As I glanced out the kitchen window this snowy Saturday morning, I was astonished to see my neighbor, all bundled up in coat, boots and toque, walking across the yard behind my house. Why? I could think of no other reason than he was coming to knock on my back door, and I panicked.

Don't get me wrong, my neighbor is a very nice person, and we enjoy the visits of this particular neighbor. The reason I panicked was that I was still in my pajamas and bathrobe, certainly not presentable for company, especially of the male variety. Imagine my relief when he didn't climb the steps leading to my back door, but instead, went on around the side of the house.

But why would my neighbor be going to the side of my house? And was that a flashlight I saw in his hand? Why?

Then it dawned on me. It wasn't my neighbor at all. It was the meter-reader. The way he was all bundled up, I simply mistook him for someone else, and I panicked.

So often in life we look up to see that there is an unwanted "guest" either on the way, or already at our doorstep. That unwanted "guest" may be an illness, an accident, financial concerns, relationship problems, problems with the kids, it may even be something as terrible as cancer, or even death. Whatever it is, our response is generally the same as my response when I thought my "neighbor" was coming to visit while I was still in my bathrobe and pajamas: we panic!

That's a perfectly natural response, isn't it? After all, no one of us is prepared for such things to just "arrive" so to speak at our "doorsteps".

I could probably have been saved from my moment of panic this morning if I had just stopped to look. I would have recognized that this man was not my neighbor. I would have also noted that my husband was dressed and in the same room, perfectly capable and willing to open the door if it had actually been my neighbor. In my hasty assessment of the situation, I failed to take in the important details that would have saved me from panic.

Isn't it the same in life? We see that unwanted houseguest on the doorstep, we experience it "barging", so to speak, into our lives, and we react. We don't take the time to look around and see what God has put into place to help us through these situations. We fail to hear God's voice reminding us that He will carry us through. We don't pay attention to the fact that things may not be quite as bad as they seem.

True enough, I don't really like the meter-reader coming around, because he sees the "truth" of how much energy we consume, and of course, we have to "pay" for that energy; yet it is a vital part of the services provided to my house, and without those services, I might be needing to be dressed in much more than a bathrobe on this cold, snowy morning! 

In the same way, we don't often take the time to consider the fact that perhaps this "unwanted houseguest" is also vital in some way. Aren't we told to "...rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us..." (Romans 5:3-5)?

Friends, if you find yourself in the middle of a less-than-ideal situation, don't make my mistake. Don't panic. Instead, try the following:

1. Look around. See what kind of help God has already placed in your path for getting you through: "he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it" (1 Cor 10:13).

2. Remember that there may be some growth in character, patience and hope that God is trying to instill in us through this situation (See Romans 5:3-5).

3. Remember that God does allow us to pass through things that we cannot handle of our own strength, so that we will remember that it is His strength that gets us through: "Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us..." (2 Cor 1:9-10).

4. Above all, give it to God, for He has promised rest: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt 11:28)

Oh, and I guess I had better let the meter-reader read my meter, and maybe, just maybe, it's time to go get dressed for the day...

In His love,
Lyn

Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author -- "Aboard God's Train -- A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer", Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.