A few years ago we led a tour of the Holy Land and Greece. Everything had gone smoothly until we arrived in the Athens airport. Then it happened. Two members of our group were detained by the Greek customs officials because their passports contained invalid visas.
To those who never travel overseas that may not sound serious, but it is. A visa is a legal document that allows a person to enter a foreign country for a designated period of time (a few days or weeks or months). No visa, no entry—it's really as simple as that. To make matters worse, when you are standing in the airport of another country waiting for the customs officer to clear you, there really isn't anything you can do to help the situation along. If you lose your temper, your papers have a mysterious way of being misplaced for hours at a time.
So there we were, waiting and wondering what would happen next. After several conversations, it all came down to this. The customs officials would have to telex the head office in downtown Athens and wait for a decision, which would take four or five hours at least. The rest of our group could go ahead to the hotel but the two women would have to stay in the airport.
I wondered how they would react to this frustrating delay. One of the women smiled at me and quoted Psalm 37:23, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord." Then she added this phrase—"And so are the stops."
What a fantastic insight that is. Both our steps and our stops are ordered by the Lord. He is in charge of everything that happens to us, and that definitely includes those maddening delays that seem to come out of nowhere. Sometimes we end up sitting for hours on a bench when we could be doing something productive—or so we think.
But it's exactly at that point that our faith must rise to the challenge. Do you believe that God has a plan for your life that includes every little detail? Do you believe that God is working out that plan every moment of every day? And do you believe that God is able to use everything that happens to you for your good and his glory?
If all of that is true, then even in the "stops" of life we can still give thanks to God. That doesn't make "stopping" easy or pleasant, but it does release us from the urge to barge ahead in our own strength.
Are you temporarily "stopped" right now? Fear not, child of God. This is part of his divine appointment for you. Wait on the Lord and soon enough your stopping will become stepping.
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