Sometimes God takes you the long way. And honestly? It’s tough to hang on when the direct route makes so much more sense. We’re all about efficiency. But God has a different destination in mind.
Strange, but this seems to be the Lord’s standard procedure. Take the exodus, for starters.
(Photo by Bill Nicholls. CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
The nation of Israel began their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land by promptly turning away from it.
Rather than take the shorter, coastal route to Canaan, God directed Israel southeast toward the Red Sea. The direct route led through the land of the Philistines, and while God could have simply destroyed the enemy (as He would at the Red Sea), His concern lay more with the unprepared and fearful hearts of His people (Exod. 13:17-18).
So God took them the long way. And it seemed pointless. But was it?
We have no problem choosing to trust God with the things for which we already trust Him. We learned the hard way to live by faith. Situations forced us to learn it—and we did. But then . . .
Another situation shows up. Suddenly, it’s like starting over.
We’re a lot like Asa, one of the few godly kings of Judah. He once trusted the Lord in a battle in the Shephelah and defeated an Ethiopian who came against him with an army a million strong (2 Chronicles 14).
But Asa’s greatest test came in an area that hit closer to home—literally.
That’s where God tests us as well, isn’t it?
Their request seemed like commonsense. But it wasn’t. “Let this land be given to your servants as a possession,” the people of Reuben and Gad said to Moses, “do not take us across the Jordan” (Numbers 32:5).
The tribes of Reuben and Gad had huge herds, and the land of Gilead and Jazer had lush pastures.
So they settled east of the Jordan River instead of crossing over into what God had promised.
Their choice shows us why we should never settle for second best with God.
I have discovered that the most difficult battles in life simply mirror Jesus’ struggle in Gethsemane. His words to the Father remain the most challenging words we could utter:
“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” —Luke 22:42
Surrendering your will to God in difficult times is often harder than the trial itself.
I have found that my greatest challenges come not from those circumstances that press in upon me, but from the internal struggle to surrender my will to God. I enter Gethsemane daily and have to drag my will to the Father in prayer.
(So do you.)
The awesomeness of creation exists as more than beauty for us to observe.
In spite of the chaos in our culture, the world screams of order in its origin. Its predictable seasons and trustworthy laws of nature reveal wisdom in its design.
(Photo by http://www.ForestWander.com (CC-BY-SA-3.0), via Wikimedia Commons)
The wisdom of creation we see is explained in the Bible we read. Wisdom played such an integral role in creation that the author of Proverbs 8 personifies it as a person present with God:
“Before the hills I was brought forth . . . When He established the heavens, I was there . . . When He marked out the foundations of the earth; then I was beside Him, as a master workman”—Proverbs 8:25–33
God’s wisdom displayed in the wonders we see also proves His wisdom in all areas of life.
Including the painful ones.
Sometimes fear keeps us from enjoying what God has promised. We want so badly to have faith in what the Lord says. But fear of what we see seems more compelling than mere words.
Gideon longed to believe God. But the enemy army before him was enormous.
It was almost as large as the fears we face today.
Sometimes it feels like God takes way too long. He could stop all the pain and confusion in a moment. He could meet the need. But He doesn’t.
Waiting on God is often confusing. He has operated this way for a long time.
When Mary and Martha of Bethany sent a message to Jesus that their brother Lazarus lay sick, Jesus stayed right where He was. When He finally did arrive, He found that Lazarus had been dead four days.
In other words, Jesus took His sweet time showing up.
Why does He do this?
What does it take for God to change you? In the Bible, when the Lord changed Jacob, it took a brawl. Isn’t it often the same with us?
These times we struggle with the Father represent His grace, I believe.
Jacob shows us how to win the struggle.
John the Baptist struggled with his own sermon.
He had preached about the Messiah’s kingdom coming with power and justice. But instead, Jesus’ ministry centered on preaching and on acts of mercy, and John found himself unfairly wasting away in prison near the blistering shores of the Dead Sea.
Gentle Jesus hardly seemed the political Deliverer everyone expected.
(Dead Sea shoreline, the area near where John the Baptist was imprisoned. Photo: By xta11, via Wikimedia Commons)
Unable to reconcile the contradictions and imprisoned in his thoughts, John doubted his own preaching. John sent messengers to ask Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” (Matthew 11:3).
In other words, the Expected One had certain expectations placed upon Him . . . and Jesus had failed to meet them.
My prayers don’t go far enough. Maybe your prayers need some stretching too.
We need to stretch our prayers past our pain.
Often our prayers begin and end with asking God to change the way things are around us.
- “Provide enough money this month”
- “Protect us as we travel”
- “Heal my friend from pain”
These are fine prayers, and all legitimate, but incomplete.
They just don’t go far enough.