5 Ways to Respond When Life Throws You a Curveball

5 Ways to Respond When Life Throws You a Curveball

Curveballs in life are inevitable. Unexpected surprises can level us or become opportunities to learn. The curveball thrown to Joseph when Mary told him about her “surprise” pregnancy certainly caught Joseph off guard, quite a curveball. But the story in Matthew 1 gives us 5 insights on how to respond when life throws you a curveball.

First, a bit of background. Matthew 1 tells us that Mary and Joseph were engaged to be married. Unlike engagements today, in New Testament days when you got engaged it took a divorce to end the engagement. They were both young and looking forward to a long life together and then Mary dropped the bombshell. Not only was she pregnant, but she explained it to Joseph with a story about how the Holy Spirit brought it about, a double whammy for Joseph: his wife was pregnant and she made up some crazy story that it was not because of involvement with a man … two curveballs.

Here’s what we can learn from Matthew’s account.

When life throws you a curveball …

  1. Don’t act on impulse by doing what first comes to your mind.
    • In Joseph’s case probably the first thing that came to his mind was the normal protocol for adultery at the time, a public divorce. But because he loved Mary, he didn’t want to publicly shame her and mar her chances to marry  a decent guy in the future. Impulse didn’t dictate his decision. Rather, his character did.
    • Principle: Grounded people resist impulsivity. 

 

  1. Draw upon Jesus-centered character.
    • Verse 19 paints Joseph as a righteous man. That meant that he was a good man, a compassionate man, a man of character, a man faithful to God’s commands. Rather than acting on impulse, he acted upon his deeply imbedded values. He decided that a private divorce (much like a settlement out of court) would spare Mary from disgrace.
    • Principle: Jesus-formed beliefs should determine our behavior. 

 

  1. Face, don’t deny your fear, worry, or anger.
    • But before Joseph acted, an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him not to be afraid to take Mary home as his wife (v. 20). The Gospels tell us that God spoke to Joseph four times through angels. God knew that Joseph felt fear so he spoke to Joseph about it. When curveballs hit us, it’s normal to feel anger, fear, anxiety, or worry. Our fight-flight-freeze response centers in our brains automatically evoke feelings that we can’t avoid. But denying or stuffing them actually makes them more intense.
    • Principle: We can’t avoid feelings but we can determine their expression. 

 

  1. Stand upon the bedrock fundamentals of your faith.
    • Until I studied this passage deeply, little did I realize how it illustrates several core fundamentals of our faith. Focusing our attention on core doctrines gives us hope and confidence when a curveball hits us. Here are four fundamentals:
      1. The Holy Spirit dwells in us to, among other things, comfort us and give us wisdom to wisely respond (v. 20).
      2. The virgin birth and the incarnation encourage us that our faith is based upon supernatural, life changing truth (v. 23).
      3. Salvation in Jesus alone reminds us that He came to a crib to go to a cross to offer us forgiveness of sins (v. 21).
      4. Fulfilled prophecy provides evidence that Jesus is and was who He says He is and was (vss. 22-23).
    • Principle: Undeniable truth forms the bedrock for Christianity. 

 

  1. Obey God’s promptings.
    • After the dream Joseph obeyed God and took Mary as his wife. Just as God acted in unconventional ways to bring about Jesus’ conception in the womb of Mary, so sometimes we must obey in unconventional ways. Joseph did not take the expected path, divorce. Instead he went against the then current social morays to do the right thing by marrying Mary.
    • Principle: Obedience to God may take you into uncharted territory. 

When life throws you a curveball, look to the Story. You’ll find encouragement, hope, and direction.

What would you add to this list of responses to life’s curveballs?

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Charles Stone

Both my wife Sherryl and I have a heart for pastors and pastors’ wives. We’ve taught hundreds of pastors and their wives in the United States, Canada, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Mexico.

I earned an engineering degree from Georgia Tech, a Masters of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate of Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I’m completing another masters degree in neuroleadership. I’m also an avid Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket fan.

I’ve been professionally trained in these areas by these organizations:

Life Coaching through the Professional Christian Coaching Institute
Strategic Planning through Ministry Advantage (certified)
Vision Clarity through the Church Unique Process (certified)
Conflict Management through Peacemakers
I’m the author of 4 books – Daughters Gone Wild – Dads Gone Crazy (Thomas Nelson, 2007), 5 Ministry Killers and How to Defeat Them (Bethany House Publishers, 2010), People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership (Inter-Varsity Press, January 2014), and my brand new book, Brain-Savvy Leadership: the Science of Significant Ministry (Abingdon, 2015).