What Do You Do When Things Are Not What They Appear?

So you just learned that your new job is not exactly what you thought it would be?  Maybe you learned that one of your friends really is much different than you thought?  Or, maybe the savings, portfolio, or 401k statements you were misreading were really someone else’s with the same name, and yours are really tanking.  The truth hurts.  What about the group of friends, the company, or the organization that you invested your very soul into for a long period of time that you find out is different.  You find out SUDDENLY that things are not what they appeared to be.  What do you do?  What should you do?

What do you do?

Do you panic and become consumed with immobilizing fear, worry, or a tumultuous combination of the two.  Do you retaliate?  “You made me hurt.  I will make you hurt more.”  Or, are you out to make someone pay?  Do you run?  Is your thinking “Get me as far away from anything or anyone that has any connection to this deception and pain so I don’t have to taste, touch, hear, see, or even smell anything associated with this rancor?”   Do you add names and labels and boil?  Or, do you choose another way?  Do you choose a way not associated with this world or the master Deceiver behind the ungodly reality that hides in the shadows of “plastic perfection”?

What about the pain and problems?

Things are not what they appear.  Welcome to a sin cursed, fallen world with fallen people.  That’s the painful reality.  Even those who profess Christ as Savior and Lord are, at times, gripped and masqueraded by the perplexities and complexities of their own sinful desires, the world, and the master Deceiver.  And the name of Christ is defamed.  The very King believers seek to bring glory becomes the victim of a worshipper’s crime.  Yet, the offended Advocate offers another way to respond when things are not what they appear?  How do God’s people respond?  How should God’s people respond?

How did God’s people respond in the Old Testament?

Perplexed, emotional, crunched between a rock and a hard place, and without any human solution, Moses led God’s people out of the Egypt on an exciting adventure toward freedom and the promised land…until they faced a wall of water on side and a wall of impending soldiers on the other. They stared at the impossibility of their situation instead of focusing on their God who makes all things possible.  Long story short, God’s people lost heart and blamed Moses.  What happened?  Moses cried out to God.  God  showed up.  He showed up big.  God graciously made the impossible possible by parting the waters and leading His people from those (Egyptians) who opposed Him (Exodus 14).  And why did that all happen? So that God would receive glory (Exodus 14:18).  What was the result for God’s people?  They feared the LORD and believed in Him… (14:31). God’s people, after initial poor response, changed.

How did Jesus’ disciples respond in the New Testament?

Bewildered, anxious, and caught off guard, the disciples did not see the cross coming.  Things were not what they had initially appeared.  The motley crew of twelve planned on victoriously marching in the kingdom with Christ leading the charge.  God had a much bigger plan.  However, this plan did not involve deception, it involved a better plan that the followers did not comprehend at the time.  How did the disciples respond to things not being what they appeared?  The disciples hid in an upper room.  They doubted.  They feared. Until …Jesus returned.

What about you? 

Ever been there?  Life is tracking.  Things are cruising along just fine.  You are working your heart out.  You are loving with all you’ve got – Then comes the “Red Sea” moment… The stark, yet awkwardly chilling, confusing, and world-flipping “Crucifixion” moment…  The moment when your perception of reality becomes the illusion that dissolves in front of what really is…There appears to be nowhere to turn.  No solution. No comfort.  No hope.  How do you respond?

How should you and I respond when things are not what they appear?

1.       Pray, anticipating a new and better plan

Like Moses and those leaving Egypt, God uses “suddenness of reality ” to transform His people into faithful and trusting followers.  God wants us to call on Him and confide in Him.  God uses the truth to set us free.  God loves His children and has a plan (Romans 8:28-9; Philippians 2).

2.       Trust Him

Some choose to trust in “chariots”.  We trust in the Name of the Lord our God.  Sometimes God uses suddenness of revealed deception on the part of others to reveal our “chariot” (idols, objects of trust and affection). The Psalmist put it this way “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path” (Proverbs 3:5-6).  In the midst of what appears to be impossible, is painful and confusing, and may not make sense at all, God can be trusted (Isaiah 55:8-9).

3.       Look for God to show up big

Like the Moses leading the people out of Egypt to encounter the Red Sea, and like Jesus leading His followers toward Kingdom living to encounter the Cross, the reality of the parting sea stood behind the deception of the impossible and the reality of the resurrection stood behind the deception of a “defeated Savior”.  Satan loves to deceive.  Our hearts many times gravitate toward the shadows.  However, God’s grace wins (Romans 5:21).  God’s everlasting loving-kindness reveals, covers, and sustains through the toughest of situations life has to offer (Psalm 136; Lamentation 3:22-23).

4.       Actively embrace your new role(s)

Moses and his people voiced their longing for a return to Egypt at times.  The disciples temporarily returned to fishing.  But at some point the children of Israel actively embraced the “promised land” and the disciples actively embraced being “fishers of men”.    Moses, the non-eloquent  mouthpiece of God talks skillfully to men and God (Exodus 32).  The hiding disciples go to Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the world proclaiming the gospel, along with a church abuser apostle Paul whose life was suddenly changed (by the sudden revealing of truth).  God is amazing!

What about the flip-side?

Cool thought.  Just like things can be negatively “not what they appear”, is when we usually  we see and understand God in a whole new way that transforms a difficult, hurtful situation into a hopeful, powerful time of “God making things better than what they humanly appeared”.

How will you choose to respond?

What in your life is not what it appeared to be?   Who in your life is not what he or she appeared to be? (Be careful here)  Are you going to respond in according to the folly that initiated this situation?  Or, are you going to respond differently?   God does provide help and hope to transform your life and mine.  May God help you and me today to respond more like Christ instead of more like fallen people.

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Andy WoodallAndy Woodall
Andy Woodall served as the Pastor of Student Ministries at Faith from 1999-2012.