Recently, I celebrated a new-decade birthday. I happily assumed successful navigation into this next tens bracket with a low-key family dinner and a minimum of fanfare.
When my daughter called a few days later and suggested getting together for casual dinner at a local restaurant, I didn’t think the invitation was anything unusual. She met us at the door the next night and said, “Come with me. I want you to meet someone.” I was almost to the door of the “party room” before I realized the “someone” was about thirty people there to celebrate my birthday! I was pleasantly surprised that my sneaky family had duped me.
Do you like surprises? Some people really don’t, for a variety of reasons.
When I was a child, my mother occasionally promised to bring me a surprise if she went somewhere and left me with a sitter. The surprises were usually something small—plastic fingernails (remember those?), paper dolls, or a yo-yo—but the promised surprise was enough to keep me on the edge of anticipation as I awaited her return.
Life often hands us surprises. Some are pleasant; others aren’t. Perhaps you’ve experienced more than your fair share of unpleasant surprises—the sudden loss of a loved one, an unwanted health diagnosis, a job loss, betrayal by someone you trusted, or a shattered dream. These types of surprises leave us shaken and confused, struggling to find reasons, understand the whys, or formulate a response.
Here are some ways to keep moving forward even when the unexpected is lurking around the next corner:
Accept your lack of control – Usually, those who don’t like surprises are attempting to maintain control of every aspect of their lives. They find even a positive surprise annoying because it was unexpected and beyond their control. But in admitting there are surprise elements to life, you accept your humanness and acknowledge that many aspects of everyday living are beyond your control.
Stop worrying about looking stupid – Surprises catch us off guard, and sometimes, make us feel stupid for not figuring out ahead of time what was about to happen. Most of the time, we’re more critical of ourselves than others are. You’re not stupid for not realizing some area of your life was about to explode or implode. Only God is all-knowing and it’s not up to us to anticipate or second-guess his timing and plan for our lives.
Avoid expecting the worst – Often, when we’re repeatedly surprised by life, there is tendency to disengage from those around us and turn inward. We start waiting for the next bad thing to happen and fail to miss pleasant encounters, the beauty of nature, or something as simple as an unscheduled day. Expecting to be surprised by disappointments, difficulties, and defeat robs you of joy and makes you less receptive to positive surprises.
Learn to find positives in the negatives – As a child, I often imagined what my mother would bring as my surprise, and sometimes I was disappointed. Eventually, I learned to enjoy something about the gift no matter what it was. Learning to find something good in unexpected, difficult life circumstances presents much more of a challenge than finding a positive upturn to a less-than-wanted gift. It’s a little like digging for buried treasure, and most of the time, we give up before discovering the nuggets at the bottom of the mine. No matter what the situation, keep searching. Don’t give up. Anticipate a desirable surprise and rejoice when you find it.
“And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness—secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.” (Isaiah 45:3 NLT)