Have you ever chosen a path that you believed was God's will only to end up in a completely different place than what you expected? Christians want to know God's will for our lives. But we have so many choices in life, so many paths that we can take. How do we know which is the right way, God's way? I believe one reason Christians have a difficult time making decisions and discerning the will of God is that we don't quite understand what it is that God most desires for us.
God, why did you take me here and on such a painful journey? Didn't you promise to make my path straight? Did I take the wrong turn, make the wrong decision? Often when facing a difficult choice or one of several roads, it is natural for us to pray that God show us the way, preferably the shortcut. We often think that the straight path is the less painful and pray that God directs us to the path of least resistance to a wonderful place where I am successful and blessed beyond measure.
Yet, the difficult winding journey is more likely the path God will lead you on and usually to a place you never thought you'd be. Why is that? Is God hateful, mean spirited? Think about the path the Israelites traveled to get to the promised land. It was certainly the long (40 years) and painful way to go. King David certainly had a rough road to becoming King. The apostles all struggled with difficult times and ended with sacrificial deaths as they spread the Gospel. Why would a God who loved us send us on these wild goose chases? Why doesn't he just give us a sign and direct us on the shortest path to where we need to be?
Because where God wants us is not a certain place of prominence or position of great accomplishments. No, what God desires most is just us. He wants the road to lead us to Him. His desire is for each of us to love Him and to love others. And usually it is the difficult journey that develops our relationship with God and our relationships with others.
I've recently had two discussions with men who have gone through chemotherapy and radiation for cancer. One was for throat cancer and the other stomach cancer. Both are in remission now and seemed to have won the battle. And both said to me almost the same thing about their battles with cancer.
Each told me that through their struggle their relationship with God has grown immensely. One is a very close friend who told me, "John I would have never made it through without God. My relationship grew significantly deeper with Christ as the treatment got more difficult."
The other one with cancer shared boldly that if he had to do it all over again he wouldn't hesitate. "I wouldn't trade the experience for another because of the growth of my faith and the relationships that have grown deeper because of the cancer." That's a pretty strong statement which I'm not sure most would say. But each guy acknowledged that without cancer their life with God would be nowhere near where it is now.
Pain and loss transform us. While they can test us, they can also push us to a deeper life with God than we ever thought possible. They make us rest in God alone. Not what we can do or achieve for him. And not what He can do or achieve for us.
I've certainly discovered that during my recovery from heart bypass surgery. I better understand that God's will is for me to be in a deep, loving relationship with him. That is why He took the long and painful journey himself, coming to earth, sacrificing his life so that we might have that opportunity to live with him for eternity.
Pray that God's will be done in your life and when the road gets steep and treacherous, accept what path He leads you on without complaining. Know that God is with you every step of the way. Lean in and learn to love God more, because you might never be the person God wants you to be taking the short and easy route.
More about finding meaning in the midst of suffering I suggest reading Phillip Yancey's book, The Question That Never Goes Away: Why?