Remember the words Marine Private Gomer Pyle used to repeat in almost every episode of his television show? "Surprise, surprise!" Some surprises refresh us. We're low. Under the pile. Then, out of the blue, we receive a letter of affirmation. Those lines, though few, lift our spirits. Maybe it's an unexpected phone call or a hug of reassurance that sends us soaring.
Some surprises relieve us. This certainly happened to my brother Orville and his family when they were caught in Hurricane Andrew near Miami. As the wind reached 160 miles an hour, he, his wife, and their loved ones took refuge in the master bedroom. They heard windows crash, doors blow off their hinges, and walls break apart.
Only one room sustained no damage to walls, floor, or roof: the master bedroom, where Orville and his family had huddled and prayed for six terrifying hours! And, as Orville told our sister, Luci, something good came out of the calamity. "When all the fences were blown down, we finally met all our neighbours." Surprise, surprise!
Some surprises rebuke us. In a recent "Dear Abby" column I read a poignant story. A young man from a wealthy family was about to graduate from high school. It was a custom in their affluent community for parents to give their graduating children a new car, and the boy and his dad had spent weeks visiting one dealership after another. The week before graduation they found the perfect car. The boy was certain it would be in the driveway on graduation night.
On the eve of his graduation, however, his father handed him a small package wrapped in colourful paper. It was a Bible! The boy was so angry he threw the Bible down and stormed out of the house. He and his father never saw each other again.
Several years later the news of the father's death finally brought the son home again. Following the funeral, he sat alone one evening, going through his father's possessions, when he came across the Bible his dad had given him. Overwhelmed by grief, he cracked it open for the first time. When he did, a cashier's cheque dated the day of his high school graduation fell into his lap—in the exact amount of the car they had chosen together. Rebuked by surprise!
Life is short. God is sovereign. All plans are in His hands, not ours.
Surprises are part of God's divine plan, designed to remind us that He is still in charge.
Excerpted from Day by Day with Charles Swindoll, Copyright © 2000 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. (Thomas Nelson Publishers). All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.