Difficult Seasons

Apparently, I’m middle-aged. At least that’s what the folks who categorize these things tell me. As I move deeper into middle-agedom, I’ve slowed down. I’ve lost hair. I talk about the good old days more and I have a growing desire to yell “get off my lawn” for no reason. In addition to all of these, I’m also learning to deal with aging parents.This past spring, my mom fell. And, while she didn’t seem to suffer any serious injuries at first, time has proven that the fall has indeed marked her life. Since June, she has been through two hospital stays, two rehab stints, and a couple of weeks in an assisted living facility. In addition, during the same period of time, my dad has also had two hospital stays, three surgical procedures, and a rehab stint of his own (sadly, my dad passed away right before I published this). It’s been quite a summer.

As I’ve walked through this journey with my parents over the last few months, I have been reminded of a few things.

Plans are great, until they blow apart. 

James writes:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be! For you are like vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes. Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15, CSB

More than once over the last several weeks, I’ve made the two-and-a-half-hour trek to my hometown to be with my parents. I came with my clothes, my iPad, and a plan. And, almost without fail, those plans never worked out. I’d get dad out of the hospital only to have to put mom back in. There were falls, insurance issues, and unforeseen events at every turn. And, while I continued to try to plan out the next week, something would always happen today to completely wreck everything. As a result, I’m trying to take each day as it comes. Yes, I still like to try and plan things out, but by God’s grace, I’m slowly learning to focus on today and not be anxious about tomorrow.

In the movie Apollo 13, Tom Hanks stars as Jim Lovell. In one scene, the crew is worried about the re-entry plan to come back to earth. As the stress and tensions mount, Lovell says, “All right, there’s a thousand things that have to happen in order, we are on number eight. You’re taking about number 692.” I’m trying to learn to deal with number eight before worrying about what’s down the road.

Friends are precious. Over recent weeks, I’ve received countless texts and calls. Friends (and family) have reached out to offer their prayers, help, and encouragement. I’ve had people offer to help transport my parents to appointments or to bring them meals. I’ve walked into gatherings and had people drop what they’re doing to come and pray with me and for me. My church family has been incredibly gracious in all of this to allow me the time to minister to my parents. All of this really makes a difference. I’ve been reminded that friends are really a blessing from the Lord.

Prayer is vital. I know we all know this…or at least give lip service to it. But, I’ve been reminded anew about the importance of prayer through all of this. I like to think I can control most of the events in my life (I know, I know. Go back and read James 4 again). But, the events happening in my parents’ lives are well beyond my control. I can’t make bodies or brains heal. I can’t make bureaucracy work faster. I can’t open up beds in facilities where there are not or make resources magically appear. All of this has driven me more and more to the only One who can.

God is sovereign. The sovereignty of God is a great theological truth. We read of it in theology texts and expound on it in theological conversations. But, there are times in life when sovereignty has to become more than a concept in a book. It has to be a reality that pierces the circumstances of our lives. Romans eight tells us

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28, CSB

This verse is meaningless if God is not sovereign. If He’s not sovereign over the circumstances of life (both good and bad), then the best we can do is hope things work out for the best. But, if God is in control and He is working and His promise is true and meaningful, then we have the confidence that He is accomplishing something. We may not understand it or even agree with it, but we know that while things are hopelessly beyond our control, they are not beyond His.

I love these words from Tenth Avenue North:

“As I walk this great unknown
Questions come and questions go
Was there purpose for the pain
Did I cry these tears in vain
I don’t wanna live in fear
I wanna trust that You are near
Trust Your grace can be seen
In both triumph and tragedy
I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go”

As I enter this new chapter with the people who molded me into who I am, I’m resting on this Sovereign Lord. I’m looking to Him more in prayer and drawing strength and encouragement from the people He brings into my life. I’m learning to adapt to His plan for today rather than trying to force my plan for tomorrow. It’s not always easy, but I’m trying. Like they say, getting old isn’t for wimps.

Maybe you too are in a season of struggle. Perhaps your season, like mine, involves helping the people you love navigate the difficulties of aging. Or, maybe your struggles fall into a completely different category. Whatever the context of your life right now, I imagine the lessons above still have relevance for you. Learn to focus on the step in front of you. Be encouraged by the people around you. Dive deep into the pool of prayer and trust confidently in a sovereign God. May He help each of us move manage the difficult seasons of our lives.

