January 28, 2023

Unexpected Twists

I struggle somewhat with the idea that God allows to fall on us only what he knows we are capable of enduring.

Clifford Goldstein

Eva* had been married for 35 years when her husband left her for another woman. “Life,” she said, shaking her head as if to erase the new reality (it didn’t), “sure can take unexpected twists, can’t it?” 

It can, and does—which is why we’ve all heard others utter the line (or some version thereof ), “Life takes unexpected twists.” And, perhaps, we have uttered it about our own? 

Maybe life itself is merely, or even mostly, navigating those twists? Though they can be good, that’s not usually how it works. Some twists come so slowly, so quietly (like an addiction or a forbidden affection), that, without us realizing it, they have put us on a detour that we would not have otherwise chosen. It’s the dramatic events, i.e., divorce, job loss, sudden death, debilitating trauma, or disease: these are the ones that show us how, after even one sunset, we can wake up to a world—filtered through the new perspective caused by the twist—radically different from the day before. 

We are, though (forgetting Darwinian mythology), remarkably adaptive beings. Given enough time, life settles down, and the change that the twist has dropped upon us becomes our new reality. And however much we might hate it, and maybe will never be fully reconciled to it—we nevertheless get used to things, don’t we? It is what it is, and what it is might not be what we wanted or deserve, but we somehow become our old selves again. Or almost, anyway. 

Also, and most important, we cannot forget our God, who has shown us in innumerable ways not only His existence but His love. God is ever present and remains the one in whom “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28), even when how we live, move, and have our being has been upended by an unexpected and (especially at first) intolerable twist. And for what it’s worth, and for whatever comfort (if any) it might give, however unexpected the twist is to us, it was not to God. 

I struggle somewhat with the idea that God allows to fall on us only what He knows we are capable of enduring. (Did God, for instance, just happen to have arranged it so that the hundreds, if not thousands, of Christians who lost loved ones on September 11 were all people He knew could handle it?) But I do know that God loves us, and that if we make a determined effort to focus on that love, and on all the expressions of it (seen most powerfully and undeniably at the cross); and that if we can surrender ourselves to Him, claiming His promises, then we can endure. Sure, who wants merely to endure? But sometimes, with what life throws at us, enduring is the best that we can hope for, at least for a while. 

I met Eva for the first time on the morning that her husband walked out. The twist, so unexpected and radical, left her spinning dizzily. In the years since, however, her faith has remained strong, and she’s doing just fine, thank you. 

* Not her real name.