I was hiking with my friend in the middle of the desert, wondering why on earth I had agreed to it. The temperature was 104 degrees and the sweat was pooling in my socks.
We climbed up rocks, walked over long stretches of hard dirt, and felt the sun beat down on our backs. She told me that it was worth it, this was the way to the shaded springs where we could rest a few hours and enjoy cooler temperatures and water to splash in.
Despite her encouragement, I have to admit, I started to wonder if we were both crazy to be doing this. The only thing that kept me from turning around and hightailing it back to the parking lot where the air conditioned car waited for us was the fact that she knew the way better than I did, and I trusted her. So I kept putting one foot in front of the other, walking along the path I never would’ve chosen, because someone I trusted was leading me.
It was easy to follow my friend through the desert because I trusted her when she said it was worth it. I kept on going, not because the hike itself was easy or pleasant, but because she told me it was the best way to our desired destination and I trusted her.
I don’t know about you, but I’m really encouraged when I read about Abraham, the Israelites, and Esther. Stories about Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, Corrie ten Boom, and Helen Roseveare lift my spirits when they start to sink. If I could go back in time and ask each of them if the paths of life they walked were the ones they would’ve chosen, I’m fairly certain they would answer with a resounding “no.” Who in their right mind would say they had dreamed of being asked to give up their son, run into the Red Sea, marry the King who was likely to kill off their family, move to a people group who would spear their husband, spend their mid-forties in a concentration camp, or be brutally attacked in their own home while trying to minister?
The beauty of it all though, is after they laughed and said, “no, never in a million years would I have chosen such a path,” I believe they’d go on to say, “but I would take it all over again to get to where it brought me.” Because God often leads people down the paths they never would’ve chosen to bring them to the places they never dared to dream of.
It can be hard though, here in the middle of the desert without the faintest trace of the promised springs in the distance. We can be tempted to look around and question whether or not we’ve lost our minds, whether this painful, hard, and sometimes lonely path can really be the best one. I sometimes wonder. In fact, sometimes I simply burst into tears, hold my head in my hands, and cry out asking for faith to believe that this path I never would’ve chosen is truly the best. When I do that, the Psalmist’s words come to mind, “This God–His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.” (Psalm 18:30)
I’ve never walked these roads to glory before, I’ve not seen what lies beyond the bend, but the one who guides me and holds my right hand was the One that spoke them into existence. He is the One who leads me “beside still waters” and even if the billows roll, because He is with me, “I will fear no evil.” You see, I can take comfort even on the path I never would’ve chosen, because it is His rod and His staff I see before me. They are reminders that I do not walk this path for it’s ease, or it’s comfort, but for the simple fact that God led me to it, and His way is perfect.
This is the same God who led Abraham on top of Mount Moriah, and provided a ram to save his promised son. This is the God who led the Israelites to the edge of the Red Sea, and then parted it for them to flee their enemies. This is the God who raised up Esther for “such a time as this” that by living alongside her enemy, she might set her people free. This is the God who allowed Jim Elliot to be speared to death, in order save his murderer’s soul by the forgiveness of his widow. This is the God who led Corrie ten Boom into the dark depths of a Nazi concentration camp to save people from being slaughtered. This is the God who worked through the perseverance of Helen Roseveare to bring many people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This God, who leads you and I down paths we never would’ve chosen, His way is indeed perfect. When we cannot see how this way is best, let us place our hope and confidence in the One who chose it. He never makes mistakes.
Paul writes in his letter to the church at Rome, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18) I believe with my whole heart that every saint who has joined the heavenly courts above would respond to his words with a hearty, “Amen!” They would most likely admit that the paths God led them down were not the ones they would’ve chosen, but I believe they would also admit, they were the best paths. His way was perfect. It is perfect. It can never be anything but perfect.
My friend and I did reach the springs she told me awaited us at the end of that miserable hike. The water was cooler than I had imagined, the shade was truly refreshing, and the hours we spent exploring and resting have become memories I’ll always cherish. When I look back, I must admit, I never would’ve chosen that path. But I will also admit, it was the best path and trusting the one who knew the way was not a waste.
I know that one day I’m going to stand face to face with my dear Savior, and when I do, every path He led me down to arrive at home will have been worth it. I’ll see that His way was best, when it led through green pastures, desert wastelands, ocean billows, or mountain tops. I’ll see that every time I chose to trust even when I could not see was not wasted.
Are you on the path you never would’ve chosen? Take heart. With Christ as our Shepherd, each path He leads us down is perfect.