Embracing the Unexpected

by Julie Zine Coleman

Life rarely goes according to plan.

Four years ago, my daughter-in-law Bethany went into early labor. As we waited in the hospital lobby, we were concerned. The baby was in distress. He would be born ten weeks early. Bethany had not had an easy pregnancy. I fervently prayed for her and the baby’s well-being and resolutely determined to trust in a good God.

When my son Daniel finally arrived in the waiting room, he was crying. Bethany was fine, but the baby was not. There were severe complications. He had to be resuscitated three times. His abdomen was filled with fluid. He could not breathe on his own. He was severely anemic. His facial features indicated Down Syndrome. They didn’t think he would live through the night.

The next morning, I awoke to the cheerful voices of Joseph’s two big brothers as they charged out of our guest room to start the day. I lay in bed, knowing I needed to get them breakfast, yet feeling that the mere act of getting out of bed was impossible. I wearily asked God: “How could you? Why would you bring this kind of trouble into this sweet family?”

God immediately impressed His answer right into my heart. “Am I good? You need to decide what you believe about me.”

I knew the danger in forming any ideas about Him through looking at the situation. I could easily be misled by my limited, emotionally tainted perceptions. What we know about God cannot come from circumstances. Rather, we should define our circumstances based on what we know to be true about God.

So after breakfast, I sat down to think through what I knew about the character of God from His Word. He is holy. His integrity is beyond reproach. He is love. Compassion marks His dealings with us. He freely and continually gives us grace.

God’s actions are never spontaneous, erratic, or arbitrary. They are outflows of His nature. Whatever conclusion I came to about God’s dealings with us in this crisis, it had to be within the parameters of His unchanging character. I needed to interpret our circumstances in light of the Circumstance Maker.

Whether or not I understood what was happening, I could trust Him because He is good. As Paul wrote the Ephesians, God moves and works “according to the kind intention of His will” (Ephesians 1:5 NASB). I chose that morning to trust Him. No matter what lay ahead.

As I slowly rose to my feet, it was with a deepening sense of dependency on the God who kindly directs my path. I would cling to Him like a life preserver through the fog of grief and uncertainty. And I would be better for it.

Saying yes to God allows Him to make Himself known to us. It opens a conduit for His blessing. When our hearts are soft, willing to listen, eager to obey, we are moldable. We have cultivated the soil. We are ready for transformation.

Over the next ten weeks in Children’s Hospital’s Newborn Critical Care Unit, Joseph slowly improved. Eventually, he went home to start life with his family. God has great plans for this child. Even at four years old, his little life has already had an impact on an enormous number of caring friends and strangers. We are blessed with every smile and accomplishment. God continues to make Himself known through it all as we love and trust Him for Joseph’s life.

He is good.

“The Lord, the Lord God, [is] compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth.” Exodus 34:6

Julie-Coleman-with-Sasha-682x1024About the author: Julie Coleman helps others to understand and know an unexpected God. A popular conference and retreat speaker, she holds an M.A. in biblical studies. Her award-winning book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women, was published in 2013 by Thomas Nelson. Julie is the managing editor for Arise Daily. When she is not glaring at her computer, she spends time with her grandchildren, gardening, or walking her neurotic dog. More on Julie can be found at unexpectedgod.com and Facebook.

Free Book Contest!  Arise Daily will use a random number generator to pick a winner Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 2.39.03 PMfrom today’s comments. To enter our contest for Julie’s book, Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed through Jesus’ Conversations with Women,  please comment below.  By posting in our comments, you are giving us permission to share your name if you win!  If you have an outside the US mailing address, your prize could be substituted with an e-book of our choice.

Join the conversation: What character quality makes it possible for you to trust God?





17 thoughts on “Embracing the Unexpected

  1. Julie, your words blessed me so much. This thought you shared brought hope to me today, “What we know about God cannot come from circumstances. Rather, we should define our circumstances based on what we know to be true about God.” I am holding fast to that truth today. Thank you for being obedient to Him and sharing hope, my friend!


    1. So true! It is why His great works for Israel are repeated over and over again in the Old Testament. We need to remember his faithfulness in the past, and know he will not change on that in our future. Thanks, Susie!


  2. Because God never changes…
    My future is secure and eternal.
    “Who has done such mighty deeds, directing the affairs of the human race as each new generation marches by? It is I, the LORD, the First and the Last. ” (Isaiah 41:4)


    1. I love that verse! “Directing the affairs of the human race” in each new generation. He is personal and involved.


  3. I love your devotional, so heart warming to the soul. There is only good in God and trust Him that whatever happens He will use it for His good. A precious baby formed, delicately knitted together in a mother’s womb. Beautiful, created in the image of God, fearfully and wonderfully made. Our God who is Love.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amen, Julie. God is always good. Though life can be painful, He uses even those things I do not understand, and turns them into something beautiful for life and eternity. The morning is coming when all our tears will be turned into joy and dancing, where all will be healed and made whole. Sheri


  5. Love, love, love what you wrote, Julie! Such important truths that we need to remember and rehearse daily. One thing I say a lot is that our circumstances don’t change who God is; they show us who God is.

    I especially like the comment you made about our needing to decide what we believe about God. That gets a big AMEN from me. Thank you for writing such good, thought-provoking stuff! Big hugs! 🙂


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