August 30, 2021
When Life Doesn’t Follow Your Plans
BRENDA BRADFORD OTTINGER
Lee en español
Short on time and long on impatience, I jotted a nearby address into my GPS one morning, and to my surprise, the highlighted route stretched wide and winding across the dashboard map.
As I backed out of the driveway, I thought, What ever happened to “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line”?
But as my speed calmed and reason returned, I was glad to be guided along the rambling, paved route rather than the short, straight line through a dense forest of pine trees where no path existed.
And it occurred to me that day that straight lines in life are rare.
So often, I’ve wanted to navigate my own route, bypassing the bends and backroads of life, seeking a direct path to my plans — when God hasn’t paved a way for them yet.
As a result, I’ve spent miles of life recalculating, circling in confusion, fearful to move along unfamiliar paths.
Yet I’ve come to realize that straight lines aren’t always in God’s navigational system either. God’s way is often a winding path paved on the waters of faith.
Consider Peter. He and some of Jesus’ other disciples had spent the evening with Jesus, healing and miraculously feeding a crowd of over 5,000. As the disciples travelled home across the lake, a sudden storm stirred up. As their vessel struggled against the waves, they looked up and saw Jesus walking toward them on the surface of the water. “Then Peter called to him, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.’ ‘Yes, come,’ Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.” (Matthew 14:28-29, NLT)
Peter’s testimony of faith that day wasn’t simply in his toes strolling through the waves but in his acceptance of a holy invitation to join Jesus on an unconventional path.
In that moment, Peter didn’t walk on shallow waters where his feet could catch the sandy shores of security. Rather, Jesus invited Peter to walk in the deep — and that’s His invitation to us, as well.
The path He leads us on is often a winding, meandering route on the waves of life, not the simple, straight line we might choose. But, just as Jesus calmed His disciples with the comfort of His presence that night, He does the same for us: “‘Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘Take courage. I am here!’” (Matthew 14:27b-c, NLT).
Friend, even when God’s plan for us feels long and divergent, take heart — He’s here, ordering every mile as we release our routes and join Him on the path He prepared in advance for us. (Ephesians 2:10)
Sometimes faith looks like remaining on an unexpected path in life and choosing courage, resting in the assurance that the Guide of our lives will never lead us where His presence won’t meet us.
For, at its very essence, faith is a safe shelter for our souls, bridging the gap between the known and unknown, freeing us to rest in the God who’s with us.
When we’re tempted to rush toward plans we long for, eager to bypass unexpected routes, may we instead quiet our bustling spirits and press into the tender leadership of God.
And when those times come along when our faith begins to sink, as Peter’s eventually did that night, and we’re distracted by the storms of life … even still, the very same Jesus who remained beside Peter to lift him up remains beside us, ready to answer our cries for help. (Matthew 14:30-33)
Dear Lord, thank You for being the Guide of my life. Please help me surrender my will to Your way today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
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Have you ever felt insecure about discussing certain topics with your closest friends because you aren't sure how they will respond? Or wondered why people who share the same beliefs can see things so differently? Can we really find the answers to those questions in God's Word? Find out in our next First 5 study, Colossians: How to Know the Truth in a World of Divided Opinions, starting September 20. Click here to order your study guide!
For more encouragement, connect with Brenda Bradford Ottinger on her website.
FOR DEEPER STUDY
Psalm 32:8, “The LORD says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.’” (NLT)
How has God met you along unexpected paths in your life? We’d love to hear your story in the comments.
© 2021 by Brenda Bradford Ottinger. All rights reserved.