The Depths of Anguish

desperate-prayer“Can I help you?” It’s a common question. We hear it all the time. Whether it’s in our local store or on the phone with a customer service rep half way around the world, we all have heard some well-meaning person ask us how they can help. And, much of the time, these folks do a great job providing us assistance. They point us in the direction of the item we’re looking for or they help us solve an issue with our computer or with our phone bill. It’s great to get the help we need. But, where do we go with the stuff that bigger than all of these kinds of things? Where to we go with our fears and our heartaches? To whom can we turn when the stuff of life is just too much for us to bear?

In the opening chapter of 1 Samuel, a childless woman name Hannah is in the temple praying. As she pours out her heart, she silently mouths her prayer. The priest on duty accuses her of being drunk and asks her to leave. Hannah replies, “No, my lord…I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the Lord. Don’t think of me as a wicked woman; I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment” (1 Samuel 1:15-16, CSB).

I’ve been pouring out my heart before the Lord…I’ve been praying from the depth of my anguish and resentment.

Hannah knew where to take her heartache. She knew who to call with her anguish and resentment. She poured her heart out to God. She cries out of the depth of her anguish, so caught up in it that she’s oblivious to the fact that others are even watching her.

Many of us can identify with this kind of struggle. We know what it is to feel so burdened and overwhelmed that it’s hard to know what to do or we to go. Paralysis sets in and we find ourselves stuck in place with no idea what to do next. Whereas Hannah took these burdens to God, so many of us let our burdens crush our souls. We carry that weight and brokenness like a badge of martyrdom, completely unwilling (or perhaps unable) to let them go. We talk to friends and family about it. We post about it on social media. We might even ask others to pray about it. But for some reason, we fail to truly take them to God praying from the depth of our anguish and resentment. God is the one who can truly work in these heart-breaking, gut-wrenching situations. He’s the one who can offer help when we feel so helpless.

So, open up with God. Be honest with Him. Pour your heart out to Him. Be vulnerable. Show your brokenness. Pray from the depth of your anguish and resentment. Take these things to your loving Heavenly Father and trust that He will work in them for your best and His glory. Whatever the burden, however large or overwhelming it may seem, He can help you. He may not move in the way you’d like, but you can go to Him. Don’t be hesitant. Cry out to God, praying from the depths of your emotion and heartache. And, as you do, trust that He is able to help you in your despair. Have confidence in Him because he is bigger than whatever it is we bring to Him. He indeed can help.

Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. Hebrews 4:16, CSB

More Than Numbers

advertising-by-the-numbers-its-big-business-with-big-numbers-to-matchNumbers are my life. No, I’m not an accountant or a mathematician. I’m not an engineer or a banker. I don’t run actuary tables for insurance companies or develop spreadsheets for corporations. My math skills top out with basic algebra and my knowledge of Excel is pretty limited. Nonetheless, numbers are my life.

Over the last fifteen years, I’ve had a few health problems. And, like anyone who has had serious issues with their health, numbers begin to play an important part in determining how things are going. I track my weight, my blood pressure, and my glucose levels. I use apps on my phone that chart how many steps I take and how many miles I walk. I have lab work regularly that measures everything from my cholesterol to my medication levels. So, every day…every week…every month, some number comes in that tells me how I’m doing.

In addition to being a patient, I also have a day job. I pastor a church. That means in addition to preaching and teaching and ministering, I deal with a number of…numbers. Every week I process through attendance and offerings and other statistical measures of how our church is doing (or at least that’s what many say measures how our church is doing). Due to our facility being destroyed by a fire in 2015, we are now in a building program which involves things like budgets, blueprints, and insurance reports. Yep, you guessed it. More numbers.

The other day, I was thinking about all the numbers that define my life. It was kind of funny that I was having these thoughts while hooked up to a heart monitor and walking on a treadmill. As I was walking, paying close attention to the statistical dashboard in front of me, that phrase “numbers are my life” kept running through my mind. And then it hit me. No, they’re not. Numbers don’t define me. Jesus does.

