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How Should Christians Respond to ‘Life Is a Journey, Not a Destination?’

How Should Christians Respond to ‘Life Is a Journey, Not a Destination?’

When your plans get foiled, you find yourself on a detour, or you are smack dab in the middle of troubles, you may hear a well-meaning friend try to comfort you or steer you in the right direction with the phrase, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”

While that motto might seem like encouragement to hang in there and focus more on your present than your future, it can also steer you wrong if you start to live by it. Yes, life is a journey with its ups and downs. But if we lose sight of our ultimate destination, our journey through life’s challenges becomes meaningless. When you and I stop thinking of our final destination as believers, we will miss the opportunities throughout life that God gives us to refine our character, give Him glory, share Him with others, and ultimately prepare us for our eternity with Him in heaven.

What Does “Life Is a Journey, Not a Destination” Mean?

This well-worn maxim originated from American author Ralph Waldo Emerson who wrote in his essay, Self-Reliance: “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” His essay, intended to convince people to avoid conformity, stressed that for one to truly be significant he or she had to follow their own conscience and “do your own thing.” He contended that the process of creating is its own reward and that we can only feel relieved and happy in life when we pour our hearts into our work and do our best. Anything less will give us no peace, he wrote.

Granted, life is a journey filled with lessons, hardships, heartaches, joys, celebrations, and special moments that will ultimately lead us to our destination or purpose in life. Our path will not always be smooth, but will, in fact, include many challenges. Emerson wrote that we are not to be not so focused on the end result or outcome of our goal but to pay attention to the process and not be so overly concerned about getting to a certain place.

The mere fact that the quote comes from a position of relying on self should warn any believer that it runs contrary to what the Bible teaches about relying on God. The quote, in essence, implies that a journey is to have a goal in life and hopes to obtain that goal, but if you don’t then you can just enjoy an average life. A destination, on the other hand, is a concrete goal in which one will do whatever it takes to get there. In other words, if you set out to drive from California to New York and you’re focused on the destination, you’ll eventually get there. But if you choose to be more intent on the journey, itself, it’s possible you may get distracted and settle somewhere in the Midwest, causing you to never see or experience the East Coast at all.

What Does the Bible Say about Our Lives and Our Real Home As Christians?

While “life is a journey, not a destination” implies that we should concentrate on the here and now, it contradicts Scripture which tells us to keep our eyes on our eternal destination: Heaven.

Colossians 3:1-2 tells us to be heavenly minded, focused on our eternal home: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (NKJV).

Jesus told us to invest in heaven – our destination – when He warned: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). He knew that whatever we spent our time, money, and effort on would eventually win our hearts. He didn’t want us to become distracted with the things of this world and losing sight of our eternal destination.

Jesus also told a parable in Matthew 25:14-30 about the importance of investing well what God has given us on this earth because it will impact our eternal rewards and in some cases, our final destination.

And in Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus stressed the importance of our final destination in a sobering comparison, letting us know how easy it is for some to miss heaven altogether: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” In essence, Jesus was anything most people will miss the point in life and

“do their own thing” and go the way that most others are going and it will mean death and destruction. He urged that we not live for the here and now, nor follow where the crowd is going, but be careful to enter the “narrow gate.” In case there was any doubt where that narrow gate was, Jesus said in John 10:9 that He was the gate: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” Jesus also said in John 14:6 that He was the only way to heaven: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

How Should Christians Respond to “Life Is a Journey, Not a Destination?”

When someone tells you “life is a journey, not a destination,” they may very well be encouraging you to take time to smell the flowers, to bloom where you are planted, and to not be so focused on the end result that you miss the lessons and pleasures along the way. It’s true that we are to pay attention to what God is doing in our everyday life, as He refines us through our circumstances. Yet, life is very much about our destination, and the challenges we face are meant to prepare us for it.

Philippians 3:13-14 tells us to forget what lies behind (our baggage from the past), reach forward to what lies ahead (our eternal home), and “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” That means, keep your eyes on the prize: your calling to serve and glorify God and spend eternity with Him. After all, we were created to love God and enjoy Him forever.

You can still enjoy the journey, learn from the journey, and allow God to shape and refine you on the journey. But don’t lose sight of where you are headed. There are not many roads to heaven and multiple ways to find God’s favor. Jesus said there was one way – and it was through Him. Keep your eyes on that door and it will lead you to a destination of joy. Psalm 16:11 says, “In [His] presence is fullness of joy; At [His] right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

How should you respond to “Life is a journey…” when you hear it? By simply saying, “Life is a journey, my friend, but it is also very much about the destination. I want to one day hear my Lord say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant…. Enter into the joy of your Lord’” (Matthew 25:23).

For more on growing in your faith and relationship with God so you can dwell in His presence forever, see Cindi’s books, Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needsand  Women on the Edge.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Julentto Photography

Cindi McMenamin headshotCindi McMenamin is a national speaker, Bible teacher, and award-winning writer who helps women and couples strengthen their relationship with God and others. She is also a mother, pastor’s wife, and author of 17 books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 150,000 copies sold), When God Sees Your TearsWhen a Woman Overcomes Life’s Hurts, and When Couples Walk Together:31 Days to a Closer Connectionwhich she co-authored with her husband of 35 years. For more on her speaking ministry, coaching services for writers, and books to strengthen your soul, marriage, and parenting, see her website: www.StrengthForTheSoul.com