It’s baseball season and fans have high hopes for their favorite teams, just as we all have high hopes for how life will turn out. But the saying is true: “Things you had planned on won’t happen the way you had hoped for, and things you didn’t plan on will happen.” I call these the curve balls of life.
Here are some curve balls that friends of mine have experienced:
- “My parents are divorcing; I had no idea this was coming.”
- “My boyfriend/girlfriend broke up with me, and I’m devastated.”
- “I’m not getting into that grad program. Now what do I do?”
- “I thought it would be easy to get a job with my degree. It’s been two years, and I’m working at a job that barely pays the bills. I feel like a failure.”
- “The accident means that I have to drop out of school. That puts me a year behind on graduation.”
I’ll bet you can add more curve balls of your own. The fact is that life is unpredictable. Unexpected changes and challenges are the norm, not the exception; and when they come, they can be difficult and disorienting. Anger, frustration, hurt, loneliness, and despair come easily. Self-pity and withdrawal are common responses. We can doubt the goodness of God during those times.
That’s why I find such help and hope in the life of Joseph, told in the last half of Genesis. His life began with great promise and possibilities, but it quickly went sour. Hated by his brothers, he was sold into slavery and ended up in a foreign country not knowing the language, culture, or a single soul. Talk about a curve ball. And yet Joseph found a way to overcome his circumstances. He found a new future and made the most of his unfortunate turn of events. And most remarkably, his faith deepened and his relationship with the Lord grew stronger through the dark valley.
In time, a new perspective came to Joseph. God was in the trial. He had not been abandoned. As Joseph was reunited with his brothers, he said:
I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold as a slave to go to Egypt. Now don’t be worried or angry with yourselves because you sold me here. God sent me here ahead of you to save people’s lives. God sent me here ahead of you to make sure you have some descendants left on earth and to keep you alive in an amazing way. So it was not you who sent me here, but God (Genesis 45:4-8).
In other words, while we might not be able to see God’s hand and his work in the midst of our trial, we often discern his presence in retrospect.
In the New Testament, James affirms this principle of spiritual growth through life’s curve balls when he writes:
My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience. Let your patience show itself perfectly in what you do. Then you will be perfect and complete and will have everything you need (James 1:2-4).
Here’s the point. Leaders know how to expect the unexpected. They don’t let the curve balls that come their way surprise them. A leader doesn’t give up easily. When things don’t go as they had hoped, they look for the new way forward. When knocked down, they get up and try something else.
As a leader you have the opportunity for growth in trials. Even if your instinct is to doubt the goodness of God, you can go deeper with God in your trials. You understand that God is with you in the valley. You might not see it in the midst of the trial, but you will later.
Expect some curveballs in life, and keep swinging with the help of the Lord. Batter’s up!