From telemarketers to traffic jams to twenty-item shoppers in the ten-item line, our lives are full of interruptions. They're often aggravating, sometimes infuriating, and can make us want to tell people what we really think about them. But they also tell us something quite important about ourselves.
The prophet Jonah's life was interrupted by a clear call of God that made him mad enough and scared enough to run in the completely opposite direction. Yet it wasn't really an interruption. It was an opportunity for Jonah to be involved in something the likes of which the Old Testament world had never seen: national revival in a Gentile country.
What if Jonah had seen God's interruption for what it truly was—a divine intervention that held more adventure and possibility than any other thing he could have been doing at the time? What could have felt any better than being directly in the center of God's will?
Yet we play it that same way—always running from major pains and minor problems that just don't seem to suit us at the time. Who knows what we're missing by being so interruption avoidant? In this very personal account of opportunities lost and lessons learned, popular conference speaker and author Priscilla Shirer shows how to embrace the amazing freedom and fulfillment that comes from going with God, even when He's going against your grain.
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About the Author
Priscilla Shirer is a Bible teacher and conference speaker with a Master’s degree in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. Also a popular author, her books include the New York Times Best-Seller, The Resolution for Women, One in a Million, and Life Interrupted. She is also the lead character in the War Room movie. Priscilla is married to Jerry with whom she founded Going Beyond Ministries. They have three sons and live in Dallas, Texas.
Read an Excerpt
And Now for Something Completely Different
For since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!
Isaiah 64:4 nlt
I wish I'd known then what I know now — what the Lord is helping me begin to discover.
Maybe then, when those unexpected circumstances surprised me, I would've been better able to corral my untamed, unruly emotions.
Maybe then the twists of life wouldn't have caused such a twist in my heart, making me so severe and unforgiving.
Maybe then I would've recognized God's unseen hand in all of it and would've met the frustration or disappointment with a wink and a smirk, knowing He was behind it all, that this interruption was merely His way of laying a foundation for better things.
Maybe then I wouldn't have tried so hard to control it or hurry through it but would've yielded to it and embraced what the Lord allowed.
But certainly not at the time.
You see, my life was going to be music. Literally. The first time I sang in church, I was five years old. I've got concrete memories of my little wobbly voice and knees that carried me through that day. From that moment on I was sure God wanted me to be a singer. I planned for it, aspired to it, and dreamed of what it would be like to stand on the stage and in the recording studio, singing my songs for Him. I even auditioned for several nationally known singing groups in my late teens and early twenties and was thrilled when they said they'd actually like me to come on board with them.
But people I went to for counsel encouraged me not to jump into music too soon and pass up some other experiences that might prove more valuable later. By the time I'd waited for all the obstacles to clear, those great music opportunities had passed me by. I'd missed my chance. The exciting, open doors that had been accessible to me before were now closed. I was devastated. What was I supposed to do now, when the one thing I'd wanted — the path I thought was God's plan for me — was no longer an available option?
I wish I'd known then what I know now.
Music was apparently out, much to the dismay of my hopes and dreams. So after batting around some alternatives, I decided to pursue a degree in radio and television. It seemed to suit me. If I couldn't do the music thing, I could at least enjoy a stage presence on camera. Television proved to be an intense, high-pressure undertaking — a lot of hard work — but very exciting, especially when some jobs opened up for me at several different stations, performing in various on-air capacities. With each new assignment I truly believed this might be the platform that would elevate me to bigger and better things. But each time I started working for a particular show, their ratings began to suffer. Every single one was cancelled within a year of my joining the team. (Talk about giving a girl a complex!)
This couldn't be happening. I had studied for this. I had put in the hours. I was paying my dues and was absolutely certain the Lord had steered me toward doing this for a career, for a livelihood. Obviously, then, I had either heard Him wrong, or He had set me up to fail. What does a singer and broadcast professional do when nothing she feels called to is working out? I was barely in my twenties. And already feeling washed up.
I wish I'd known then what I know now.
Meanwhile, I was dating a young man, a wonderful guy who had captured my heart and seemed like the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. We had gotten pretty serious, even beginning to make those first, sunny promises of marriage. But in one of those twists and turns on the road to romantic bliss, our car had run off the road. We were done. And I was totally distressed. I begged God to restore my relationship with this man. We were meant to be together. I knew it! But despite all the talks and times spent together, all the plans and dreams we had begun imagining — fact was, he didn't want me anymore. And it came close to killing me. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't eat. I couldn't see anything good in store for me. I was losing at life and losing at love, all at the same time.
I wish I'd known then what I know now.
