The Unexpected

August 8, 2023

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow…” (James 4:13-14, NIV).


He is a close friend who has suffered much in life. Lately he’s lived in a nursing facility and unable to communicate well. He was recently admitted to the hospital with an infection and today was my first chance to visit. When I reached his hospital door, there was a sign stating, “Please check with the nurse before entering.” Also on the door was box of gloves, so I assumed contact precautions were in place. I asked the nurse about the sign. She told me to wear the gloves if I needed to touch him. When I entered his room, he was asleep and would not awaken. I checked his pulse, checked his breathing and then his pupils. Stepping out of the room, I spoke again to the nurse.


“I’m a physician, and I believe your patient has died.”


“Oh, my goodness!” she said. “You didn’t know?”


As a physician, I was not shocked at my dear friend’s death, but I was surprised by the way I discovered it. It was clearly unexpected when I walked into his room.


Much of life comes to us that way, unexpected. Death is almost always unexpected. We never fully accept that we could possibly cease to be. But that’s God’s business, and I leave it to Him to do as He will, trusting in His Word and His love, fully expecting my life to continue with death itself destroyed.


Death is God’s business. My business is to handle the unexpected on this side of glory, like Jesus did with the bleeding woman and the woman whose daughter was possessed by an evil spirit and Bartimaeus as he was leaving Jericho. None of these encounters were part of His present focus, but Jesus stopped and addressed them as significant and important.


Our world seems to be divided like that. The movement toward our present plans is one part, with all the stuff that steps in the middle of our plans as the other. Both are real life. Both require respect and prayer and guidance from the Father. Both require preparation. Whether it is an unexpected illness, or a dear friend who calls, or the luggage that fails to arrive on our mission trip, or the septic shock we did not anticipate, or a spouse who leaves, or our child in the emergency room, or a colleague who pops in with a need, or a sudden drop in our finances, or a garage door that will not open when we are late to work—all are unexpected, but each is opportunity; each is deeply integrated into God’s plan to redeem the world.


All moments have eternal significance whether planned or unexpected. The unexpected is more difficult because it makes us stop our forward progress. We have to turn and focus in a different direction. Disrupted inertia can feel like sandpaper on our rough spots.


We don’t know how Jesus felt when interrupted by the unexpected, but we know what He did. He refocused on the moment, addressed the present need and cared for the one in front of Him.


Are we prepared as followers of Christ for the unexpected, prepared to mold such moments into encounters for God?


Have we hidden God’s Word in our hearts, so His thoughts come to mind when the unexpected arrives? How much Scripture can I remember in the moment?


Are we “worshipped up?” Have we spent the time necessary to praise the One in charge and know that we can trust Him?


Is our fellowship and community of faith strong enough to learn from others, strong enough to call on others for advice and support when we are unable to stand alone?


Have we surrendered our plans each day to the only One whose plan really matters?


We cannot know or solve the unexpected until it knocks on our door; but, as followers of Christ we can be better prepared to fill such moments with His presence and plan.


Dear Father,

You know it all. Let me do what I need to accomplish your purpose in both the planned and the unexpected.


Al Weir, MD

Al Weir, MD

After leaving academic medicine, Dr. Weir served in private practice at the West Clinic in Memphis, Tennessee from 1991-2005 before joining the CMDA staff as Vice President of Campus & Community Ministries where he served for three years from 2005-2008. He is presently Professor of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Program Director for the Hematology/Oncology fellowship program. He is also President of Albanian Health Fund, an educational ministry to Albania where he has been serving for 20 years. He is the author of two books: When Your Doctor Has Bad News and Practice by the Book. Dr. Weir’s work has also been published in many medical journals and other publications. Al and his wife Becky live in Memphis, Tennessee, and they have three children and three grandchildren. Dr. Weir is currently serving on CMDA's Board of Trustees.

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