One of my favorite musicians of late has been Sondre Lerche… don’t worry I had trouble pronouncing that name too. Anyway, he has written a couple of great songs including “Two-Way Monologue” and “Say it All” but one of my favorites is from the soundtrack for Dan in Real Life (a really good movie by the way) called “To Be Surprised”. So, I was listening to that song and thinking how little we tend to be prepared to be surprised. I mean, yes, we buy insurance so we are prepared to be surprised in case of a natural disaster, we put on seat belts to be prepared to be surprised by an on-coming car… but what about the good things?
In some ways, it seems like an oxymoron, preparing indicates that we know something is coming, and to know something is coming is to NOT be surprised. So, what does it mean?
Coming at this from a Christian standpoint, we should always be prepared to be surprised by what God is trying to do in our lives. James talks about those who ask from God, yet aren’t prepared for him to answer – in this case he is talking specifically about wisdom…
5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:5-6
Jesus specifically talks about asking for needs according to his will…
22″Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23″I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:22-25
Too often it goes like this: we pray, we don’t believe, and we don’t receive. So of course prayer doesn’t work. Of course, then, you are not really praying.
Now, I am not saying that God gives us a blank check to pray for anything and everything I want and if I am just ready to receive it then it will be. That’s not what Jesus is saying, and that is not what James is saying. Preparation to be surprised by God means we must ask for things that will honor him and glorify him. Sometimes that means we glory in the good things he offers us… life, health, good jobs, plenty of food, etc. Other times he gets glory by sustaining us through the bad times. Jesus himself asked in the Garden that the cup of God’s wrath might not be poured out on him, “But not my will, but your will be done…” Jesus said. God’s glory was made great in Christ suffering… and then his resurrection.
You see, for us, sometimes we ask for things and God says, “Yes” other times God says, “No or Later”. But the surprise comes in what God does with what he does and does not give us. Sometimes we get what we want and are surprised by the abundance. And other times we suffer and then are surprised at how we become better, stronger, wiser, and yes, happier people.
Being prepared to be surprised means leaning into God’s wisdom and grace no matter what the circumstances.