What to Expect When You Weren’t Expecting

I come from a family of book lovers. Finding a cozy spot in some quiet corner of the house and curling up with a great book is a treat for the Swindolls.

Shortly before my first child was born, the book titled What to Expect When You’re Expecting was published. It is in a stack along with many other books I read at the time. The What to Expect series was a reference set on child development for me until I had a child that didn’t fit the typical process. Then I wanted to have a book titled What to Expect When You Weren’t Expecting.

But there wasn’t anything like that available, and there still isn’t a book that can answer the quandaries that come when our circumstances don’t match our expectations. Though Scripture is our What to Expect guide for this life, how often we develop a false sense of security by believing that knowledge, determination, and good choices will protect us from pain. And yet, so it is with growing up and growing old. The unexpected happens . . . we find ourselves divorced or disabled, or helping one who is bitter or bankrupt or betrayed, or baffled that our loved one died too early or that we are dying from a terminal illness, and we think, Where in the world is God?

If you have ever asked that question, you are in good company. Raising a disabled loved one, having disabilities myself, having been divorced, and currently caring for a loved one with cancer and another with Alzheimer’s, I have learned some things that you can expect regardless.

  1. God’s Word does tell us what to expect in this life, but because it’s not always comfortable we often overlook those truths. The Bible tells us life will be difficult (begin in Genesis 3); that life will be unfair such as it was for Joseph, Hannah, David, Stephen, and also Jesus; that life will have sorrow and people will suffer. Once we choose to accept these truths, our expectations need to be examined.
  2. God’s Word does help us establish our expectations. Knowing that I can expect pain or losses or hardships too big for me to understand, that I will be weak and afraid, that I will feel unable and that things are unfair, helps me know I’ll need God’s help to make it through. As a result, we live in the truth and God provides for us a refuge and place of security.
  3. God’s Word does provide promises we can count on that give life purpose and meaning. Here are a few. He promises security and rest (Matthew 11:28–30; Colossians 2:10); unconditional love and forgiveness (Romans 8); tender care (Psalm 30:8–12; 147:3); strength through suffering (1 Peter 5:10); comfort (2 Corinthians 1:1–11); and to be our refuge (Psalm 27:5).