our lives. Far too often we try to set goals for things we want to accomplish in our lives and end up stressing ourselves out and feeling like failures when we don’t live up to those goals.
In 1 Samuel, David, who had been anointed as the future king of Israel, spent almost 7 years wandering in the desert hiding from King Saul who was trying to kill him.
During that time, he strengthened his relationship with and dependence on God, which enabled him to become a successful king who was recorded to be a man after God’s own heart. Based on the many Psalms that David wrote during this time in the desert, it seems as though this time really helped strengthen his heart for God.
God didn’t call you to sacrifice your peace in order to accomplish things and make things happen. In contrast, He calls you to step into what He is already doing in your life and to walk in what He has already prepared for you.
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 MSG
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4. A Reminder of God’s Sovereignty and a Stronger Trust in God
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. Psalm 139:13,16
When circumstances hit our lives that feel like they came out of nowhere, it’s helpful to remind ourselves that God knew every day we would ever live before we were even born. As humans, all we know is finite time--what has happened in the past and the here and now, but God sees all of time together at once.
As I was praying one day about a specific situation I was going through in my life and how God could use that for my good, I felt like God reminded me that not only did He know this was going to be part of my story, but He actually planned my calling based on all the things He knew I would walk through in my life, this situation included.
God saw all your disappointments, tragedies, mistakes, detours, and everything else before He even created you, and in His all-knowing wisdom, He created a plan for your life that weaves all of them in and uses them to make you strong, help others, and make you who He’s called you to be.
Unexpected changes in our lives are hard because they are times of confusion and mystery to us and they leave us feeling like we are walking in darkness, but thankfully God always knows the way forward, even when we have no clue what that might be. I'll leave you with these 4 encouraging scriptures.
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9
I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course. Jeremiah 10:23 NLT
The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way? Proverbs 20:24
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. Proverbs 3:5-6
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