It was completely unexpected. A real “out of the blue” kind of happening. For months I hadn’t taken the time to call our trash removal company and request a dumpster repair. One of the wheels had fallen off. Each Wednesday morning found me wrestling the thing to the road, scraping up the driveway, making yet one more mental note (“…I gotta call those trash people!”)
Then, when I least expected it, I walked to the end of the driveway and there it was! A shiny new set of wheels. (It may, in fact, have been a new dumpster. I couldn’t really tell. I wasn’t that close to the old one.) I was thrilled. I even considered a victory lap around the neighborhood, but discretion quickly won out. I tipped it back and easily parked it in its designated spot in the garage.
On the drive to the office, I began to muse over how we handle the unexpected. When the unexpected happy happens, we are thrilled and smiley. But what about the unexpected sad moments? Because they are unexpected, I think they reveal something about our true selves. What lies deep within finds its way out when the unexpected sad happens.
None of us looks forward to difficult developments in our lives, but that doesn’t stop them from coming. Where does your mind immediately travel when the unexpected sad comes? In those terrible and precious moments when, as a pastor, I have been present with people in their most difficult hours, I have noted something meaningful. The people whose lives are characterized by a sincere walk with Christ have a deep reservoir of peace. Following the initial shock, they don’t careen wildly through despair, but they dig into the foundations that have held them secure.
I suspect they are no strangers to Isaiah 26: 3, “You will keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.” Long ago, perhaps, they decided to embody Proverbs 3: 5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Spiritual training is like most other kinds of training in that we train in the calm so when the crisis comes, we are prepared. What anchors the sincere disciple in the unexpected sad is the spiritual strength built into the routines of life.
Here’s my unsolicited email advice. Begin, or begin again, to build your spiritual foundations in the routine of your daily life. Feed your mind on the promises of God and your soul on contemplative prayer. Make time for this each day. The inspired scriptures offer renewal, and the King of Kings offers you a private audience.
Here’s to hoping for many “unexpected happies” in your life. But when the “inevitable sad” comes, you can be strong. Jesus offers a refrain in the Sermon on the Mount. I think it fits here. “…then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”