Walking on Unsteady Paths
Let me tell you about my most recent adventure. I’ve moved to a whole new country, with a new way of life in a foreign place. I’ve moved to beautiful, Italy. New adventure, new sites, new language. It all seems very ‘Pinteresty’ and the perfect setting for an Eat, Pray, Love kind of inspiration. This time last year, my husband and I got the news, and I was so excited. My friends were so excited. My family was so excited. Safe to say, we were really excited. Looking through the lens of my Colorado living room into the future, I was eager to continue with the next adventure God had in store. I wondered, “What would future Reena, this time next year, be like? So cultured? Fluent in Italian? Eating healthy? With all her friends in the local cafe? So sophisticated?”
I should have asked, “What is God going to do with this new chapter in my life?” I can tell you that future Reena (the one writing this letter) didn’t grasp all the growing pains, the pruning, and the trials God had in store. I’m so grateful that he didn’t tell me all about it when I was so excited a year ago, because if he did, I’d be like, “Nope. That sounds awful. I’m gonna pass and stay with what I know and am comfortable with.”
That really shows just how much God knows us. He chooses the paths we have to walk even if we can’t see exactly where we’re going. To many, it may not seem like a blessing that God chooses our paths. We don’t usually enjoy being told where to go or what to do because we’re meticulous, we like control, and we like to sort out all the details on our own, because after all, who cares more about me than me? So we believe we have it right. We’ve sorted it all out. And we pray and pray that we get that job, or get into that college, or can move to that new place and then life would be perfect, just like in the movies. But as soon as God blesses and answers “yes” to those prayers, a trial comes along. Then we regret ever making that prayer request. Then we blame God: “If you knew this was going to happen, why did you let it happen?” The audacity that we regret the very blessing we asked for! I’ve done it, people in the Bible have done it, and I bet you’ve done it too. By now, God’s heard this countless times so you can be sure he knows how to respond. By focusing only on the negative aspects of every situation, we lose sight of the blessings. God gave you the desire in your heart to pray for it in the first place, so don’t ignore the fact that he’s finally blessed it.
Exodus 2:7-8 “The Lord said ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.’”
Just like the Israelites, God knows our trials. He sees your misery as you deal with troubles in your home or school bullies. He hears your cries and prayers when you’re abused. He’s concerned for you. The Creator of the Universe, has compassion on you. Not only that, he RESCUES you. We can have compassion for a homeless man, but few will actually give them a dollar. God sees our misery and not only gives us a meal, but rescues us out of the street. Once we’re rescued, he can bring us to a new life; a land flowing with blessings and favors.
But when times get tough …
Exodus 16:3 “The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.’”
When a trial comes along, there’s an unexpected outcome, or an unfulfilled expectation, we forget all the blessings and favors that God gave us and we start to complain. We forget the answered prayers and that we were rescued in the first place. We sometimes forget all the trials we’ve had in the past that prayed fervently to be free from, and we undoubtedly desire to go back to those times. The Israelites forgot the misery and slavery they had in Egypt and only focused one thing, food. But even then, God still blessed them. He gave them manna (Exodus 16:15). We might think we had it better in the past because we were comfortable or we knew the outcomes, but what we don’t often understand is that the fear of the future can outweigh the pains of the past.
There are so many scenarios where this can apply, for example: those who were gifted new jobs with better career opportunities, but who now have to relearn everything and start from the bottom. Those who move away for college, but miss all their high school friends and family in their hometown. Military wives who doubt God’s plans when moving to South Korea with their kids and husband, but forget the snowy winters they went through while living in Alaska. It’s easy to forget and complain about new chapters in our lives.
The Root of it All
Out of the very mouths of the Israelites who shouted praise to God for delivering them from Egypt come the complaints. Thankfully, God is slow to anger. He is patient, loving, and hears the cries of the Israelites and blesses them with manna. The perfect amount of manna.
Exodus 16:18 – 20 And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered little did not have too little. Everyone gathered just as much as they needed. Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell.
The root of it all: a lack of trust. We need to learn to trust that he will provide while we’re going down our new path. We have to believe his promises especially when we can’t see them yet. We also need to believe that God is the best one to be God and let him do what he does best, be God.
Just like that manna, doubting brings maggots into our lives. They are little pests that prevent us from receiving the blessings God has given us. The belief that we can support ourselves ultimately brings destruction. Yes, you don’t need to worry, or stress, or be afraid, but it all boils down to this: you need to trust God. You need to trust that he’s loving and trust that his path and plan is perfect. There will be growing pains, pruning, and trials that direct our eyes on only the good in the past rather than the misery that God rescued us from. We also need to trust that God’s sovereign eye sees the entire path that our eyes cannot see. When we stop because we have doubts, or hop off the path and choose a different one because it got too difficult, we become our biggest road block.
“In you, Lord my God,
I put my trust.
I trust in you;
do not let me be put to shame,
nor do not let my enemies triumph over me.
No one who hopes in you
will ever be put to shame,
but shame will come on those
who are treacherous without cause.
Show me your ways, Lord,
teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior
and my hope is in you all day long.”
Recently, my husband and I went for a walk on the shore of the Tyrrhenian Sea on the West coast of Italy and got caught in a little storm. Dark clouds, strong waves, and blowing winds; it wasn’t extremely intense or dangerous, but a storm nonetheless. At first I wanted to go back, but instead we continued to walk along the beautiful shoreline. This particular shoreline was actually a man-made point and seemed to be used as a sort of breakwater for the beach behind it. It was made up of only these giant marble boulders you had to jump on rather than walk. The forecast predicted a 100% chance of rain for the entire day (I know, why did we decide to walk outside with a 100% of rain? Probably not wise on our part). The waves were so strong that they crashed above the marble barrier and even soaked me and my husband a few times.
