I started getting a sore throat Saturday night. Great. I feel fine all week, and the night before I have to preach, I get a sore throat. I don’t have time for a sore throat. Sore throats are inconvenient, pesky annoyances that don’t keep you from work, but they make the experience far less enjoyable.
And so it is with many of life’s interruptions. A child gets sick. A printer gets jammed. A computer won’t reboot. A van needs new struts. Your iPhone stops receiving emails. Do you get the impression these are more than hypothetical illustrations?
Your life is probably much like that. Life just happens, and a lot of it falls outside the margins of your calendar plan. I like having a plan. The Bible affirms the value of plans (Proverbs 15:22; 16:3). God has plans (Jeremiah 29:11). But our plans are not implemented in a vacuum. There are other forces at play.
When I was young, I played basketball, and our coach could draw up a great offensive plan. It looked good on paper, and we would implement it flawlessly . . . in practice . . . as long as there was no defense.
Our offensive plans are met with defensive aggravations that tend to arrive at the least convenient times.
How do we counter those inconveniences, or worse, those catastrophes?
First, make the unexpected part of your plan. That’s right—expect the unexpected. Don’t be an Eeyore who lives with gloomy disposition. Just acknowledge that God is perfect, but our lives are not. Live in trustful expectation that God will one day wipe away ever tear, and today might not be that day. And that’s O.K., because that one day will soon come.
Second, establish restful rhythm in your life. Your daily plan doesn’t have to be a busy plan. When you create margin in your life, you allow yourself breathing room to rest and respond to the unexpected. In his book, Sabbath, Wayne Muller wrote, “If we do not allow for a rhythm of rest in our overly busy lives, illness becomes our Sabbath—our pneumonia, our cancer, our heart attack, our accidents create Sabbath for us” (quoted in Ruth Haley Barton, Sacred Rhythms, 131).
Your cancer, or my heart attack, was not for the purpose of Sabbath, but affliction can result in sacred space where we welcome the presence of God into the rhythm of what is expected and unexpected. In that space, we have time to meet with God, understand and appreciate life, and live it to the full, even when we get a sore throat.
“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).