Through His death and resurrection, Jesus freed me from the power and penalty of sin. He has forgiven me. Because of Him, I have been adopted into the family of God and made a co-heir with Christ. He has promised that He will never leave me nor forsake me and that one day, I will spend eternity with Him. He has changed me…and He is changing me. And, He defines me. Not my weight or my lab results. Not how many people were in church this week or how big the restrooms in our new building are. He cares about my health and the health of our church, but those things are not who I am. I am a child of God because of Jesus. And, that’s something numbers just can’t measure. Numbers aren’t my life. Jesus is.

The challenge for us is to understand what really defines our lives. It’s not our careers or our bank accounts. It’s not if our kid makes the team or the honor roll. It’s not how many miles we can run or if we can fit into the clothes we wore in college. It’s not the fame or the popularity that comes with successful ministries. Our true purpose…our true success is found in Jesus. Our acceptance and joy are found in Him. Our contentment and security? In Christ. So, let us stop seeking these things somewhere else. The numbers will never provide the true picture of who…and whose we are. We’re more than numbers. We’re children of the living God.

I pray that he may grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with power in your inner being through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19, CSB

You Mad?

angry-mob-pitchforks-torchesLike many, I’ve watched the news over the past few weeks with a bit of amazement. Without making any commentary on what has been done by our new president, it is a bit surreal to watch people react. Every day there is a new angry outburst of one kind or another. This anger isn’t new. During the campaign season, commentators kept speaking about the anger of the American people. If anything, that anger has only intensified. It seems as though many are angry without even knowing why they’re angry. We’re like little children throwing a tantrum and when asked why by our parents, we cry out “I don’t know. I’m just mad!” The volume is turned up, the shouting is more intense, and the barbs are more pointed and personal.

How do we are Christians respond in an age filled with such hostility? Obviously, we should be praying, loving, and sharing the gospel. But, I want to go beyond that to one specific admonition from James for us as believers. James writes, “My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness” (James 1:19-20, CSB).

Perhaps in this age of shouting and tantrums, we as Christians would do well to listen more, take time before we speak (or post), and ask God to help us lengthen our fuses just a bit to keep from being angry all the time. When we listen less, talk more, and are angry all the time, it just seems to make matters worse.

I’m reminded of an old episode of the original Star Trek. An alien entity took over the Starship Enterprise and trapped Klingons (enemies of the Federation for all the young, non-nerds out there) on board. The alien then fed off the anger and the hostility between the Enterprise crew and the Klingons. The anger-fueled alien could not be defeated until the hostility between the two subsided.

I wonder what might happen in our circles of influence if we listened a bit more, took a little more time to speak, and got angry a lot slower than we do now? I’m sure it wouldn’t solve all the problems nor make the disagreements go away, but I have a feeling it would be an awful lot easier for those around us to see Jesus.

 

Don’t Go Back

you-cant-go-backPatton is one of my favorite movies. The 1970 biopic won an Academy Award for Best Picture, and George C. Scott won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the controversial general George S. Patton (although he had it returned the next day). Patton was a advance at all costs kind of guy. He challenged his commanders to be audacious and to keep moving forward at all times. In one scene, Patton is encouraged to stop his advance in order to allow his men to regroup. He replies, “Not me…I don’t like to pay for the same real estate twice.” Patton understood that retreat is not usually the best option.

In the opening book of the Old Testament, God calls Abraham to leave his homeland to follow Him. Abraham did so, and God eventually fulfilled His promise to Abraham and gave him a son named Issac. Years later, Abraham is lying on his death bed and making arrangements for his son to secure a wife. As he does, he instructs his servant to “go to my land and my family to take a wife for my son Isaac” (Genesis 24:4, CSB). He then issues this stern command: “Make sure that you don’t take my son back there” (Genesis 24:6, CSB).

Abraham’s words remind us of the danger of retreat when we are following God. It is so tempting for us to go backwards…to return to the familiar and the comfortable, particularly when God is pushing us beyond our comfort zone. As He moves us forward, it’s easy for us to want to go back. But, we can’t. We can’t go back. We can’t walk away from all the new things God is doing in us and through us. We can’t settle back into the comfortable when God has so much more in store for us. We must fight the urge to retreat into the familiar. We can’t return to our old way of thinking and doing. We must continue to press ahead. We must continue to advance by God’s grace and by His power.

The Apostle Paul writes, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14, CSB). Don’t pay for the same real estate twice. Keep moving forward. What ever you do, don’t go back.