There was somebody else for me. Years later I was in love. (More on that later.) And after three years of marriage, with little effort, God allowed me to get pregnant. We were thrilled. Soon, however, almost before the reality of "baby makes three" had even begun to hit us, I miscarried. Where we had hardly been able to keep our minds on anything else because of our excited anticipation, now we could hardly keep our minds on anything else because of our grief and disappointment.
Life. Interrupted again.
How could this happen? Why would God allow it? Did it mean we'd never be able to have children? Could we possibly get past this horrible experience and dare to try again, knowing how low the lows can be when your joy is snatched away?
Yes, we could.
Yes, we did.
First came Jackson. Then two years later, Jerry Jr. And when these fun little guys began rounding the corner from toddlerhood to the school-age years, Jerry and I decided we were closing up shop in the baby-making business. We both loved being parents but were so looking forward to life without diapers, sippy cups, and colicky crying spells in the middle of the night. I was fairly certain I didn't have another pregnancy/baby/toddler experience in me.
Well ... yes, I did.
When those faint pink lines shaded their way into a plus-sign on the pregnancy test I'd brought home from the store, Jerry's and my plan for a new phase of life suddenly became our plan for an unexpected phase of life. This was not what we had in mind. We had felt so complete and satisfied with our two little boys and our nice little life, and — dare I say it — we were shocked to realize we were now headed in another direction: a six-pound, twelve- ounce change of plans by the name of Jude Maddox Shirer. And as sweet and good-natured fellow as he is, the October he was born represented a whole new chapter in our household — an unexpected one.
Then in the midst of trying to adjust my emotions and plans to suit this new development, our stable, settled ministry began to experience some growing pains of its own. While my pregnant waistline was expanding with no regard for the contents in my closet, our ministry seemed to be following suit. With a growing family to manage and a full load of ministry responsibilities to contend with already — even before having to think about adding a new baby to the mix — we were stunned to be thrust into another realm of opportunity and challenge. Our tiny staff (of which my husband and I made up two-thirds) was already stretched to the limit. We were grateful and excited, of course, about what we saw God doing. It's just that we were caught a bit off guard. We'd been content with the regular pace of family and ministry life as we'd known it for several years. We had learned how to find our rhythm and balance, but now things were changing. Everything was changing. Personally and professionally.
So a lot of things had happened along the way to alter my planned trajectory of life. A music ministry? Maybe not. Tele-vision career? Maybe not. That first expectation of marriage? First baby? Maybe not. Two parents, two kids — let's call it a completed family? Umm, maybe not. Lord, how about at least an easily managed ministry? Certainly not.
I wish I knew then what I'm starting to see now.
Call it the interrupted life.
— You Want Me to What? —
I suspect that you, too, have experienced some interruptions along the way. It may have been something tragic — the death of someone close to you, a health scare, a debilitating accident. A love lost. An opportunity missed. A life goal unreached. It may have caused such a drastic change in your moods and makeupand manner of living, you almost don't remember who you were before it happened. In many ways you've become defined by this thing that occurred, this one startling event that threw everything off balance.
But interruptions are not limited to huge, horrible things. In fact, they can be rather minor by comparison. Car trouble. Chicken pox. A funny, spoiled smell in the meat you'd set out to cook for dinner. Still, it's caught you by surprise. You weren't expecting it. You were traveling along with your list of to-dos in mind, fully knowing what the day held when something just crept up out of nowhere and caught you off guard. Suddenly your schedule is shot to pieces, along with all your preset notions on what it would take to get everything done. You've been blindsided, forced to deal with a new wrinkle, a new obstacle to navigate around.
They come in all sizes. Large and small. Anywhere between majorly challenging and mildly inconvenient. An unforeseen hit to your family budget. A best friend moving out of town. A spouse confessing that he hasn't been totally honest with you about something. A doctor's report that is less than desirable. A pregnancy test that reads negative ... again. A new super-visor at work who's nothing like the last one you'd grown to like so much. Another year of singleness when marriage is what you want. A sister who's going in for surgery and needs you to watch her kids for a few days.
It may even be something good. Like being asked to take on a new role in ministry, or finding out you have three babies in that belly of yours instead of just one. (Yes, that happened to a friend of mine.) Helping your daughter plan a summer wedding, or having to move to another state to accommodate a promotion. But even these good interruptions are going to take a lot of your time. They're going to make things different than you've been accustomed to. They're going to cost you an expense you hadn't accounted for right now. So how do you respond? What's the best way to navigate the unexpected — a Life Interrupted?