In all of that nasty weather though, God showed us something beautiful and something I truly believe he wanted us to remember in our hearts forever. As soon as we reached the very end of the point and sat down, the clouds separated and the sun shone down warmly right where we were sitting. It was truly a surreal moment, in the middle of a storm, sitting on giant marble slabs, skies split wide open and the sun shining down on us. With the wind and waves against us, it was definitely not the easiest path that leads us there, but when we finally reached the end and sat there, there were no waves and no wind, just peace. I was amazed and I must have said it about 10 times. It really was amazing. This beautiful moment led us to take a few minutes and just pray together, giving thanks to God for the beauty and glory he gave us.
Just so we’re clear, I’m definitely not suggesting that you go out and walk in a storm, who would do that!? I view our experience in that storm as similar to situations we all go through in our lives, when we find ourselves walking down paths that we’re not even sure how we got there in the first place. Our situation doesn't make sense. Everything about our circumstances are illogical. When life is raging its storm against you and you’re walking down an unsteady path, realize that God is leading you down it so that you can see something amazing, do something amazing, and become something amazing.
In our little storm, God led us down a path that was uncertain in our eyes to a place of beauty, praise, and glory. Just like on that beach, he’s leading mine and my husband’s life down a path of uncertainty towards something amazing, and he, the Creator of Heaven and Earth, the calmer of storms, is doing the same thing in your life too.
Choose to Trust
Fight the lie that “this time is different, I can guide my own path!” Fight gathering more manna than you actually need because you fear that God will not provide. God’s plan may not work out how you want it to, and it may not work out at all, but praise God because that means God’s new plan is going to be way better for you than what you’d planned. Hindsight is 20/20, and if we look back and focus on the MIRACLES, we can see God’s fingerprints molding and shaping things for his glory and our growth. Sometimes, it can be a big hand print that says “STOP! Don’t go this way!” Most times, we don’t even realize all God has saved us from.
Isaiah 55:8-9 “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord, ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”
The following posts will focus on the very things I never expected would bring out the strength within me and display the glory of God: the growing pains, the pruning, and the trials. We need hardships. God allowed all of these things to happen, not so that he could sit back and watch us struggle. He allowed these things so we can grow, build our character, take on new challenges and ultimately lead us to the land of milk and honey. Romans 8:18–30 dives deeper to present that our sufferings lead to future glory:
Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”
Don’t Be Fooled
1. Don’t forget the times saved you from past issues. I have a friend who keeps a journal filled only with blessings. It has a couple thousand blessings now, at least. Whether you need to write them all down or have someone remind you occasionally and hold you accountable, do whatever it takes so that Satan doesn’t fool you into thinking that God isn’t your Savior. Trace back your journey in life. Start just with today and see what lead you here. Then go a little farther back and see where you came from as a younger person and as a child. By looking at how much you’ve matured, progressed, and grown, you can clearly see God’s fingerprints all over your life. Whether it’s by blessing you with meeting this person or maybe you missed a bus that led you somewhere else. God’s path isn’t always from A to B. It maybe A1 to P79. But don’t worry, He will guide you.
2. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can see everything. Our human will is strong. We have a strong will to live, eat, and sleep. We would do anything we can to get Chick-fil-A on a Sunday. What’s even stronger is that we believe our will is the only will. We think we know everything because we go through every detail and every scenario, and we believe we created this bulletproof plan. We even confirm it with other people to not only double check, but receive praise. Don’t fool yourself. Keep your eyes on the master. That’s all we are ever really capable to do. It’s easy to read the Book of Exodus with the Israelites and their situation and say, “They did this and that wrong” without seeing ourselves in the story. How many times do we struggle in a situation because we can’t see the entire picture? We may be in unique situations, but one thing remains constant: we’re all human, and we need a Savior.
James 4:13 – 15 Now, listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money?” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”
3. Complaining to God is not the same as Praying
Numbers 11:1 “Now the people complained about their hardships in hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.”
Yeah. Saying that God doesn’t like complaining is a bit of an understatement. But don’t be fooled into thinking that complaining is the same as praying or that God is an angry tyrant. God is “slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever” (Psalm 103: 8 – 9).
When we choose to complain and fight against God, I can guarantee that we won’t win that argument. Pray to the Lord respectively and with thanksgiving. When Moses prayed to him, “the fire died down” (Numbers 11:2). God wants us to pray to him constantly about everything with thanksgiving.
Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
4. Don’t let Satan fool you. He is actively scheming against you to derail you and everyone else in the world from God’s path. The sad part is, that it is working for others. Don’t listen to him. Pray in Jesus’ name that God will expose Satan’s trickery. Satan has many names such as the tempter (Matthew 4:3), the father of lies (John 8:44), and adversary (1 Peter 5:8). He even can be displayed as a holy being, seeming to be a true symbol of God, but only to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
2 Corinthians 11:14 – 15 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.
Being God fearing women, we will have growing pains, times of pruning, and will see many trials. But as Disciples, we will have times of rejoicing. The loving Shepard guides us towards the ultimate land of milk and honey, the Kingdom of Heaven. Don’t be discouraged with the new paths God is leading you down. Pray for strength. You can do this girl, because Jesus can do it!!
Hebrews 12:1 – 2 (emphasis me) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and the perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.