Book Review: Unexpected by Christine Caine

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I have a confession: I have heard Christine Caine speak live three or four times now, and I really liked her the first time. Since then, though,  I’ve not enjoyed her other talks as much. Let me explain. I feel like all of her sermons have gone back to the same thing – freedom in Christ, which is great! However, often times it’s not even the theme of the event we are at, but it’s what she seems to always go back to. I inevitably get nuggets of wisdom from her, and I’m sure some people relate to her very well,  but I’m also always left thinking, “that is pretty much the same thing she said before”. Due to this, I’ve never really wanted to read any of her books. However, when her newest book came out, I decided to give it a try. I say all that to say, that I did not go into this book with the best attitude. I was definitely a reluctant reader, however it was exactly what I needed right now. God used it in powerful ways in my life, and I am so thankful for it.

Christine Caine speaks honestly and transparently in this book about her own battle with cancer, self-doubts, and challenges. She also uses the stories of those close to her (mainly people that she now works with through A21, the nonprofit she founded with the goal of abolishing human trafficking) as examples and analogies throughout her book. The way that she seamlessly interweaves scripture within the larger story found in each chapter makes this a quick read. The power and feistiness that you associate with her if you have ever heard her speak is just as present in the book. The one negative about the book, and it’s really more of a personal preference, is that the chapters are rather long (around 20 pages each). I like to be able to read a chapter each time I pick up the book, so I prefer chapters be shorter, however she does provide quite a few subheadings throughout the book, which still enables the reader to find a good stopping point rather easily each time they pick up the book.  One of the things I absolutely love about this book is that she begins each chapter with a quote. I’m a collector of good quotes and can never have too many, so I always enjoy when a book begins with a quote by someone else from whom the author found inspiration.

At it’s root this book deals with anxiety and how to not let it consume us. As a person who struggles consistently with anxiety, I can attest to the fact that for anxious people unexpected things are the absolute worse. It may sound preposterous to someone for whom anxiety is not an issue, but something…anything, no matter how small…not going according to plan can ruin my whole day. I’m working on this, and I believe that this book helped me tremendously with it. However, I know that adjusting to change is a weakness of mine. Caine gives clear, scriptural advice for coping with unexpected events and the anxieties that inevitably accompany those events (at least for most people).

There were so many good take-aways from this book. I underlined things in every single chapter. However, here were three of the points that really hit home with me.

Sometimes Going Through the Unexpected Thing is What’s Best for Us

Christine makes it very clear early on in her book that God does not send, or give us, the bad things that happen to us in life. Our God is a good God who gives good gifts. However, as she points out, “there are times God wants to walk us through a process, because that is what’s best for us”. Christine goes on to explain, “The challenge then becomes choosing not to allow the enemy to use these unplanned and upsetting events to rob us of life”. She explains that Satan will use our crisis to try to pull our focus away from God and His promises. Our goal as we go through unexpected events in life is to continue, “to live a life of purpose and passion…never losing sight of your objective – no matter how devastating the unexpected is”. It’s so easy to focus on our circumstances and to have our pity parties, but it is so much better, so much more fruitful and comforting, to focus on our God and His power in us to get us through what is happening.

Sometimes Things Just Don’t Work Out…And that’s Okay

“If we are going to fulfill our purpose and keep on loving adventure, then we must accept that somethings will break down along the way.” This is a difficult truth for me to accept. When things don’t go well for me, I tend to want to give up. Oh that blog post wasn’t received well or that freelance article wasn’t accepted, I might as well just stop writing. This is where my brain goes. However, as Christine says, the pathway to fulfilling our purpose is going to have disappointments strewn about along the way. However, “God wants us to believe and understand that his promises don’t have expiration dates”. When God gives us a vision of how we should be fulfilling our purpose here on Earth, and then things don’t immediately fall into places to make that work, we tend to doubt our calling or doubt that we heard God correctly. We have to remember, though, that our ways are not his ways and our timing is not his. We shouldn’t give up just because a few things, or a lot of things, don’t go well.

Become a Prisoner of Hope

We can be a prisoner of anxiety, fear, and discouragement or we can choose to be a prisoner of hope. As Christine explains being a prisoner of hope means learning “how to live in the present, but with the future in mind”. How do we do this? We “hold onto his promise as the truth that triumphs over the facts in your life”. We don’t become discouraged when things don’t work out as planned. We focus on our God and the positive things in life as opposed to focusing on our circumstances and all of the unexpected negatives. When we do this, we change our perspective, and possibly our lives and the lives of others.

I am so thankful for this book and the way that God has used it to help me overcome some of the anxieties in my life. While this book is specifically written to those of us that struggle with anxiety and coping with the unexpected. I believe it would be a powerful read for anyone, and I would highly recommend it.

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