Why God Makes You Go The Long Way

His mysterious leading proves wiser than our impatient pleas for progress.

Sometimes God takes you the long way in life. That’s hard, because the direct route makes so much more sense. We’re all about efficiency. But God has a different destination in mind.

Why God Makes You Go The Long Way

(Photo by Photodune)

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?

God’s deliverance by parting the Red Sea paved the way for Israel to meet God face to face at Sinai—and to receive the Law by which they could live in the Promised Land.

If the goal was simply a destination, God seemed a lousy travel agent. A journey of three weeks would ultimately take 40 years! But God purposed to give His people something far more than a parcel of land; He offered them a changed heart.

In the end, the land, the journey to it, and even God’s Word along the way came as but the means by which they would learn to know and trust Him.

Sometimes is the Shortest Way is The Long Way

Later, instead of entering the Promised Land from the south where the people now stood, God led them east around Edom.

God took them the long way—again. And it seemed pointless.

As a result, the people “became impatient because of the journey” (Num. 21:1-5). Why take the long way around?

But as the passage unfolds, we read how God gave Israel victories all up and down the King’s Highway so that they ultimately gained control of the majority of Transjordan. This allowed them to prepare to cross over the Jordan River into the Promised Land at Jericho—a location far more strategic than from the south.

The long way ended up the best way after all.

The Long Way Sometimes is the Shortest Way

(Photo by Photodune)

Why God Takes You The Long Way

Often, it seems as if God needlessly extends our journey:

  • For years we pray for a loved one’s health, a friend’s salvation, or for a missionary to receive funds.
  • We plug away endlessly at a miserable job with no promotion.
  • We wait and wait . . . and wait.

The long way seems the wrong way and, like the Hebrews, we become impatient because of the journey.

Yet when we look back in hindsight, we actually come to appreciate how God used the journey—and all the victories and failures along the way—to prepare us for something we felt ready for much earlier.

So many of us are impatient with our faith. The journey we are invited to undertake is a long haul and delivers its benefits in the longer term. We have got to learn the hardest of all lessons—that we need to be patient. —Alister McGrath

Two Views of the Long Way

On the long journey, there are two views:

  1. What we see—While we strain to see over the next horizon, God sees the map from above—and so knows the best way to proceed. So the Lord often leads us according to the needs of our heart, not always according to its desires.
  2. What God sees—The Father sees the fear buried in our hearts that the quick and easy way would bring out. In our lives, we must realize that God’s goal for us—the best He could possibly give us—isn’t found in simply taking us from here to there. It isn’t even found in a new biblical insight. These come as but the means of His real goal—to know Him.

Time and again God’s mysterious leading proves wiser than our impatient pleas for progress. Would He not receive more glory from our lives if we trusted Him along the path of the unknown than if we saw His purposes from the start?

Question: What long journey are you on right now? To leave a comment, just click here.


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I'd love to hear your thoughts. Just keep it kind and relevant. Thanks!

  • Jim McNeely

    Great one, I really needed to hear this today!

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  • em111

    I am still trying to become a physician; started 10 years ago, really. Things seemed to fall into place piece by piece, I took a wrong turn, ended up somewhere I thought I would not be. Now, I have difficult odds to beat, limited roads to take and struggle with my sense of purpose. I actually don’t know what to do except to keep trying and look for a way. The difficult part is trying to figure out what to do, and then asking myself what it is I really want to do. I keep looking for signs along the way. Very good insight, encouraging.

    • Thank you for your persistence in seeking such a helpful profession. How we need godly doctors! When I’m hard-pressed to know which way to go, I try to ask myself, “What is the obedient path?” and then take it. This post kind of walks through that process, as opposed simply to following my heart’s desires. It isn’t easy. Thanks for your comments. I’ve been praying for you since I saw your note.

      • em111

        Thank you for that, it is a blessing to be prayed for. It is precisely following my heart that got me off track. I will see where the road leads now, listening and working it through.

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  • Danny Allen Puckett

    Wayne, when I think of your topic, the Long Way
    road, I also think about Matthew 7:13-14 where Christ said we are to enter by
    the narrow gate. He said “the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads
    to destruction, and those who those who enter by it are many. For the gate is
    narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few
    (ESV).” I believe in my heart that the majority of my life has been on the
    Long Way road. However, this road is the road to the abundant life!

    • I think it’s true, Danny, that entering through Christ—the narrow gate—will lead us on the challenging journey of waiting on God for so many parts of life. Ironic, isn’t it, that the abundant life comes by waiting? Thanks for your comments.

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  • Wayne Faulks

    I have made a lot of mistakes, and made bad choices in life, but when I realized that I could not go any farther I began top seek God and pray for direction and it looks like God has forgotten me, I’ve been praying for God to manifest his healing in my life for years and it seems like God doesn’t hear me but I’ll continue to trust him I realize there’s a reason for the long way so I give him glory and praise, from one wayne to another Wayne thank you

    • You’re welcome, Wayne. Yes—we do need to cling to God and His grace each day, don’t we? Thanks for your courage.

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  • ARM BAR

    I actually have been on long journey since 13 years ago Wayne,Yes what you say on that topic is correct,but to know exactly where i’m at right now in the God’s plan and schedule are not easy,but i’m 100% sure God knows what the problem is,i’m only thinking about my age and the opportunity Wayne because i have been waiting too long for God help to come,Good topic Wayne and well explained ,God Bless,Thank You.

    • Sometimes our journey is best understood at the end looking back. Even if God explained his method to you right now, it would make little sense. We just have to walk in faith.

  • Galaxykid Max

    I have been waiting for God to fill me with the Holy Spirit and to pray in tongues….which, from my understanding, is the fiery prayer language that burns through the veil of darkness that is set up by the kingdom of darkness to stop prayer.

