Dealing with Life’s Unexpected

Last week, my husband had surgery. The anticipated overnight stay post-surgery evolved into three nights. On the day of discharge, the process dragged on for hours, making us arrive home late. A few complications landed us in the ER the next night. Unexpected.

Several people special to me recently received cancer diagnoses. Unexpected.

I know a young couple who desperately want a child, yet their arms are still empty. Unexpected.

Friends are navigating a sudden life upheaval. Unexpected.

Often, things don’t go as we envision. We plan, but when the unexpected occurs, we’re surprised, upset, even angry.

The following come with the unexpected:

Feelings of unfairness – When my children were young, they often wailed, “No fair,” when the unexpected occured. We all feel that way at times, but we aren’t promised a life free of complications. While it’s normal to feel what is happening to you is undeserved, avoid self-pity, which impedes the process of moving beyond the situation.

Feeling out of control – Most of us live with the illusion we’re in control of our lives, but it only takes one brush with the unexpected to quell that myth. Instead, trust God’s timing and purposes you cannot yet see.

Feeling you failed – Don’t be your own worst enemy by listening to voices that say you didn’t try hard enough, manage well enough, weren’t smart enough, capable enough, or whatever enough. As difficult as it is to understand, many elements factor into what happened other than your abilities, and, in time, you may see blessings from what you now perceive as devastation.

Regaining Forward Motion

Resist reruns – When the unexpected happens, resist the urge to pitch your tent on the event and camp there. Yes, it’s important to process the emotions, but don’t keep hitting the replay button, rehashing events, and reanalyzing details. Look ahead instead of behind.

Recognize affirmations – Sometimes, when you feel beaten down, you fail to see elements of affirmation in your circumstances. Instead, pay attention when people provide positive feedback and encouragement. Don’t get so focused on negatives you fail to recognize positives. Be open to and aware of affirmation.

Find Humor – Despite many unexpected events following Jim’s surgery, we have been able to find humor in the mundane. Humor is not an effort to dismiss the struggle, rather humor lightens the load.

Focus on what’s ahead – Many times, people can’t let go of a difficult life experience, returning to it like a vulture to carrion. They continue picking the scab off the wound and won’t allow themselves to heal.

Often, forward motion requires closing one door and taking a few uncertain steps before opening the next one. Don’t allow a difficult life event to define and shape the rest of your life. Break chains bind you to the past and move into the future.

Trust – Trust is hard because it involves believing the yet unseen will happen. God never promised we’d be free of hardship and struggle, but he promised to walk the journey with us, carry us when we falter, and make a way where none is visible.

“Even when I must walk through the darkest valley, I fear no danger, for you are with me; your rod and your staff reassure me.” (Psalm 23:4 NET).


Candy Arrington is a writer, blogger, speaker, and freelance editor. She often writes on tough topics with a focus on moving through, and beyond, difficult life circumstances. Candy has written hundreds of articles, stories, and devotionals published by numerous outlets including:,,,,, Focus on the Family,,, and Writer’s Digest. Candy’s books include Life on Pause: Learning to Wait Well (Bold Vision Books), When Your Aging Parent Needs Care (Harvest House), and AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B&H Publishing Group).

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