The Worst Response When Life Doesn’t Turn Out Like You Thought

Margaret —  March 17, 2014 — 48 Comments

The Worst Response When Life Doesn’t Turn Out Like You Thought

He’s easy to pass by. That forerunner of Christ tends to make brief, odd appearances.

John the Baptist wore the kind of clothes Goodwill would reject for a donation. He survived on an ancient, minimalist version of the South Beach diet. Some protein. A few carbs. Small portions. And the nasty aftertaste of those honey-covered locusts.

Yet John burned with a fiery passion for God. The sparks flew in his preaching. He described a kingdom coming that would leave everyone in shock and awe. The holiness. The wrath. The mercy.

Then one day something startling happened.

Jesus showed up. John’s fiery preaching cools in humble acknowledgement that the Promised One is here:

“I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy spirit—will change you from the inside out.” (Mark 1:7-8)

When Jesus approaches John to be baptized, the prophet resists. Jesus should be baptizing John, not the other way around. But Jesus is insistent.

Yet the ministry of John and Jesus couldn’t be more different:

John preaches firm justice while Jesus preaches God as a party-thrower for his lost son.

John lives a life of austerity as Jesus feasts among the riffraff.

While John baptizes, Jesus heals.

If John is like a bulldog, growling and barking for holiness, Jesus appears more like a gentle Labrador inviting people to a new life in God’s kingdom.

Perhaps it was these distinctions that made John the Baptist second-guess. John had been arrested and thrown into prison. The grime. The filth. The disease. The darkness. All gnawed away at him until he began to second-guess.

Maybe he’s preached the wrong Gospel. Followed the wrong Messiah. Wasted his life on something that wasn’t true.

In a prison, John likely wrestled with a question that appears in most our lives sooner or later:

What do we do when life doesn’t turn out like we thought?

Those moments, much like John the Baptist, can make us feel like we’re trapped inside a penitentiary of our own making. We may be tempted to give up. Shut down. Quit altogether.

But those are the worst responses we can have when life doesn’t turn out like expected.

Instead, we are challenged by John to keep crying out to Christ. To keep turning toward Him. To keep seeking Jesus even when we don’t understand.

John sends two of his disciples to Jesus with the following question: “Are you the One we’ve been expecting, or are we still waiting?” (Luke 7:20)

Jesus turns to the Book of Isaiah to provide a coded answer:

“The blind see,

The lame walk,

Lepers are cleansed,

The deaf hear,

The dead are raised,

The wretched of the heart have God’s salvation hospitality extended to them.”

All refer to the six signs in the book of Isaiah the Messiah will perform when he comes. But the response is void of one important Messianic sign: Proclaiming freedom to the captives (Isaiah 61:1).

Jesus delicately tells John that even though He is the Messiah, John will not be set free. Soon after the forerunner of Christ is beheaded.*

The worst response to when life doesn't go your way.

*Stern, David. H. Jewish New Testament Commentary. p. 42.

*Original Photo Source


Not Who I Imagined (Giveaway plus an Interview with @MargotStarbuck @ReadBakerBooks) This week I'm giving away THREE copies of Margot Starbuck's brand new book, Not Who I Imagined. 

Margot (MDiv, Princeton Theological Seminary) is the confessions editor for Geez Magazine's Sinner's Corner, and a blogger for Red Letter ChristiansHer.meneuticsGifted for Leadership, and FullFill. She lives in North Carolina.

“Grace does not erase who you are. It’s not putting a shiny coat of Jesus-paint over a horribly mildewed and rotting wall. It means, instead, that all that you are is known by God—and received in full.”-Margot Starbuck, Not Who I Imagined.

I recently asked Margot how this book has impacted her spiritual life and the lives of her readers. I have a feeling her answer will make you want to snag a copy of Not Who I Imagined.

As I gathered these delicious stories, especially some folks’ near-death encounters with God—the marginal Christian who’s overwhelmed by God’s gracious love, or the non-believer who’s held and affirmed and received by someone she realizes is Jesus—I couldn’t help but be encouraged and inspired. What I suspected in my deep places, that God’s gracious countenance and loving presence are like none I’ve experienced in this world, was confirmed.

And readers? They’ve been just as hungry and thirsty as I was. When they realize that there’s this fresh possibility, that they could encounter a God who smiles upon them, they’re itchy to encounter Him.

To win ONE of THREE copies of Not Who I Imagined, enter a comment on the original post at Winners will be selected and announced on Friday.

Congratulations to the winners: Kathy, Star, Mary Beth

What are you learning as we read the #LentChallenge? How has Jesus surprised or delighted because he isn't who you imagined?

