unexpected blank calendar

Things don’t always turn out the way you expect. I expected to visit New York City in April with my daughters and daughter-in-law. We spent months planning our trip. Two Broadway shows. The Statue of Liberty. The 911 Memorial and Museum. A walking food tour. Central Park. All the touristy things. Then COVID-19 crashed in and things didn’t turn out the way we expected.

The spring of 2020 didn’t turn out like any of us expected. And the summer is looking shaky.

Some of you have battled the virus. Others have been devastated by loss. Most of us have been left with big holes in our calendars. All of us have had to adapt to a different way of doing things, like working from home and home schooling children.

The last few months have also been filled with big disappointments. Holidays, special events, and celebrations did not turn out the way you expected. Weddings, birthdays, and graduations have been postponed or revamped to fit social distancing guidelines.

God’s Way is Always Better than the Way You Expect

Few people experience life just as expected. The Bible is full of examples. David expected to raise sheep in his home town of Bethlehem. But God called him to be a king. The young Jewish girl Mary planned to marry Joseph and quietly settle down in Nazareth surrounded by family and friends. But God called her to birth and raise the Savior. Paul the Pharisee expected to rise in the ranks of the Jewish faith and continue to defend the Law. But Jesus intercepted him on a dusty road to Damascus and called him to take the Good News to the Gentiles.

COVID-19 did not take God by surprise. It didn’t throw Him off track. He didn’t say, “Well, I guess I’ll have to change my plans.” God’s purposes for the world are the same today. And His original plan for you is still His plan for you. Even post COVID-19. In fact, perhaps He will work through the virus to bring about His perfect will for your life.

You can be sure of this. God has a plan for you and it is NOT derailed. He decreed His purposes for you even before you were born.

God has good works for you to do:

“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, NLT

God has good work to do in you:

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6, NLT

God’s way is always better than the life we expect for ourselves. So, how do we find His way? How do we get on track when life has taken an unexpected turn?

4 Tips for Walking the Unexpected Path

The apostle Paul lived an “unexpected” life. After one dramatic encounter with Jesus, his life took off on a totally new trajectory. A paradigm shift of gigantic proportions. Paul’s example shows us how to not only survive unexpected circumstances, but also how to thrive when life doesn’t turn out the way you expect.

  1. Spend Extra Time with God – After Jesus appeared to Paul, his friends led him into Damascus where he fasted and prayed for three days (Acts 9:1-9). Everything Paul had built his life on was shattered. He had to come to terms with a new reality. After his sight was restored and he was baptized, Paul went into Arabia for an unspecified time (Galatians 1:11-18). Many scholars believe Paul spent this time alone, studying and praying. Just Paul and God. Paul needed time with God to adjust his thinking and plans and expectations to God’s. Like Paul, when life takes an unexpected path, let’s go to the One who is never surprised when life takes a detour. (For tips on spending time with God see “11 Tips for a Quality Quiet Time with God.”)
  2. Find Contentment in Your Present Circumstances- God never promised life would be easy and trouble-free. (For more on this see “Why Does God Allow Suffering in the Lives of Christians?”) But He has promised to help us experience contentment no matter our physical circumstances. We will find all the strength we need in Jesus (Philippians 4:13).
  3. Follow the Holy Spirit’s Direction – Paul made plans, but he knew to hold them loosely. During his second missionary journey, Paul had expected to go into one geographic area, but the Holy Spirit redirected him into another (Acts 16:6-10). God wants us to know His will for us. He will guide us if we wait, ask, and listen. (For more on hearing and following the Spirit, see “7 Keys to Hearing God’s Voice.”)
  4. Embrace New Opportunities – Paul wanted to take the Gospel to Rome. But he had not expected to go in chains. Paul had planned to preach in the synagogues and share the Gospel in the marketplaces. Instead he was confined to a house under guard. But God was not surprised. He already had plans in place to bring the people to Paul (Acts 28:16-25; Acts 28:30-31). COVID-19 erased many plans for all of us. But it’s also opened new doors of opportunity. I had to take retreats and conferences off my calendar. But God has added multiple online ministry opportunities. Look around you. What new opportunities has God given you because of  our current circumstances? Embrace them. These were God’s plans for you all along.

What has been your biggest disappoint caused by COVID-19? What has been the most exciting new opportunity?

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