Let me see if I’ve got this right. All within the past 30 days there has been a total solar eclipse, record breaking hurricanes and floods, earthquakes, wildfires, and one crazy guy over in North Korea threatening to blow us all to smithereens. I’m sorry, but I’ve got to ask. What in the wild world of sports is a-goin’ on here! I don’t know about you but I’m thinking about going outside and jumping up and down to get in some Rapture practice.
In truth, the sheer number of recent extreme events has caused many to panic, not because of what has happened but because of a fear of not knowing what will happen next. Some people have even caught the feeling that the End-Times could be near (that, and an insatiable desire to buy gas. Yes, I’m talking to you, Mr. Guy-in-the-massive-gas-guzzling-truck-with-the-seventeen-additional-gas-cans!)
While I don’t claim to have any prophetic knowledge of what God is up to or why we have experienced so many life-impacting events in such a short period of time, I will tell you that I’m truly not worried. I haven’t lost any sleep fretting over what might happen next. Why? It’s because I keep thinking of one Biblical word that calms my spirit every time it comes to mind. This word can be found a few dozen times in Scripture, and it frequently appears at moments when God is about to do something amazing and life-altering. It is the word “suddenly“.
Let’s quickly look at a few examples of how this word is used.
The Announcement of Jesus’ Birth
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13–14, ESV)
Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. (Acts 9:3, ESV)
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. (Acts 2:1–2, ESV)
What’s so awesome about this word is that it reminds us that God can “show up” in an instant, and do so at the most unexpected time and in the most awe-inspiring ways. It also reminds us that God has full control, sovereignty, over when He “suddenly” decides to do anything. Only God knows the what and when of His plans. You and I don’t get a say over the sovereignty of God’s “suddenly.”
For some of you, this may not bring much comfort. We tend to be people who like to know what’s coming around the bend. We might be tempted to think, I can handle anything that comes my way if just have time to prepare. Well, toughen up Buttercup, because that’s not how it works! More often than not, those pivotal and defining moments of our lives will come, say it with me now, suddenly. God’s not going to send you a letter in the mail to say, “By the way, next Thursday you’re going to lose your job and I’m going to send you into the mission fields of Africa.”
To prove my point even further, consider this: When Jesus spoke of that glorious day when He will return in all His might and power, He said that no one, not even Himself, knows the exact day and hour! (Matt. 24:36) In the same way, Paul writes that on the Day of Resurrection that we will “be changed in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye.” (1 Cor. 15:51-52)
Let’s recap. First, we must admit that God is completely sovereign. He wouldn’t be God if He wasn’t. He has full control over all things and that includes how and when He brings certain aspects of His will to bear in your life. Second, there is ample evidence that when God does decide to intervene with your plans, He often does so without warning and quicker than you can say, “flibbertigibbet.”
So what are you and I to do? Do we live our days in fear and trepidation over what God might unexpectedly do? No. Instead, I want to offer you something to think about, an idea that I hope begins to sink in. When it comes to the sovereignty of God’s “suddenly,” you can’t predict it, you can’t really prepare for it, but what matters most is how you respond to it.
When that awesome and unexpected encounter with God came, Mary and Joseph said, “We will love and raise this Child together.” Paul said, “I’ll go where you send me.” And over the centuries countless others have said, “I will trust You no matter what happens next.” What are you going to say to God when He suddenly shows up?