God Remembered

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On more than one occasion in my life, I’ve had to confess that I’ve forgotten something. I forgot about a deadline or an appointment or an assignment of some kind. More and more, I find myself having to use the reminder app on my phone to help me remember what to take where and who to call when. In our busyness and frailty, we often forget. We forget dates, events, promises and sometimes even people.

Frailty and forgetfulness seems to go together. We know that deep down. After all, we forget…and we have been forgotten. Someone has let us down in one way or another. A forgotten anniversary or birthday. A forgotten lunch date. A forgotten promise. We are not only forgetters. Sometimes we are forgotten too.

When we read the story of Noah and the great flood, we read of a man named Noah and his family building an ark, loading up animals, and surviving a deluge. After the rain falls and the storm subsides, the Bible says, “God remembered Noah” (Genesis 8:1). God remembered. What comforting words.

Those words struck me one morning as I was reading this text. In the face of all the fears we have, we do not need to fear that we are forgotten. We’re not. The God who created everything has not lost track of us. A hectic schedule and a full calendar have not squeezed us out of God’s mind. His omniscience is not impacted by the frailty that robs us our memory as we age. God had promised Noah to bring him through the storm safely. God not only remembered Noah, but He also remembered His promise to him. The winds came. The waters receded, and Noah stepped out onto dry land. And as God remember Noah, He remembers us. As God remembered His promise then and He remembers His promise now. In Christ, we are not alone. We are not forgotten. When those fears arise let these two words encourage you. God remembered.

Give Us A King

votingLast night, I sat down with my absentee ballot and began coloring in the appropriate circles. I researched judges and various ballot proposals and cast my vote as wisely as I knew how. Then, I came to the top of the ballot. And, as I did, my emotions went from frustration to anger, discouragement to despair. How did we end up with here? How can these be our choices? I set the ballot aside to spend more time reflecting and praying about what to do. As I did, I couldn’t help but think of the children of Israel.

In the days of Samuel, Israel clamored for a king. In doing so, they set aside their full reliance on God and embraced the wisdom and power of man. God saw this for what it was, and told Samuel, “they have rejected me from being king over them” (1 Samuel 8:7, ESV). But, He goes on to have Samuel, “solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:9, ESV). 

Subsequently, Samuel warns the people about all the things the king will do to them and take from them. And then he closes with this sobering word, “And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the LORD will not answer you in that day” (1 Samuel 8:18, ESV).

As I read that verse, I can’t help but wonder if it doesn’t describe where we are today. For years now, we believers have invested so much energy and effort into the political process. So much so in fact that in the eyes of many in our nation we are synonymous with politics and politicians. To be fair, many of our motives and causes are noble. It is important for us to be engaged in the process and know the issues. It is important for us to vote our values and our consciences. The things we value matter, and so does our participation.

But, I cannot help but wonder if we have trusted too much in people and politics. Could it be that we have so embraced the political processes and its promises that we have lost sight of God’s leading? Have we cried out so loud “give us a king” that we, like the people of Israel, have rejected God? Samuel’s warnings remind us of the danger found in completely surrendering ourselves to the power of people…and to people of power.

The reality is we have little to gain and everything to lose in such a capitulation. A new president is not going to bring the change we need. Nor will the Congress or the Statehouse. Again, it really matters who sits in these offices, but none of these individuals are capable of changing the human heart, and none of them are capable of stopping one from changing. Only God can truly change lives. Only He can transform us from the inside out through the hope that is found in Jesus.

So, with that said, what would happen if we put the same kind of passion and energy into sharing the gospel and living it out daily as we do into politics? How many lives would be touched by Jesus? How many would see what it really looks like to love your neighbor and to care for those in need? How many would grow to understand that all life is precious from the womb to the grave? How many would catch a glimpse of genuine racial reconciliation and social justice? How many would be impacted by radical generosity? How many would learn that love is more than the stuff of movies and music?

If we really poured ourselves into this kind of living, lives would be transformed and the world would be a vastly different place. Hearts and minds would be changed. The values we hold so dear might not be so foreign to so many. So, let us cry out “Give us a king!” But, let our king be King Jesus and let us live passionate lives for Him.

