Without Warning

We live in a culture that puts a warning label on nearly everything. We are warned against smoking, diving into the shallow end of the pool, or using the hair dryer in the bathtub. Labels insist that we “shake well before using” or “take with food”. Signs warn us that trespassers will be prosecuted and unattended cars will be towed. Children should not stand in grocery carts, and no one should stand on the top rung of a ladder. We may fire a “warning shot” or hear a “warning bell”. Our society tries desperately to predict all outcomes and avoid everything that is dangerous or unpleasant. Too often, our need to feel like we are in control subordinates common sense and adventure to a flimsy façade of safety.

Sometimes God sends warnings. He warned Noah about the flood and Joseph about the impending famine. He warned Elijah about the coming drought and the coming rainstorm. He warned Joseph to get Mary and Jesus out of Bethlehem before Herod’s troops arrived. He warned Peter that Satan was going to “sift” him and that he would betray Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. But when God sent warnings, they required action.

Sometimes there is no warning. Medical emergencies and accidents are never scheduled for our convenience. We have our day all planned and suddenly the phone rings, the toilet overflows, the car gets a flat tire. If we knew when the stock market crash would occur, we would get our money out in time to save it. If we knew the policeman was running radar, we’d have slowed before we rounded the curve. Even Publisher’s Clearing House surprises the winners.

We go through each day of our lives expecting them to be predictable, but, every once in a while we face a moment that changes our future without warning. We meet our soul mate or the one who will inspire us to become more than we are. There is a surprise diagnosis on a routine medical exam or a sudden crisis that totally refocuses our priorities. An opportunity appears or a natural disaster wipes out our security in a moment. We face life changing moments with no warning, and how we handle them indicates what we believe about God, our character, and our priorities.

The Bible is full of stories of people who wake up one morning, just like every other morning, with no warning that their lives were about to change. Joseph went to check on his brothers and ended up in a pit before being sold into slavery. Moses was tending sheep when he saw the burning bush. David was delivering provisions to his brothers in the army when he heard the taunts of Goliath. Who knows what Mary was doing when Gabriel appeared. Peter, James, and John went on a hike up the mountain with Jesus and ran into Elijah and Moses. The disciples were having a prayer meeting when wind raced through the room and tongues of fire landed on their head. Paul was headed to Damascus to arrest some Christians when a bright light interrupted him. The Samaritan Woman went to get water from the well, and met the love of her life. Their priorities changed in an instant, and their lives changed forever.

God does not promise to warn us, but he does promise us his presence and power, no matter what the circumstance is. How we respond to the warnings, how we respond to events that don’t come with a warning, are probably the best indicators of what we believe about God. We are not guaranteed tomorrow, but we are promised forever if we choose to love him and obey him. He has warned us that he’s coming back for us and that we will be judged. We don’t have the timeline, but we do know his expectations. Embrace God’s interruptions in your life. Choose to live each day expectantly. See all that happens as an opportunity to know his presence and have a front row seat to his activity in your world. Sometimes you will be surprised by delight; sometimes it may be fear or tragedy; always God is with you.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good for those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Acts8:28)