Enduring the Unexpected
By Susie Rowan – Former BSF Executive Director
Perhaps that’s one way to describe the events and realities of our world today.
Of course, there are other words. The events of 2020 and 2021 have been described as “unprecedented,” “unparalleled,” “unending.” But I think “unexpected” captures it well.
Let’s think about it:
- A global pandemic. … That was unexpected.
- The ensuing fear, isolation, quarantine, and separation. … That was unexpected.
- The mass turmoil, tension, loss, and dissension. … That was unexpected, and heartbreaking.
Recently, like you, I’ve mourned the unexpected loss of friends. Many of us on the BSF staff are in daily contact with BSF friends in India, Brazil, Madagascar, Kenya, and other communities where suffering continues through the rising pandemic. As I reflect on these realities, I have taken comfort from our study of Joseph’s life in Genesis 37–50.
Joseph certainly endured many unexpected realities. At a young age, Joseph’s dreams and expectations were high. Yet it was only a matter of time before those dreams were seemingly dashed and those expectations seemingly crushed. Rather than an immediate and expected ascension to leadership, Joseph unexpectedly endured:
- False accusations
And yet what did God do with Joseph’s unexpected circumstances?
The entire book of Genesis culminates with the truth of Genesis 50:20 as Joseph declares to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.”
Even in the most unexpected, most unwanted circumstances of Joseph’s life, God did the unexpected – He brought about good. Joseph’s story reassures us that the Fall, sin, and suffering have not and cannot thwart God’s ability to affect good in our lives. The same Creator God who declared “and it was good” in Genesis 1 is the same Creator God who “intended it for good” in Genesis 50.
Genesis is Only the Beginning
As we fast forward through history and the Old Testament, we find time and time again that God works in unexpected ways, in the unexpected places of life.
No doubt this truth is most profoundly embodied through the Person and work of Jesus Christ,” who is “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
In fact, as we anticipate next year’s BSF study of Matthew, we proclaim and celebrate the truth that He is our “Unexpected King.”
But how was Jesus unexpected?
After all, in many ways He was completely expected. Since God’s proclamation in Genesis 3:15 that the woman’s offspring would crush the serpent’s head, the Messiah had been long awaited, long expected. However, though the Messiah’s appearance was long expected – even prophesied – many of the details of His appearance were not.
Though the people expected the Messiah to appear in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), they did not expect He would appear in what looked like scandal (Matthew 1:18-19).
And though the people expected a King (Isaiah 9:6-7), they did not expect this King would be worshipped by pagan star followers yet missed by His own Jewish people (Matthew 2:1-12).
The people did not expect the King’s herald would be a man dressed in camel’s hair eating locusts and wild honey (Matthew 3:1-4).
They did not expect the King’s message would be, “blessed are the poor in spirit … the meek … the persecuted” (Matthew 5:3-12).
It was unexpected that this King would come to serve (Matthew 20:28). And unexpected for this King to assert the last would be first (Matthew 20:16).
It was unexpected our King would die. And unexpected our King would rise.
Facing the Unexpected
What unexpected circumstance do you face today? For me, it is not knowing what to expect as we transition from San Antonio to a new season in Kansas City near our family. Retirement is expected, but I am sure there is much ahead that is not!
God delights – perhaps even specializes – in working in and through the unexpected circumstances of your life and mine. Where we feel most desperate, most fearful, most needy and shameful, God is powerfully present to do the unexpected.
Will you bring your concerns to Jesus? He is our “Unexpected King.” Though His ways are not our ways, He will prove faithful. He will be perfectly faithful to you while being perfectly faithful to me. He will be perfectly faithful to His church while being perfectly faithful to BSF and to other ministries that serve Him. And in the end, we will find His ways exceed even our greatest expectations.
Former BSF Executive Director
Under Susie’s leadership as executive director, BSF membership has grown to serve more than 385,000 adults and 66,000 children worldwide, and the ministry has introduced BSF Online and WordGo Bible study platforms, and four new studies – Isaiah, Revelation, and People of the Promised Land I and II (Part II coming in 2022). Susie and her husband, Roger, have been married for 45 years and have two children, Jerry and Sally, and four grandchildren.
