Have you ever been caught off guard? I mean completely, out of nowhere, “where did that come from?” off guard? I’m sure you have. You may have memories flooding back right now. From the significant to the trivial to the hilarious to the devastating to the painful to the exhilarating to the life-altering—we’ve all experienced moments of surprise and shock.

I had a moment like that this week. It took my brain a few moments to catch up to reality before I understood what was going on. I had just returned to my car after a wonderful lunch engagement. As I was preparing to leave, the kind hostess offered to refill my cup, and I gratefully accepted her offer. Little did I know how fateful that decision would prove to be.

As I was backing out of my parking spot I reached for my cup to take a drink, but something didn’t feel right. The cup seemed instantly and unusually light. My mind raced trying to make sense of it all. And then I felt it…an instant sensation of cold on my lap. I looked down. To my horror I discovered that I was sitting in a pool of ice-cold Coca-Cola. The Coke bath splattered all over my clothes and began to saturate my jeans. Somehow the bottom of my Styrofoam cup had given out. I slowly began to make sense of the puzzle scattered in my cranium.

Now fully understanding my situation, I immediately went into crisis intervention mode. I went for my supply of napkins in the glove box. Empty! Do I go back into the restaurant for towels or napkins? Not a chance. The soggy, embarrassing walk wasn’t worth it. The reality struck me: I was completely out of options. So, in complete resignation, I did the only thing I could do. I just watched as the freezing puddle in my lap soaked into my car seat.

Ambushed! My tragedy was highly inconvenient, for sure. My afternoon schedule was highjacked in an instant. But was it insignificant? On a practical level, for sure. Everything doused in Coke got washed. We certainly face significantly more consequential issues on a regular basis. But on a spiritual level? The stakes were high. Moments of crisis, whether big or small, always put our character on display. Our hearts are revealed. Not only do the high-pressure moments of life reveal what’s inside, they also serve as implements to develop and refine our character.

I’m happy to report and I praise God that I passed the Coca-Cola test this week. I surprised myself in the way I stayed calm and just took care of business…without too much complaining. I even found myself laughing at my plight. What else could I do? The reality, however, is that I’ve failed far more tests like that than I can count. I’ve failed other tests just in the last week. I am far too easily frustrated and impatient. I’m far too self-absorbed. I’m in line for a lot more refining.

Are you a child of God’s? If so, then in His infinite goodness, kindness, graciousness, and love, He’ll keep giving us Coca-Cola baths to develop and refine our character. Sometimes they are constant companions (2 Corinthians 12:7–10). Maybe you are soaking in one right now. Take heart; the purity and completion of your faith and character are worth it (Hebrews 12:1–3). If you and I truly understood that truth, we would discover that we can even find joy in the refining process. God’s not wasting anything, even the pain in our lives. We can truly trust His heart and embrace His plan for us. And, speaking of shock and awe, we will be absolutely amazed at what we see in the mirror when He puts the finishing touches on us in glory. When God opens our understanding and the pieces of His eternal plan finally come into focus, we will respond in the only way we will know how: in endless praise and worship!

James 1:2–4
Consider it pure joy, brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Jonathan Wiley is the Community and Connections Pastor. A native Buckeye from northeast Ohio, Jonathan met his wife, Kim, at Grace, where she has been connected since childhood. Jonathan studied business (Grace College) and theology (Grace Seminary) before working in management for a leading multi-national corporation in northern Indiana. In addition to spending time with his family, Jonathan enjoys the outdoors, water sports, handyman projects, and commiserating with Cleveland Browns fans. Jonathan and Kim have three young children.


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