Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all
(Proverbs 3:5-6 MSG).
When my kids were younger, I used to rig the Candy Land cards.
Not so they could win, you understand, because I don’t believe in just letting a child win at games.
At first, this seems harmless enough. Who doesn’t want the Gingerbread Man? Then you realize that it’s just evil fate and lessons in the futility of life sugar-coated and handed to your three-year-old child.
That’s because the Gingerbread Man is all the way back at the beginning of the game.
So, you have to watch this sweetly innocent toddler who was an inch away from cheering in victory move her red Candy Land piece all the way back to a position of certain defeat.
Sometimes life seems just as sadly confusing with unexpected twists and turns and a few disappointments and setbacks.
Yet, surely these are lessons best learned when you’re a little older and wiser?
My solution was simple. As I shuffled the cards before setting up the game, I made sure the dreaded Gingerbread Man and the peppermint stick guy and sometimes even the gumdrop were in the front of the stack.
Thus, anyone who drew one of those cards would never have to fall back more than a few squares.
Sometimes I wish God would rig the cards every once in a while so life never involved steps backwards or feeling stuck in place (on something less soothingly delicious as a licorice stick).
While He’s at it, wouldn’t it be nice if He gave the game board a big yank and straightened the path? No more zigzags across the board. Geometry tells us the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. How about a straight line, God?
Yes, it’s true, sometimes the directions God takes us and the interruptions, setbacks, and seemingly pointless diversions we experience just don’t make sense.
In her book Nehemiah: A Heart that Can Break, Kelly Minter shared: “…I have a friend who regularly says to me, ‘Lean not Gal!’ As in, ‘Lean not on your own understanding, but all your ways acknowledge Him, ‘Gal!'” (p. 97).
I love this. I certainly have the tendency to lean on my own understanding and raise a ruckus of discontentment when God leads me in unexpected directions.
Jonah also needed someone to tell him, “Lean not, Guy!” when he, a highly successful, well-respected prophet of encouragement to God’s holy people got God’s disturbing message: Go preach repentance to an enemy nation that has persecuted and killed your neighbors and family friends.
The disciples similarly needed a “lean not” reminder when Jesus told them they were going up to Jerusalem where He would be persecuted, imprisoned and crucified.
In the same way, Paul challenged his friends and followers to “lean not” when he traveled to Jerusalem, despite being warned that he would be placed in chains and taken captive there (Acts 21).
Jonah, the famous runaway, tried to avoid the path that didn’t make sense.
What if he had succeeded? Nineveh would have missed out on experiencing what “many historians cite …as the greatest revival in human history” (Priscilla Shirer, Jonah, p. 114).
“When Jonah chose to walk in obedience to the word of the Lord, the result was a harvest of amazing fruit he’d probably never seen coming. Not just one community in the city or even a handful of the city’s important people believed in God. Every citizen of Nineveh, from the greatest to the least, immediately believed. Conviction was so complete that even the animals were made to participate in the government-mandated fast. ‘Even the great Apostle Paul never experienced anything comparable to what Jonah saw. Paul never saw an entire city turn to God'” (Shirer, p. 118-119).
Yes, and without Jesus’ journey to the cross, we would not have the resurrection or a plan for salvation.
And if Paul chose the easier road away from Jerusalem, he would never have preached about Christ in Rome—even to Caesar himself (Acts 28).
It’s frightening not to know exactly where we’re going. It’s terrifying not to know what will happen when we get there.
It’s disappointing when God asks you:
to step aside
to walk away
to turn around
to go back
to take a break
to cease activity
and to put aside our own plans and visions and understanding of how this crazy life should work out and make sense.
Yet, even when we spend some time standing still or making the disheartening trip apparently backwards, we can trust that God has a plan—a better plan (yes, even better than the magical candy castle!) and maybe a surprising plan (to us, not to Him)—as long as we obey.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.