    Ever since I have gotten really serious about God I have been waiting. It’s almost a bit disconcerting because I’ve bewn searching myself….confessing EVERY SIN I could think of and genuinely been praying to God to receive it.

    And yet nothing….

    I feel worried that I am lacking somehow…

    This is why I seek out sincere Christians like yourself. People I can actually LEARN from. Not just to be taught to be no more than a church goer.

    But taught to be a REAL CHILD of God…..I really don’t know what to do anymore.

    Please help?

    • Max, let me cut to the chase. Our only source of truth in spiritual matters is God’s Word. And the Bible never teaches that you need to speak in tongues in order to have some deeper walk with God– nor are tongues ever a universal indication that you’re saved or have God’s Spirit. The only issue is this: have you trusted that Jesus is the only way of salvation– that He died on the cross for your sins? Once you believe, your sins are forgiven —even the ones you don’t know to confess. You don’t need tongues, dreams, or any other supernatural means to hear from God. Just read the Bible. Everything he wants you to know, he has put there. If you are not sure where to begin, I suggest you read the Gospel of John.

    • Mrs. Suzanne Wantland

      I will be praying for you. Just open your mouth and start praising Him. Worship Him and don’t think about the words that come from your mouth. Allow Holy Spirit to speak/sing through you. Do it each day and let Him breakthrough. He will and you will get your prayer/worship language. It will not sound like what you think it should or will. Just as He speaks your language in life – He uses His Word, life circumstances, songs, and things unique to you – He will do the same with the spiritual gifts including tongues! And then He wields them. I have prayer language but He gave in His time and He wields it! But He heard and empowered and anointed long before I walked in that gift. Be careful that the enemy does not lie to you that you have to have that gift operating at this moment in order to be effective or anointed. That is a lie from Satan. You are his child and all of those gifts listed and current the ends are yours. Allow him to wield them in your life keep your eyes on His face, His voice, HIM and you will be amazed! PRAYING FIR PEACE FOR YOU!

  • Theresa Jean Hunt

    I don’t know the purpose of my journey at this time.. I have been widowed and twice divorced and now I am living alone, again, across the country because I can’t afford to live in Northern Virginia on my own just relying on Social Security. So I now live in Mesa, Arizona. I have one of my sons and his family here, my grandkids, but I left behind my other son, my daughter, three sisters, numerous niece’s, nephew’s, their kids and my friends..There is a very good chance I will live well into my 90’s..I just don’t know what I am doing here.. I have to have total trust that GOD does have a plan, without that I am adrift just passing time here.

    • Waiting on God is never easy, Theresa. You might find some encouragement in this post I wrote about when you aren’t being used to your full potential. Have you read my book, Waiting on God? There’s a lot there about feeling unused, without purpose, and how God means to shape you during those times. You are right, god does have a plan. And he is not done with you, Theresa.

  • Mrs. Suzanne Wantland

    Such a timely word! I truly see His leading as I look back over my life now. And this post truly gives me peace as I continue to walk with Him to the finish line! My oldest daughter graduates this year. I am going to print this out and put in her scrapbook that we are making for her. It’s called a wisdom scrapbook-it’s to help her as she begins to journey through life to remember God’s word, His truth, and His wisdom. This truly is His wisdom. Thank you

    • Yes, Suzanne, I pray that your daughter seeks God’s truth in God’s Word alone. May the Lord bless you as you do the same. Thanks.

  • Gail Cantrell

    Makes me look at the long way differently, or should I say a different perspective. The visual of the road was very helpful, thanks Wayne. How many times I’ve become impatient with the long road, looked to myself for answers, took it upon myself to “attempt” to cause life pains to subside, etc. Totally relying on myself along all life roads. Looking back I’v learned how miserable I am when relying on myself, opposite of relying / trusting Him. He wants to change our heart, what an awesome God!! Love your two views of the long way, Ours & His. The one thing I’ve been most thankful for since becoming a new creature in Christ is knowing Him. What an honor!! Lord help me trust you more as I continue to know you more.

    • Very true, Gail. Having God’s perspective is essential if we are to have peace of mind.

  • joni

    First, waited three years, for job at only door opened, job at a university. I hate it being there don’t have a passion for work and certainly not education either. A work bee in a government corporation. I’m a medical biller, not a tradition medical biller job. Want to be in a clinic setting. I don’t want to be where I work. I hate it !!!!!

  • Tish Clayton

    I was laid of 2xs in less than a year, my home was foreclosed, I was blessed with a job 9 months into unemployment, & now I’m fighting eviction & fighting to keep my home. The journey I am on is the long way & I am being prepared for something. I may not know what it is but I trust in GOD

    • I genuinely admire your faith, Tish. One day you’ll have a marvelous testimony. Your words remind me of Sara Groves’ testimony (listen to it first) of why she wrote the song, “He’s Always Been Faithful.”

      I’ve been laid off twice as well, and only this week has the Lord shown me the pathway through the forest. We walk by faith, don’t we? Your trust in Him will not be unrewarded.

  • Megan Leigh

    My husband and I have been serving in Ukraine for almost three years. Since I was in my late teens, I have known God has a great platform in store for my life and the talents He has given. However, the journey has been incredibly long and now, as a couple, we both sense this future platform. The waiting continues and just as your blog reminds us, God said in Exodus 13, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return”. Wow! So powerful and such needed insight that it’s all about the posture and position of our hearts, first and foremost, so we are best ready! THANK YOU! Where are hearts are currently, will not sustain us in the place God wants to ultimately take us. It is not easy, but it will be shown “worth it” in His timing.

    • You are exactly right, Megan. Whatever God has in store for you will be worth the wait. I admire your courage!