Living an Intentional Life Minus the Stress: Setbacks and Surprises, Part 1

Setbacks and Surprises are part of intentional living and are beneficial.


  • My first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage.
  • When pregnant with our second child, Gene’s job was unexpectedly terminated. He was without work for five months.
  • In the 2008 stock market crash we lost a considerable amount of the girls’ college money.
  • About three years ago, as Gene looked ahead to retirement, he was unexpectedly laid off.

These are only a few of the probably hundreds of setbacks and surprises that our family has experience in the past twenty-nine years. Some are too personal to mention here. Many involve other people and it would not be appropriate to discuss. Life can be a bummer, can’t it?

But as I look over the short list above and review the mental list in my mind, I am encouraged. In every surprising setback God showed up. God provided.

  • After my first miscarriage, which I later learned 20% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, I became pregnant with Katie.
  • While Gene was out of work during my pregnancy with Kelsey, God provided him with part-time work that supplemented unemployment. The finances were tight, but God kept our bills paid.
  • The girls’ college fund never returned to its full amount. Their loans are a little more than they expected. The story isn’t over. God is still providing and they are learning to trust God.
  • Gene’s last lay-off was short. He retired later that year, hated retirement, went back to work, and started his own business. He’s busier now than ever.

 Reviewing my own personal list of setbacks, I am surprised at the benefits and blessings God provided.

  • I went back to college—something I would not have done if my ministry had not slowed for a while, but something that will greatly benefit my ministry.
  • I now have my identity in who Christ made me to be and who I am because He gave His life for me, not in anyone else’s approval.
  • I trust God more, but still have a long way to go.
  • I am more disciplined in many areas of life.

As we live intentionally there will be setbacks and surprises. We will not know when or how they will come. When they do we can have a posture that is focused on God. One way to be better prepared is to make a list of our past setbacks. Yep, make a list of the hard stuff you’ve been through.

We are often challenged to keep a list of what we are thankful to God for. It’s a great idea and I do it. But I challenge you to make a list of as many setbacks as you can. Then next to each setback list the benefit or blessing from God, if it’s evident to you. Maybe the only benefit you see (and will see in this life) is that it deepened your roots in relationship with God.

Throughout the Old Testament God’s people are instructed to remember how He’s come through for them. In Exodus 13:3 Moses challenged the people to “Commemorate this day, the day you came out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, because the LORD brought you out of it with a mighty hand.”

In Nehemiah 9:9 the Levites prayed before the gathered nation of Israel, “You [God] saw the suffering of our forefathers in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea. You sent miraculous signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his officials and all the people of his land.”

Each of these times and many more the people or God recalled the hard things they were up against and how God came through and provided for them.

Recalling the hard times and looking for God’s faithfulness is how we deal with the setbacks and surprises. God’s response might not look like what we expect or want, but He’s God and He loves us and we can trust Him. We lean in to God in these times, trusting and clinging to Him. We hang out with Him like we’ve been talking about (Matthew 11:28, John 15:5). He’s there waiting for us.



Next week: Step 2 in Dealing with Setbacks and Surprises



Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.

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