Just to be clear: Ihate interruptions! While I'm a spontaneous girl who enjoys impromptu adventures and activities on occasion, whenever I get a goal or plan fixed in my mind, I'm as persistent as the little squirrel I watched scouting for acorns in my backyard this morning. I don't want to be detoured until that nut is in my paws, in my mouth, then ... mmm ... in my tummy. Any detour away from that mission makes me antsy and unsettled. It's the way I've always been. Stick-to-itiveness, I think they call it. A good, healthy trait but — watch out — one that can quickly morph into one of my worst when I'm not willing to bend and flex to God's will, when I'm pretty sure what He wants is different from my aspiration.
That's what I found myself facing when little Jude was on the way and I was trying desperately to figure out how I'd be able to balance the demands of a growing family and ministry. I loved my life but felt stretched to the limit. So I knew my heart wasn't exactly into this. Didn't God know that Jerry and I had spent lots of time carefully crafting these plans for our lives? We'd given away all the baby paraphernalia in our certainty that our family was complete. The crib was gone. The baby swing was gone. The bouncy seat was gone, and lo and behold, I had some semblance of a waistline for the first time in years. Both of our kids had graduated out of toddlerhood, and I had mentally refocused myself onto a life with two young boys who (unlike when they were babies) could verbalize to me where it hurt, what was wrong, and how I could help.
So, again, I admit I was whining a little bit. Complaining. Those first few months of morning sickness were, uh — let's just say, I was not the kind of Priscilla you'd want to be around. It was not my best moment, I assure you, especially as our ministry was growing and we knew we'd need to add to our staff if we wanted any chance of keeping up. We liked it small and intimate the way it was, but it couldn't stay that way any longer. Obviously, both of these things (the new baby and the growth in ministry) were gifts from God, but let's be honest — sometimes God's gifts are disguised beneath new responsibilities.
One day in the midst of my self-imposed pity party, I got the feeling God was asking me a question. Was I going to be a whiner, a complainer, a grumbler, a martyr, someone who wanted everybody to feel sorry for her the rest of her life even when there was really nothing to feel sorry for me about? Was this going to become my pattern for how I handled things that didn't go my way? Was this the kind of person my husband and family would need to get used to living with?
Or was I going to yield to what God was calling me to do — not just physically with this pregnancy and the additional needs in ministry but also in my attitude, my mind, my heart, my spirit? Was I going to surrender myself completely to Him? Was I going to embrace His plans for me?
Turns out God was about to send me another blessed interruption.
Not just Jude, my new little son, but Jonah.
In the pages of Jonah's well-known book of the Bible, God began to speak a new word to my heart. Even as I was wrestling with my interrupted life, God started showing me some things through the eyes of a runaway prophet, a man who also was interrupted from a life of relative comfort. A man who saw God's change of plans as something to be avoided and escaped at all costs. A man who would eventually need a raging sea storm and three days in a fish's belly before he would come to terms with what surrender was all about and what it could accomplish.
I didn't want to be like Jonah. I didn't want to require God to reach into His bottom drawer of disciplinary tactics before I came around to His way of thinking. As much as I may not have planned to take on the responsibility of a newborn baby again — not right at that moment, at least — or felt we were prepared to take on the new responsibilities that ministry growth would undoubtedly require, I really didn't want the responsibility of becoming a person who thinks she knows more than God does. I've seen that in myself before. I saw it in Jonah again. And I did not want to be that kind of woman anymore.
Honestly, knowing my track record with God and how He's shown Himself strong in the face of all my life interruptions, I should've handled this phase of my life differently. I was a bit disappointed in myself. Because looking back, I had a lot to thank God for. You see, if I had joined one of those singing groups in my teenage years, putting my life on hold while chasing a dream God knew wasn't for me, I would've probably continued on that path long after I'd forgotten that my first job in life was not to sing for the Lord but to listen for His direction and guidance. I'm pretty sure now that His plan for me all along was to be involved in teaching ministry. And I'm just as sure that if I'd been out on the singing circuit, I would've made the journey back a much longer road than it was supposed to be. In fact, I might never have gotten here at all.
If only I'd known.
Those years I spent studying television and getting some great on-air experience seemed largely wasted to me at one time. But what I once considered a pointless detour turned out to be the ideal training ground for the video-driven Bible studies God knew I'd be involved in later on.
If only I could've seen it, could've trusted Him.
