When Life Throws the Curve . . .

by Pastor Daryl Largis

In baseball the game is relatively simple, hit the ball in such a way that you can score more runs than the opposing team. So, one object of the game is to keep the other team from hitting the ball and getting on base by playing good defense and pitching the ball such that it is harder to hit. A curve ball then, becomes an effective strategy to keep the other team from scoring runs given it is something that appears to be this, but turns into something else, thereby making it much harder to hit.

Life can sometimes throw us a curve ball. At times, we seem to be getting things figured out, life is starting to make sense, it is not easy but at least it is familiar. We understand the expectations, the demands, the needs of the day, and we even dare to plan for the future; for we are somewhat confident in not only today but also where we will be tomorrow.  Then something happens—a curve. I am not talking about a minor inconvenience, but something that fundamentally changes what we are doing or at least trying to do. When life throws you a curve everything going forward will be impacted. Nothing will be the same.  Think in terms of loss of a great job, a death of a close friend or family member, a serious illness, a close relationship lost, a significant betrayal of someone close, and the list goes on—a curve—nothing will be the same from that point forward. So, how should we respond?  Do we close our eyes and swing and hope for the best?  Do we get somebody else to hit for us or in other words live our lives for us?  Do we give up, believing we can’t adjust? Or do we do something else?

I believe that we must respond to the curves that life throws at us, and I also believe that there is a way in which we all can do just that.  We could spend all day, in fact many days, debating why God allows curve balls to cross our plate. This conversation, while yielding some fruit may in fact enable us to miss the point and never make the adjustments needed if we wallow too long in the why.  There is a why, but it may take the remainder of our days to figure it out.  With that said, I think there is a point to the curves in life, and we as God’s redeemed need not fear them.  We do need to be prepared to hit them when they appear for surely they will for each of us at some point, if they have not already.

A good friend of mine recently sent me a devotion pertaining to Nehemiah. Most of us are familiar with Nehemiah, as the great leader, who God used to rebuild the wall surrounding Jerusalem in very trying times for the Jewish people.  As I reread this story, it became apparent to me that in the midst of the rebuild, life threw a curve at Nehemiah and the Jewish people. At that point they had a choice, give up and go home if you will, or persevere. They, as we know, persevered but it is interesting to understand how they persevered for I think in understanding this we can learn how to handle the curves in our own lives.

Nehemiah and the Jewish people were making great progress in rebuilding the wall. The work was hard, but they were committed. However, they ran into opposition. Some of those in the region did not want the wall rebuilt. So they began to plot and plan to destroy the work and even kill the workers. These plans if fulfilled would put an end to the wall being rebuilt—a curve.  Nehemiah and others got wind of these plans and their response is brilliant. 

First, they prayed.  So simple, and yet, so profound.  How true is it of us when faced with a curve? Typically we first don’t pray but they did (Nehemiah 4:9).  Now, their initial response was lacking in that they only posted one guard to protect the entire project which couldn’t get the job done.  Nonetheless they prayed and put themselves in a position to respond.  Nehemiah soon would recognize more was needed.

Second, Nehemiah encouraged the people to remember (Nehemiah 4:14).  The people working on the wall were beginning to tire and were starting to become overcome with fear given the rumors and plot against them.  Nehemiah encouraged them to remember—to remember that God, our God, is great and awesome!  When we are faced with a curve in life, we too, need to remember that our God is great and awesome!  Nothing is too great, too big, too hard, too difficult, or too complex for Him. For God appointed His Son (Jesus) as heir to all things and through Him created all things and by His (Jesus) powerful word He sustains all things being the exact representation, the very nature of God Himself (Hebrews 1:1-3).  Jesus is great and awesome!

So, when we are faced with a curve that is life-changing, we need to remember who Jesus is. When we remember who our God is, our hearts our encouraged and we, like those building the wall, will want to fight for that which is good.

Third, Nehemiah understood that an adjustment was needed. They needed to readjust (Nehemiah 4:16, 17).  The mission had not changed—rebuild the wall. The circumstances were different, more difficult, even dangerous, but the mission was the same. The manner in which they went about in rebuilding the wall fundamentally changed so that they could continue the mission.  They now worked with one hand while holding weapons in the other.  This was not how they originally planned, but it was how they were going to finish.  How about for you and me?  Has our mission changed even in light of a curve ball—no!  We are to be reconciled to God in Jesus and then represent God in this world as we join Him on His redemptive mission to ensure that every man, woman, boy, and girl has opportunity to hear, to see, to experience, and to respond to the gospel, and to grow in their faith of Jesus. This is our mission regardless of the curves life may throw at us. Do you need to readjust?  Do I?  Perhaps we do or at least we should ask the question in light of the mission to which God has called us.

Fourth, Nehemiah knew that the people, even under these new operating parameters, would tire and be susceptible to discouragement.  He then reaffirmed their faith in God. Nehemiah declared that “Our God will fight for us!”  (Nehemiah 4:20) We, too, need to reaffirm our faith. God is faithful! To what Scripture can you hold tightly as you stare down the curve being thrown at you? We each should have one, perhaps several, for God who cannot lie is and will be faithful. He will fight for you and will fight for me—in fact, He fought to the point of death for you and for me and in doing so, has overcome and defeated death never to die again, so that for those who believe will share in everlasting life (Philippians 3:12).

Lastly, Nehemiah did what was necessary to complete the task.  He did whatever it takes.  He recommitted himself and the Jewish people to completing the task of rebuilding the wall, and they did just that (Nehemiah 4:21). Are you willing to do whatever it takes to complete the mission even in light of the curve?  Am I?  We should.

So, when life throws us a curve, a significant curve, we need to respond.  I think we can learn from Nehemiah and the Jewish people as they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. When faced with a curve, we should pray, we should remember who God is for He is great and awesome. We need to readjust how we go about the mission.  We then need to reaffirm our faith in God. Lastly, we need to do whatever it takes to complete the task by recommitting ourselves to that which God has called us.