Hoodwinked. One word used to describe a situation where things took an unexpected turn.

Sometimes, the unexpected happens and you are floating. You walk out of an interview for a job you really want, but feel like you stumbled over your words and did not present your best front. Two days later, expecting to receive a notice that you did not get the job, you get an offer! Wow. That was not what you were expecting. You celebrate. You thank God for showing up and surprising you.

Sometimes, the unexpected happens and you feel sideswiped by a semi-truck. You have patiently been treading the waters of a deeper relationship. You believe it is progressing towards long-term commitment. Two days later, expecting to spend a normal afternoon together, you step into a conversation where the other person calls it off. Wow. That was not what you were expecting. You grieve. You ask God why He stepped aside and has allowed pain and confusion.

When I was selecting where to attend college, all of my months-long conversations, applications, and prayers were aligning on one destination. I would play music as part of a full-tuition scholarship, plus room and board. Each step of the process moved along smoothly and I was ready to receive my acceptance letter. Then, I received the letter. I would no longer be offered the position. With that went my scholarship package. With that went my hopes and expectations. I had been hoodwinked. I was upset. I was confused.

Why would God have led me on with false expectations?

Why would He set me up for such disappointment?

In these moments, I usually begin to doubt and misinterpret the ways God promises to always orchestrate my life the way He designed. During a more recent experience that resulted in a significant, gut-wrenching, hoodwinked moment, I began to say 3 things. I now keep these 3 phrases on repeat and want to share them with you.

1. God is near.

In the Bible, David was chosen to be king as a young shepherd boy, but he had to wait years for that proclamation to come to fruition. He then took on Goliath. Then, he had to flee for his life being pursued by King Saul and again by his own son. I would imagine these circumstances left David asking God questions like, “Seriously?” “Can I ever catch a break?”

David chose to remember that God is near. In Psalm 34:18, he wrote that “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” David experienced unexpected circumstances just like you and I. While our circumstances come and go, thankfully, God does not. He has always been, always is, and always will be near. He has much to show you so long as you are willing to take one more step forward.

2. God is listening.

In Egypt, the Israelites were caught in captivity by Pharaoh. Despite hearing the stories of God’s promised covenant with Abraham to be a great nation, they remained in unexpected circumstances. The Israelites surely felt that things were not as they should be.

Thankfully, Exodus 2:24 says “And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant…” God was listening then. He is listening now. He will be listening in the days to come. While we may be frustrated by our unexpected circumstances, may we remember God is listening.

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3. God cares.

The Israelites knew they were God’s chosen people. Once again, they found themselves living on the wrong end of the unexpected. Babylon had conquered Jerusalem and now held the Israelites in captivity. Even after a series of judges and kings to rule and deliver the people, it seemed like things took another step backwards. Once again, God was using the peoples’ circumstances to direct their attention and focus on Him.

Jeremiah, known as the “weeping” prophet, is believed to have written the book of Lamentations. Lamentations 3:31-33 says “For the Lord will not cast off forever, but though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.” God’s care, love, and compassion is limitless. Even though the Israelites were in captivity, He pursued them every day. He does the same for us. Because He created us, may we remember He cares enough to take care of us.

Next time you feel hoodwinked or caught in the unexpected, perhaps you can try finding an accountability partner and friend who will remind you of these three promises from God. May these promises provide you comfort in those moments of difficulties. The order you say them does not matter. The goal is to continually re-orient your heart and mind towards Him and His promises in the beautiful moments of life including the frustrating and terrible moments in between.

John grew up in Morgantown, WV. He attended Baylor University and currently tries to be a graduate student at the University of South Carolina. He loves reading. He eats a peanut butter sandwich every day. If you’re looking for him, check outside. He enjoys running and biking.