If only we could order life the way we order gourmet coffee. Wouldn’t you love to mix and match the ingredients of your future?

“Give me a tall, extra-hot cup of adventure, cut the dangers, with two shots of good health.”

“A decaf brew of longevity, please, with a sprinkle of fertility. Go heavy on the agility and cut the disability.”

“I’ll have a pleasure mocha with extra stirrings of indulgence. Make sure it’s consequence free.”

“I’ll go with a grande happy-latte, with a dollop of love, sprinkled with Caribbean retirement.”

Take me to that coffee shop. Too bad it doesn’t exist. Truth is, life often hands us a concoction entirely different from the one we requested. Ever feel as though the barista-from-above called your name and handed you a cup of unwanted stress?

“Joe Jones, enjoy your early retirement. Looks as if it comes with marital problems and inflation.”

“Mary Adams, you wanted four years of university education, then kids. You’ll be having kids first. Congratulations on your pregnancy.”

“A hot cup of job transfer six months before your daughter’s graduation, Susie. Would you like some patience with that?”

Life comes caffeinated with surprises. Modifications. Transitions. Alterations. You move down the ladder, out of the house, over for the new guy, up through the system. All this moving. Some changes welcome, others not. And in those rare seasons when you think the world has settled down, watch out. One seventy-seven-year-old recently told a friend of mine, “I’ve had a good life. I am enjoying my life now, and I am looking forward to the future.” Two weeks later a tornado ripped through the region, taking the lives of his son, daughter-in-law, grandson, and daughter-in-law’s mother. We just don’t know, do we? On our list of fears, the fear of what’s next demands a prominent position. We might request a decaffeinated life, but we don’t get it. The disciples didn’t.

“I am going away” ( John 14:28).

Imagine their shock when they heard Jesus say those words. He spoke them on the night of the Passover celebration, Thursday evening, in the Upper Room. Christ and his friends had just enjoyed a calm dinner in the midst of a chaotic week. They had reason for optimism: Jesus’ popularity was soaring. Opportunities were increasing. In three short years the crowds had lifted Christ to their shoulders . . . he was the hope of the common man.

The disciples were talking kingdom rhetoric, ready to rain down fire on their enemies, jockeying for positions in the cabinet of Christ. They envisioned a restoration of Israel to her days of glory. No more Roman occupation or foreign oppression. This was the parade to freedom, and Jesus was leading it.

And now this? Jesus said, “I am going away.” The announcement stunned them. When Jesus explained, “You know the way to where I am going,” Thomas, with no small dose of exasperation, replied, “No, we don’t know, Lord. We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” ( John 14:4–5 NLT).

Christ handed the disciples a cup of major transition, and they tried to hand it back. Wouldn’t we do the same? Yet who succeeds? What person passes through life surprise free? If you don’t want change, go to a soda machine; that’s the only place you won’t find any. Remember the summary of Solomon?

For everything there is a season,

a time for every activity under heaven.

A time to be born and a time to die.

A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal.

A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.

A time to grieve and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.

A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to search and a time to quit searching.

A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear and a time to mend.

A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

A time to love and a time to hate.

A time for war and a time for peace. (Eccl. 3:1–8 NLT)

I count twenty-eight different seasons. Birth, death, lamenting, cheering, loving, hating, embracing, separating. God dispenses life the way he manages his cosmos: through seasons. When it comes to the earth, we understand God’s management strategy. Nature needs winter to rest and spring to awaken. We don’t dash into underground shelters at the sight of spring’s tree buds. Autumn colors don’t prompt warning sirens. Earthly seasons don’t upset us. But unexpected personal ones certainly do. The way we panic at the sight of change, you’d think bombs were falling on Iowa.

“Run for your lives! Graduation is coming!”

“The board of directors just hired a new CEO. Take cover!”

“Load the women and children into the bus, and head north. The department store is going out of business!”

Change trampolines our lives, and when it does, God sends someone special to stabilize us. On the eve of his death, Jesus gave his followers this promise: “When the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” ( John 14:26–27 NLT).

As a departing teacher might introduce the classroom to her replacement, so Jesus introduces us to the Holy Spirit. And what a ringing endorsement he gives. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit his “representative.” The Spirit comes in the name of Christ, with equal authority and identical power. Earlier in the evening Jesus had said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever” ( John 14:16 NIV).

“Another Counselor.” Both words shimmer. The Greek language enjoys two distinct words for another. One means “totally different,” and the second translates “another just like the first one.” When Jesus promises “another Counselor,” he uses word number two, promising “another just like the first one.”

The distinction is instructive. Let’s say you are reading a book as you ride on a bus. Someone takes the seat next to yours, interrupts your reading, and inquires about the book. You tell him, “Max Lucado wrote it. Here, take it. I can get another.”

When you say, “I can get another,” do you mean “another” in the sense of “any other” book? A crime novel, cookbook, or a romance paperback? Of course not. Being a person of exquisite taste, you mean a book that is identical to the one you so kindly gave away. If you had been speaking Greek, you would have used the term John used in recording Jesus’ promise: allos—“another one just like the first one.”

And who is the first one? Jesus himself. Hence, the assurance Jesus gives to the disciples is this: “I am going away. You are entering a new season, a different chapter. Much will be different, but one thing remains constant: my presence. You will enjoy the presence of ‘another Counselor.’ ”

Max Lucado, Fearless (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012).

Check out the six-week Bible study exploring key topics from Max Lucado’s book, Fearless. It is available on Amazon, as well as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking.