In January, one of my clients said he couldn’t pay me for the work I was doing for him. He related hardships he’d never experienced in all his years of running his clinic.
On a small scale, my business challenges mirrored his. As I sat in his office, I asked if I could share something. He said yes. I scribbled on a Post-It note what God had put on my heart the last day of 2019:
EXPECT the impossible.
CELEBRATE the unseen.
And PRAISE God for it.
I explained that I pray at the end of each year for personal and business guidance. And God always surprises me with what He says. God had said that 2020 would be a year of sifting for Christians.
(Is our faith planted firmly where it should be? In the vernacular, is our money where our mouth is?)
My client, a Christian doctor, thanked me for the encouragement and stuck the Post-It on his computer.
A month later, coronavirus became a household word.
The doctor’s clinic closed. I had no billable work in February or March.
Isaiah 64:3-4 (BSB) has become my anchor this year:
“When You did awesome works that we did not expect, You came down, and the mountains trembled at Your presence. From ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides You, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.”
You could say God’s watchword to us is, “Expect the unexpected.”
God works in ways we don’t expect and can’t understand.
“When You did awesome works that we did not expect” (Isaiah 64:3) is an Exodus retrospective. Surrounded by high crags, the Egyptian army, and the Red Sea, the Israelites were sure they would die there. God knew they wouldn’t understand what He was doing, so He kept it simple. He commanded the Israelites to stand still. And told them what they needed most—assurance. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the LORD’s salvation, which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again” (Exodus 14:13, BSB).
God works in ways we don’t look for.
How often do we rely on our limited, preconceived notions of what God should do for us? They can birth well-intentioned but misguided prayers. But Isaiah 64:3 says God is in the business of doing things never before witnessed. How can we perceive things we’ve never seen? God urges us to break free from our limited perspective. Think larger. Pray bigger. The only way we can do that is to claim in faith that God works in ways we can’t see or fathom.
God works in ways we sometimes fear.
Different translations of Isaiah 64:3 say “awesome works” or “fearful works.” Hebrew has two words for fear: one to describe dread of impending calamity. And the word used here, which depicts awesome reverence for God.
Sometimes we’re afraid to pray. What God will require of me? What He will do next? It may be too hard to handle. God says to banish that fear; it’s not of Him. When we believe all of God’s intentions are good (Jeremiah 29:11), we can thank Him for whatever comes next, no matter the circumstances or cost. We can pray with fervor, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Easy to say. Harder to do.
God works in our waiting.
We fight the notion that sometimes our most important task is to wait on God. But it’s an active waiting. We pray and anticipate what He will reveal in His perfect timing. If that frustrates you as it does me sometimes, try searching the Bible on “fullness of time,” and “it came to pass.” Both phrases show how God lines up so many things—often over hundreds of years—for an event to happen at the perfect time. Only an infinite, all-knowing God can do that.
Since the beginning of the world, God has been working in unexpected ways. The Israelites learned and relearned that truth. Flip back one chapter to Isaiah 63. It beautifully shows a penitent Israelite nation remembering God’s goodness to them.
“I will make known the LORD’s loving devotion and His praiseworthy acts, because of all that the LORD has done for us … according to His great compassion and loving devotion. For He said, “They are surely My people … So He became their Savior” (Isaiah 63:7-8, BSB).
So He became their Savior.
God’s most unexpected, unforeseen act. Ever. Hallelujah!