A Hilly and Winding Life
April 29, 2015
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The photo shows the hills and mountains our mission team traveled in Mexico to get to the town of Chalcatongo in the state of Oaxaca. You probably have had a similar experience if you’ve traveled through the Smokey Mountains, Rocky Mountains or other mountainous ranges. You spend half your time going up hill and half your time going down hill (it works out this way if it’s a round trip). You’re also likely to have driven on countless switchbacks, as we did, where part of the time you’re traveling the opposite direction you want to go as you travel up or down the mountainside road. Up and down, left and right are the directions you end up traveling through hills and mountains.
The journey through life is much like this. There are the highs of the mountain top experiences and the lows in the dark valleys we go through. We have in mind a straight trajectory for reaching our goal or achieving an accomplishment, but we find ourselves on a winding path with switchbacks that seem to be taking our life in the opposite direction from which we want to go. It’s frustrating and bewildering, and so easy to get confused and find oneself lost.
We’d love to have our journey be straight and level. The gospel writer Matthew said of John the Baptist that he was fulfilling Old Testament prophecy by preparing the way for Jesus the Messiah. “This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: ‘A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” (Matthew 3:3) It was a fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3. John did prepare the way for Jesus, and so in this sense John did make a straight path for Jesus, and yet Jesus had His ups and downs and strange twists and turns during His three years of active ministry. For instance, Jesus was affirmed by the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove at His baptism, but then the Holy Spirit immediately led Him into the wilderness where Jesus found Himself seriously tempted by the devil; He was just doing the Spirit’s bidding! The crowd on Palm Sunday gave Him a hero’s parade and the crowd at the end of the same week cried out “Crucify him!”
If Jesus’ life was filled with ups and downs and twists and turns then we shouldn’t be too surprised that we’ll face much the same in our journey, even if we’re committed to following Him. Frequently our prayers aren’t answered the way we expected. Sometimes we try to do the right thing, do things the way we think God would want us to do them, and things don’t turn out at all the way we were expecting. We face a difficulty and wonder what good can come from it.
Our primary comfort as we navigate the challenging roads of life is that though the Lord often doesn’t give us an easier way to go He is with us on those difficult roads! The psalmist David, king of Israel, had it right when he penned these prayerful words, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” (Psalm 23:4)