48 responses to The Worst Response When Life Doesn’t Turn Out Like You Thought

  1. I’ve never seen spelled out the difference between John the Baptist and Jesus like that. I think Jesus has surprised me the most at a church prayer for those who know God loves them but don’t feel that love. I thought it didn’t matter that it wasn’t something I felt. Maybe God didn’t want you to feel. So it was delightful to be prayed for that I would feel loved and to know God does want to communicate that love even through emotions.

  2. So thankful that we captives are now free!

  3. Very good points pointing out the differences between Jesus and John.I often wonder how Americans would respond to a John the Baptist in our society?

  4. Margaret,
    I’m so enjoying your sharing as well as the lent challenge. You havebeen an inspiration to me. Thank you!!

  5. I wish we lived in the same town. I would so love to visit with you face-to-face.

  6. Loving the Lent Challenge! God is faithful daily and yet when things don’t go the way we expect we cry out “Show me a sign!” just like the Pharisees did in the gospels. We scoff and wonder how they didn’t see that Jesus was the son of GOD, and yet when things don’t go our way we respond with that same doubt ourselves.

  7. This post really struck me.
    Keeping in the forefront of my mind that our experiences as humans do not trump God’s truth, is the only way I can keep putting one foot in front of the other.

  8. “Proclaiming freedom to the captives”. Keeping our eyes on Jesus and His Word, relying on His promises and His deliverance, His miracles, His healing.

    Thank you Margaret for your transparency, sharing what God has done in your life, and keeping our focus on Him no matter what our trials and tribulations may be.

  9. Thank you for this reminder today.

  10. It is easy for us to forget to turn to Him when things do not go our way. Thank you for the timely reminder.

  11. I’m thirsty and would love to win a copy. Thank you for the opportunity!

  12. This was exactly what I needed today! Thanks Margaret:)

  13. Great article. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  14. The cry of my heart last night: “Lord, this is not how my life was supposed to turn out!”. Oh my word, Margaret, you have no idea…NO idea how this ministered to me. Our God is indeed awesome and great – and so tender and loving and personal. I am WONDERSTRUCK right now…

  15. You always offer such interesting books on your site. Thanks for the opportunity to read “Not What I Imagined”. I’m still Wonderstruck by your books and your return to good health. Keep us posted on how you are doing! God bless!

  16. Facing my ‘worst response’ ultimately led me to a deeper, and more trusting walk with God. Thank you for bringing up this meaningful reality of the spiritual life.

  17. Mary MacFarlane March 17, 2014 at 11:26 am

    I very much needed to hear today’s thoughts, thank you for the inspiration, since it reminded me that God is in control and I can depend upon him when the going is tough, and I am ready to throw my hands up in desperation. Winning a copy of your book would be a very pleasant surprise, Kindly, Mary Mac

  18. I think many can appreciate the feeling of being accepted for who we are and what got us to that point is transforming as we strive to live changed lives. Loving your Bible study Wonderstruck, we’re on week 3 and it just keeps getting better!

  19. Carolyn Hilpipre March 17, 2014 at 11:29 am

    No matter what we face in life, if we cling to Jesus, He will not fail us.

  20. This was exactly what I needed, especially in this season that I’m going through trying to find myself in Christ again. Thank you for this post!

  21. I often think of John when I come across that section of verse and how he felt being locked up and hoping Jesus was going to release him, especially since they were related. I think that would be the hardest trial ever to go through, other than loosing a child. John must have initially been devastated and confused; not knowing why he is still in prison and not outside. What he didn’t know was that he had to diminish as Jesus the became greater focus. It would take much prayer and a lot of faith on John’s part to see that and I know our Father had to have told him to give him peace. This is coupled with the fact that Jesus did not visit John in prison but then it might have been too dangerous for Him to do that. And I am sure that Jesus was saddened knowing what John was thinking and feeling and also what was going to take place; John’s beheading. It had to have effected Jesus deeply. But Jesus was also joyous because the two of them would be united in Heaven.

  22. When I read and listen to the words of the bible, I look at all the sacrifices that were bestowed on the people. They gave up their families and livelihood to follow Jesus even if it meant starvation, sickness, imprisonment and eventually death.To be a person who is a true believer with no questions asked to live on pure identifiable faith. What a true testament to John the Baptist (follower) that he was to Jesus. His own disciples even after following with Jesus for years still questioned. Truly an amazing story and such a harsh circumstance to endure.