Thank you. I don’t know how to express my thought but thank you for being the leader and encourager and for giving your time and life to Jesus and watering us in the process
Thank you so much Susan for these wonderful words of closure for this season. You have always provided wonderful leadership and gracious encouragement for us! I know our Great God will continue to use you mightily wherever you reside. BSF has been a mainstay in my life for maturing me in Christ. I pray God’s blessings on you and your family.
I just wanted to say a quick “thank you” for answering His call to lead in BSF courageously and faithfully for so many years. God has used BSF in a mighty way in my life as well as my family’s. I am eternally grateful for your leadership and will keep you in my prayers.
Thank you Susan for this beautifully and poignantly written wrap up and the bridge into next year. It spoke deeply to my heart as your writings had ways to do many times before. Thank you so much for your wonderful many years of leadership and services at BSF. You will be missed – and at the same time, I’m jubilant expecting with you that our wonderful Unexpected God will show up faithful and true in and through your life’s next chapter!
Thank you so much for wrapping up the Study of Genesis this way. It made me truly come to the realisation that life is filled more with unexpected events and how only God’s sovereign will, kindness and faithfulness has been seeing me through. Life would have been miserable without Jesus.
May the Almighty God continually strengthen you and reward your labour in His vineyard in the mighty name of Jesus.
Thank you very much for your leadership and your mighty words of encouragement which are so inspiring. May the LORD bless you, and keep you. May the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you. God bless!
Beautifully said “God works in unexpected ways in the unexpected places in life”. Yes, the things that I have experienced and have come to a greater knowledge and understanding of in the past 1.5 years were unexpected in my line of sight, but I’m grateful that I serve an Omniscient, Omnipresent God!! This study of Genesis was so perfectly times as is all of our BSF studies; another testament to the Sovereignty God. Studying Genesis through a global Pandemic was the fuel I needed to light my flame into total surrender for Christ. I can hardly wait to see how God will work through me during the study of Matthew.
This year studying Genesis had many “unexpected” joys and opportunities for growth for me personally. I am eagerly looking forward to studying about the prophesied (in Genesis) King Jesus in the Matthew study this fall!
Susie, thank you for these words of hope for all our unexpected times. You have been a blessing and inspiration while leading BSF; may your retirement be blessed! When I joined BSF in 1998, I was a new stay-at-home mom after working 19 years for the Federal Government. A friend invited me to BSF, and I have been hooked ever since. Rosemary Jensen was the Executive Director then. In 2000, Jean Nystrom became the Director, and then in 2009 you became our Director. Each change was unexpected, but God continued the work He had without interruption. Each of you are unique, made by God, and used by Him to lead this wonderful ministry Ms. Johnson began. Thank you for your ministry and following God’s leading! God’s blessings to you and your family!
This was so so helpful, im dealing with a very troubled marriage. This trouble came to a head Mother’s Day weekend this year. I am having to trust the Lord while I (with his help) make wise decisions and use wisdom
Thank you Susie for answering God’s call many years ago. Your leadership has continued to move BSF forward in so many ways, especially technologically. May you enjoy the new adventures that await you, that God has appointed you.
This truly blessed my heart and I can’t wait for Matthew in the fall.. What blessed me most was Susie saying “Where we feel most desperate, most fearful, most needy and shameful, God is powerfully present to do the unexpected… PTL!! Thank you to all the BSF people.. This has been and will continue to be a wonderful and blessed experience 🙏🙏🙌🙌🙌
How so comforting and true it is to trust in our ever faithful God as we step out in faith to face the storms of fear.
Thank you for reminding me to expect the unexpected, from the Creator of all the expected and the unexpected.
Thank you, Susie, for faithfully serving our Lord as our BSF leader over the years. I was “expecting” to spend more time your leadership, but… Retirement is bittersweet, isn’t it? I am sure God will bless you and your family during this transition and beyond. You can trust in the God of Abraham who knows what lies ahead.
A sister in Christ,
What an encouraging message from Susie, I have picked so many points to apply in my personal life knowing my God is faithful.
Thank you very much Susie! Your sharing is inspiring.
To those yet not know Jesus, there are many unexpected things. However, God has gracefully revealed all unexpected things to us through the Bible. Praise the Lord who is amazing teacher and counselor leading us away from ignorance！
Thank you for these reminders. Practicing lessons learned in Genesis strengthens personal reliance and trust in Him, our powerful God and Creator.