You know the feeling—that moment when life seems to running smoothly, everything going as planned, and then… well, let’s just say it happens. It happens to the best of us, at the worst times. And if there’s one I’ve learned, it’s that because of it, life rarely goes as planned.
Living in Chicago for over 12 years has brought this little nugget of a statement to life. You see, it doesn’t matter which way I decide to drive to my destination, something unexpected always happens. I’m talking potholes, construction zones, detours, rush hour traffic, accidents, pedestrians, slow drivers, speedy drivers, selfie-taking drivers, all of which seem dead-set on sabotaging my commute. It’s as if they were all secretly conspiring the moment my key hit the ignition—waiting for just the right time to shout, “Cue the jaywalking pedestrians and get ready to move the bulldozer in place.” God bless Chicago.
What do you do when you set on an intended course, but then… the phone call, the doctor’s report, the divorce papers, the accident, the layoff give you notice that your life will taking a difficult detour and you have no choice in the matter? These things are common to our existence, but also serve as unwelcome reminders that in our humanity we are not often in control.
“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
I don’t know about you, but when life gets dark and I can’t see my way, my natural reaction is to take a detour. If I turn up some side streets, go through some alleys, and skip traffic for a few blocks, I feel more in control. I’m literally in the driver’s seat. But what ends up happening more often than not is that it actually takes me longer to reach my destination than if I just would have slowed down in traffic, waited for the light, had patience with the slow driver in front of me.
Truth be told, I could have stayed the course many times but my impatience and pride got involved. From experience I can tell you this truth: Detours don’t develop you. Discipline does. It takes discipline to not swerve into the alley every time we can’t wait when our way seems blocked, rather than looking for a short-cut out of the pain of patience.
In Luke 9:22-25, Jesus said, “It is necessary that the Son of Man proceed to an ordeal of suffering, be tried and found guilty by the religious leaders, high priests, and religion scholars, be killed, and on the third day be raised up alive. Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?” (MSG)
God wants to bring us through the darkness to develop us, to grow us. But developing in the dark takes discipline and often goes against everything squeamish impulse in our bodies. It boils down to this: staying committed to what is right at all costs, regardless of how it feels or if we have an explanation for the slow down.
Hebrews 11 tells us, “Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that–heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them.” (v13-16)
You might not understand the why, but you know the Who.
Hold on. Hang on. Trust the process. Stay the course.
“You can’t control the events and circumstances in life… but… you can control your reactions to the events and circumstances in your life.” —Dr. Carolyn Leaf
“Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine.” (1 Peter 1:7)
- What does a detour in the dark look like in your life?
- Are there areas in your life where God may be asking you to slow down when you are trying to hurry up?
- What would it look like in your life to develop in the dark?
Next Up: How to Develop in the Dark (Part 2)