  23. What freedom there is in remembering that God is who He says He is, and that we are created in His image not the other way around…

  24. Yes, I too am learning that life is not always what I imagined, as I grow into a new role as a widow with physical limitations. Each day there are challenges to trust Him and allow Him to show me His will and way for me. What a blessing to have encouragement from His Word & His people.

  25. I’ve found myself getting angry with God when my plans do not mesh with HIS plan for my life. I am constantly amazed at his understanding of my humanity and willingness to meet me at my point of need but not allow me to wallow in my self made pity party.

  26. Gods timing is so prefect. I recieved my healing about 7 years ago. But I have moved away from that church family and over time gotten much weaker in my body but not in my faith. I still believe but its much more chalenging when its just me and God. I know God still knows where I am and he still has a plan. I look forward to reading this book. Kathy

  27. To be known by God…that may not be what we prayed for but it is what we desperately want and need.

  28. Margaret, thank you for your wonderful post today. your words have helped remind me that running away from challenges is not the answer. It is always easier to look at the problems instead of at God the problem solver.
    I loved the way you your articles makes me look at my life from a different perspective
    thank you

  29. Amazing God’s grace. As I struggle through some challenges in my life, I have prayed and asked God to show me more of HIM. I open my heart, ears, to a deeper understanding of his love for me, his grace, and what he asks me to do toward his desires and purpose for me. This morning I believe He has used you and your thoughts to guide me to seeing another facet of Gods face and loving grace. His timing and actions are so perfect and exactly what I need to hear, see, and feel. Thank you for being a vessel for God’s grace as it pours out into the world.

  30. I would love to win a copy of the book you are giving away, “Not Who I Imagined” by Margot Starbuck. I was engaged on NYE and by the middle of January he ended it…I’ve been left heartbroken and confused and feeling “not good enough”….and trying to believe that God doesn’t see me the same…despite knowing the true. It’s sometimes easier said than done. Thank you for the timely blog post…

  31. William Hancock March 17, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    I would love to win a copy of this book! Everything about it sounds like a journey of my own faith recently.

  32. Good post today, something to think long on. Would love to win book, sounds great!

  33. Stephanie Butler March 17, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    I truly believe the four most difficult words we can ever say are, “Your will, not mine.” But they are also the most powerful, releasing us from our own bondage.

  34. Melinda Lancaster March 17, 2014 at 7:06 pm

    I love the way you compared and contrasted these two guys. I’m enjoying reading along through the New Testament. It is a “real challenge” not to stop and park along the way for too long.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  35. It’s definitely hard when life doesn’t turn out like you thought or wanted – I’ve learned a lot about this as a single woman. But I like what you said about still crying out to Jesus and reaching out to Him even when we don’t understand. That’s all we can do and it is so beautiful. He is so faithful.

  36. When Jesus learns of John’s death, He tries to get away by himself. But the crowd won’t let him. So He stays and ministers. So many of the things Jesus did are truly out of my realm, and so easy to excuse my lack. But this is something that any of us could do, and so challenging for me.

  37. Anxious to read this book!

  38. As I am reading thru the #LentChallenge, I am amazed at how Jesus leveled the playing field.
    The law had replaced love making the scales tip so much so that one had to be perfect (or give off the appearance of perfection) only an elite, secluded fraction could ever hope to be approved by God. That kind of thinking crushed the masses, leaving them with no hope. BUT Jesus came and lifted them up. He said All the Law of Moses and all the words of the Profits (which is the entire Old Testament) can be summed up in this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and strength AND love people. LOVE GOD / LOVE PEOPLE.
    If we truly love God we will Love people. Jesus was our example of how to do that.

  39. Shelia Russell March 18, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Thanks for sharing, would love to read book.

  40. Jesus has surprised me when he truly used heartbreak to bring joy into my life. Life doesn’t always go the way we plan.

  41. Very interesting comparison/contrast between John and Jesus.

  42. In the last decade I have been through many, many things that I thought would/could destroy my faith in God. The things He allowed me to go through, well it was not anything I thought I knew about Him. Now, looking back, I didn’t know Him and I am so thankful that He has allowed me to get to know Him as intimately as He has, and I recognize that I would have never learned those things had I not gone through the things I did. It’s so humbling and not at all deserved for God to run after us like He does!

  43. Michelle Killpack March 18, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    I loved those verses as well while doing the lent challenge! Thank you for your words.

  44. We are being reminded of the strength of whose we are. Familiar Scriptures that are brought to life with repeated “washing by the word”

  45. Cherie Sheldon March 20, 2014 at 9:05 am

    I am really enjoying the Lenten Challenge. I LOVE John 15:5! Can’t wait to read John!!

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