And what if that relationship — the one I'd wanted to become my marriage — had not been interrupted like it was? Looking back at it now, I can see God's hand involved in turning me away from one man and turning my heart toward another. It takes a certain kind of guy to handle the life that our marriage and ministry require. Had the first man decided to marry me — who knows, we might have been happy together, but I'm sure now that he wasn't the one I really needed. He wasn't tailored for me like Jerry is, ideal for what God knew would be required of a husband in a situation like ours. Apart from accepting Christ as my Savior, Jerry is the best decision I've ever made (or better yet, like my seven-year-old said to me the other night, "Daddy's the best decision God ever made for you.") But I'm telling you, it was hard at the time. I didn't want any piece of God's will that didn't include this other man in it. And yet the wounds he'd left behind made me appreciate all the more the healing salve of Jerry's perfectly suited kindness and love for me. I fell head over heels into the romance of a lifetime. How I thank the Lord now for unanswered prayers. Interruptions are often His way of doing something even better.
I wish I'd known that earlier.
Perhaps Jonah might've wished that, too. He was a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel during the early part of the eighth century BC. And while we don't know much about his life prior to the events recorded in the book that bears his name, we do know from 2 Kings 14:25 that he had foretold some positive developments for his people, the Hebrews.
Excerpted from "Life Interrupted"
Copyright © 2011 Priscilla Shirer.
Excerpted by permission of B&H Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1: Interruptions, Interruptions,
Chapter 1. And Now for Something Completely Different,
Chapter 2. Consider It a Privilege,
Chapter 3. Story of Your Life,
Part 2: On the Run,
Chapter 4. Beyond a Reasonable Doubt,
Chapter 5. Slippery Slope,
Chapter 6. Wake-Up Call,
Part 3: Repentance at Sea,
Chapter 7. Now What?,
Chapter 8. A Fish Called Grace,
Chapter 9. Making Change,
Part 4: Second Chances,
Chapter 10. There's More Where These Came From,
Chapter 11. Rinse and Repeat,
Chapter 12. Go to Ninevah,
Part 5: Unfinished Business,
Chapter 13. God on Our Own Terms,
Chapter 14. The Many Moods of Jonah,
Chapter 15. There's So Much More to Tell,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am currently reading this with a small group of women from my church. I have found so many things that mirror what goes on with Jonah in Life Interrupted. It is wisdom for your life and for your soul. I can't wait for each week to read and talk about the next chapter.
I would highly reccomend this book. It makes you look at your life and the way you react to those interruptions we all encounter and how to better handle them. Very well written and easy to follow and relate. Great author!!
This book takes you through Jonah's journey and reminds you that life is full of interruptions. It is well researched. As with all her books/teaching she gives her own life examples that provide humor and inspiration.
Great book on how all our lives get interrupted..daily. How God can led us through those interruptions.
Author wrote with light hearted humor but scripturally true. As a mature Christian I personally did not experience an aha moment, just good reminders, but many ladies did find it very uplifting.
Unexpected interruptions in life and schedules...truly the story of my life. In writing Life Interrupted: Navigating the Unexpected, Priscilla Shirer has practically written much of the story of my life. And she has never even met me! How is this?! Apparently my life situations and struggles are not quite as unique as I once thought. What a comforting realization. Of all of the books I have read in the past few months, I would say this one speaks most specifically to me. As a matter of fact, I believe that you may discover the same for yourself if you so choose to venture into the waters of Jonah's story as told by Priscilla. Jonah's story may be a bit familiar to most who have read the Bible or even heard Bible stories throughout their life. However, I have never read nor thought of Jonah's story in quite the way Priscilla Shirer presents it in Life Interrupted. For probably the first time ever, I actually found myself identifying with Jonah rather than judging him. Have unexpected, even unwanted interruptions come your way causing your life course to be frustratingly altered? Have you had a very large virtual fish swallow you in order to force you back on a path or mission you were trying to avoid and even run from? Then I share with you something Priscilla says on this matter, ".No matter how remote and relaxing, nothing fills the void of the abandoned purpose. Nothing feels the same anymore when you're running from God." Have you made a mess of your life in the past? Then, I echo a quote Priscilla shares by a lady named Carol Kent when she says, "My mess has become my greatest message." If you can say yes to any or all of the above, you may identify with Jonah more than you think. And you will definitely identify with Life Interrupted. Additionally, I would like to leave you with an encouraging and true reminder from Priscilla, "When we respond to our second chances by obeying Him with new determination, entirety, and abandon, His Word and work can do amazing things through us, enough to spill over into second chances for lots of others." Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher from B&H Publishing Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
This was such an amazing Bible study. Thank you so much
I will probably read this many more times. Very encouraging. Easy to understand. Relatable to the nth degree. Reassuring of God's unchanging, unconditional love, grace, and mercy.
This lesson on Jonah was an amazing revelation of how similar we all have acted in response to God's commands. The way out of life's obstacles is through them, as my pastor has said. But praise God that we won't burn in the fire , but none the less be spiritually refined!