 

Fix It

breaking-worldTechnology is great, except for when it isn’t. The other day, my iPhone acted up and some app wouldn’t work properly. I had uploaded some meeting notes into the cloud and the app kept crashing. And, I got frustrated. I tend to do that when things break. My frustrations aren’t limited to the tech world. Leaky pipes, sticky garage doors, and touchy automobiles frustrate me too. Things are supposed to work the way they’re designed to, and when they don’t, it’s aggravating.

My guess is that you share in my frustrations. Most of us can only handle so much brokenness. We want things right. We want things to work properly. We want things fixed. And, our desire to address the broken is not limited to our gadgets and gizmos. We want the same thing for our culture and our world. A simple look at the headlines reminds us of the brokenness of our world and our collective desire for things to be right. Social unrest. Corruption. Lawlessness. Disregard for life. Division and discord. The list goes on and on. We want these things fixed. We want these things to be right. We want things to work the way they’re supposed to.

At its most basic, our desire for things to be right is a desire for justice. When my iPhone doesn’t work properly, I want Apple to fix it. After all, they made the thing. They can make it right. Fixing the technologies in our lives are one thing. Fixing our world is something else. Where do we go fix it? Our governments? At best, their solutions are short-lived. At worst, they compound the problems. Our collective sense of right and wrong? The problem here is that we are fickle. Today’s right is tomorrow’s wrong. We shift with the wind and the tide. Social media? Right. Ranting on Twitter and Facebook really solves things. No, none of these are real answers. We’re going to have to go the One who made us. Only He can make things right. Only He can fix it.

The Bible assures us that one day, Jesus will come and right every wrong. He will fix what’s broken in our world. As believers, we long for that day. We long for His justice to reign and the corruption caused by sin to be completely overcome. But, what about the gap between then and now? More importantly, what do we do when we realize that we are as corrupt and broken as the world around us? We have to look to the One who made us because only He can fix it.

When Jesus died on the cross, He satisfied God’s justice. He bore the judgment we deserve. And, because of that, we are free in Him. While we still bear the scars and the struggles of this broken life, we know that God’s grace has lifted us. We are able to move forward and persevere in a world filled with things that don’t work right. Grace works like that. It deepens our understanding of our own brokenness and the brokenness of the world around us. We grieve more as we mature in our faith. Our heart aches more and more because of the reality of sin and the impact it has in our lives and in our world. But, in the midst of our sorrow, there is the strength to go on and the hope to look ahead. Jesus is indeed coming again and He will right every wrong. Justice will be served. He will fix this broken world and He will reign in righteousness. He will fix it. Until then, His grace is sufficient. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

 

 

Bug Control

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One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just doesn’t belong. If you have ever paid a visit to Sesame Street, you’ve heard that song. It’s a catchy little jingle. So catchy in fact that I still recall it to this day. I imagine that if you’ve ever heard it, you do to. As a matter of fact, it’s probably playing in your head right now.

Back in the day when Oscar, Grover, and the gang sang about differences, they did so to help children learn to compare similar things. And, as we sang along, we learned that one bowl was bigger than the other three. A triangle was different than a square. Blue was not green. So on and so forth. We learned to compare.

In some ways, comparison can be a good thing. We compare products before we purchase them to determine the best deal. We read reviews and take test drives before we buy a new car. We check out the blogs and the online reports before we pick up a new computer. We compare neighborhoods before we buy a new home, and we visit colleges with our kids before we send them off to campus. Comparisons can be a good thing.

But with that said, comparisons aren’t always good. As a matter of fact, there are times when they can be downright unhealthy. We see this when our young girls start comparing themselves to the idealized women of movies and magazines. We see it when our young athletes start taking shortcuts and put themselves at risk because they are comparing themselves to mature, world class athletes. We see it when we start looking around at everyone else and what they have and become dissatisfied with our own lots in life. And, we see it when we start comparing ourselves with others in a way that devalues who we are.

It’s easy for us to let comparisons rob our sense of worth. And sadly, this happens to us more than we like to admit. We look at supermom and all she does for her kids and we feel like complete parental failures. We see that guy at the gym and determine we’ll never be anything more than a slightly more attractive version of Jabba the Hut. We visit with friends and hear of their trips and see their new cars and we sink into despair because we’re such losers.

