Do you ever look back on the journey of your life, at the ways in which you got where you are today and just wonder: How did I get here from there? For most—if not all of us—our life hasn’t consisted in a straight line trajectory of point A to point B and then on to point C. Sometimes my adult life has felt more like I started at point Q and the proceeded to point F only to then move on to point W. And next? Probably point B. When I look at where I have been, where I am now, and where I could go, it certainly doesn’t seem that this journey has been decided by efficiency. At times it’s seemed like little more than going in circles.
This is just the way of God. He takes us, not by the fastest or shortest way, but instead he takes us the best way. Best meaning what meets our needs, what shapes us where we need shaping; the way that teaches us and pummels us when necessary. He takes us by the way of abundant living not easy living.
God loves to take the roundabout way.
When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, “If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle. Exodus 13:17-18
This roundabout way is scenic at first. It’s nice to feel like we aren’t racing to get there (wherever “there” is), but are just moving along, enjoying the journey. But our nature leans towards impatience and soon this becomes frustrating. We just want to be there already!
It’s easy to get angry and agitated with God. To wonder why everything we want—and especially the things we think he wants for us—take so long to get here. If this is what God wants for me then why doesn’t he just make it happen?!
Because God knows what we need.
Do you honestly think that God wanted to take the Israelites the long way around? These were not the best road trip companions! Do you really think God wanted them to go through all the waywardness and major mistakes they were about to experience in their long and seemingly unending journey through the desert? Of course not. But this is what they needed. They need it here at the outset, and they need the trip extended later when they get their first chance to enter the promised land.
God is not in the business of giving us what we will like. He gives us what we need. Because God loves us too much to give us only what makes the temporary fun. He is in the business of the eternal.
The eternal has time for us to take the roundabout way.