The destructive power of comparisons gone too far impact our ministries too. I’ll never be as good a teacher as that guy is. I can never sing like her. My devotion life is nowhere near theirs. I’m such a failure. Sound familiar?  Even pastors and ministry leaders get in on the action. I can’t preach like that guy. My church will never be as good as their church. I’ll never be as smart or as talented as that person is. I could never write or get published like they did.

We’re not the first people to do this. In the book of Numbers, the children of Israel sent spies into the land God had promised them to check it out. When the came back, they said,

“And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them” (Numbers 13:33, ESV).

In other words, they said, “They are so great and we are tiny little bugs. We’re nothing compared to them.”

Now, here’s the problem with their assessment. All they saw were people bigger and more capable than themselves. They had forgotten who they were. More importantly, they had forgotten whose they were. The belonged to God. He had created them and set them apart as His people. He had delivered them from bondage in Egypt. He had provided for them every step of the way during the exodus. And, He had promised to be with them as they claimed the land He had promised them. Simply stated, they had taken God out of the equation.

When you and I look around at everyone else and we take God out of the equation, we too will see ourselves as grasshoppers. Like the Israelites, we forget that God created us and set us apart as His people. We forget that He has delivered us from the bondage of sin (Romans 6:6-7). We forget that He has given us everything we need in Christ along the way (Ephesians 1:3). And, we forget that He has promised to be with us until He fulfills His promise to us (Philippians 1:6).

In Christ, you are not a grasshopper. You’re not some tiny insignificant bug less valuable or less cherished than someone else. You’re not inferior to someone who is bigger or more successful. You’re not worth less because you have less. So, quit with the unhealthy comparisons already. It’s fine to look around and let others inspire or help motivate you to grow or improve in some way. But, stop letting your comparisons to others rob you of the worth you have in Christ.

Perhaps you’re not like the others and maybe you feel like you just don’t belong. That’s okay. So, you’re not as big or as talented or as popular. Forbes doesn’t know your name and you’re not going to make the cover of Sports Illustrated. You won’t be leading any seminars on managing an unruly preschooler and the Ivy League isn’t calling begging your kids to come. Your church isn’t the most prominent in your state or your city…or your street for that matter. Your house is small, your car is old, and you weigh more than you did in high school. It doesn’t make you a grasshopper. It doesn’t mean you lack worth or value in God’s eyes. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. The Scripture is filled with ordinary people who are loved and used by an extraordinary God. Let Him count you among that group.

Getting There

20120930-201318A couple of weeks ago, I had a meeting in a place that was new to me. I typed the address into my iPhone and let that digital voice lead me to my destination. When I left, I tapped home on my maps app so my digital guide could get me home. I was surprised to find out that I was going home via a different route. I’m not sure why my phone made the change. I don’t know if the traffic patterns changed or the second route was slightly quicker than the first or what. All I know is that I got where I needed to be by following the directions, even when they took me to a route I did not expect.

Life is like this. It seldom goes the way we plan. It’s filled with twists and turns and unexpected routes. We plan on going one way only to find ourselves headed in the opposite direction. Circumstances change. Stuff happens. Detours abound. Our direct route ends up looking like some obscure geometric design with a name no one can pronounce.

When life hits us with its inevitable route changes, we can respond in a number of ways. We can get agitated and lash out. We can pout and just pull over. We can stubbornly take control and try to forge our own way. Or, we can trust that God is guiding us and He knows more than we do.

The Bible tells us “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:2-3 ESV). It is far more productive for us to surrender to the guiding hands of a loving God than to defiantly insist on following our own directions. We do not know what lies ahead, but He does. He has far more insight to the productivity of His path and the peril of ours.

Years ago I was asked to take someone to the airport. As I dropped him off at his hotel room the day before, he asked me if I knew how to get there (this was before the days of smart phones and GPS). “I don’t,” I said, “but I’ll find out.” The next morning I picked him up and he told me he had gotten directions to the airport. When I told him I didn’t need them, he said to me “You’re a real man. Not only will you not ask for directions, you won’t follow them when you get them.”

Many of us are like that. We stubbornly hold onto what where we want to go in life despite the fact that God may be leading us in a different direction. Let go. Listen to His guidance. Surrender to His direction and commit your way to Him. He is far more knowledgeable and far more able than we are. He is the one that weighs our spirits and establishes our plans. We can trust Him to take us the right way.