Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Long and Winding Road

My An Arkie's Faith column from the February 7, 2018, issue of The Mena Star.

In May of 1970, The Beatles released their final single, The Long and Winding Road. Paul McCartney has stated that he came up with the title "The Long and Winding Road" during one of his first visits to his property, High Park Farm, in Scotland. He was inspired by a winding road stretching up into the hills in the remote Highlands surrounded by lochs and mountains. 

This past week I have made numerous trips from Mena to Hot Springs to see my Mom in the hospital. As I was making the drive, I thought that Paul might have used that stretch of road for inspiration if he had ever driven in this part of Arkansas. It is a very winding road, and especially late at night, it seems very long. No matter which route I take to Hot Springs, the road is a long and winding road.

All of that time on the road gives me time to think. Sometimes the road before me seems long, steep and challenging. I feel lost, uncertain and afraid. Sometimes I'm not sure I have the strength for the journey. Perhaps just like me, you feel overwhelmed today. You may be experiencing some sadness, loss or worry. You may find that God has called you to a difficult path. "Surely," you think, "God has an easier road for me to travel."

It's in those times that God wants us to remember that we are not traveling this road alone. Psalms 46:1-3 (GNT) assures us that, “God is our shelter and strength; Always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not be afraid, even if the earth is shaken and mountains fall into the ocean depths; even if the seas roar and rage, and the hills are shaken by the violence.”

God knows where the road leads. He can see what lies ahead. God also knows my concerns. He knows what I feel. The pain I cannot explain to someone else. He knows about my fear of the unknown. In his book “A Sweet and Bitter Providence,” John Piper offers these thoughts about God’s guidance: “Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.”

The truth is, we don’t have enough information to assume another path would be best for us. Maybe the easier road won't make us into the person God intends us to be. Perhaps the difficult road is protecting us from the worst. Out of all the possible paths, God knows the best path. The Lord says, “My thoughts are not like your thoughts. Your ways are not like my ways. Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8,9 (NCV) We can trust that the road God has laid out before us is the best road. We can trust in His wisdom and love, and we can be certain that God will never lead us down the wrong road.

Without God’s guidance, we will take the easiest road, but it will be the wrong road. In Matthew 7:13,14 (NIV) Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

When we are sure we are on the best and easiest road, sometimes God has to place an obstacle in our way. The story of Balaam’s donkey is a good example. Balaam had decided on an easy road but not the road God had laid out for him. “The angel of the Lord stood in the road to stop Balaam. Balaam was riding his donkey, and he had two servants with him. When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with a sword in his hand, the donkey left the road and went into the field. Balaam hit the donkey to force her back on the road." Numbers 22:22,23 (NCV)

Balaam was so determined to go the way he thought best that he couldn’t see the angel of the Lord. After three incidents where the donkey saved Balaam by avoided the angel of the Lord and was repaid by being beaten, “the Lord made the donkey talk, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to make you hit me three times?’ Balaam answered the donkey, ‘You have made me look foolish! I wish I had a sword in my hand! I would kill you right now!’ But the donkey said to Balaam, ‘I am your very own donkey, which you have ridden for years. Have I ever done this to you before?’ ‘No,’ Balaam said.

Then the Lord let Balaam see the angel of the Lord, who was standing in the road with his sword drawn. Then Balaam bowed facedown on the ground. The angel of the Lord asked Balaam, ‘Why have you hit your donkey three times? I have stood here to stop you, because what you are doing is wrong. The donkey saw me and turned away from me three times. If she had not turned away, I would have killed you by now, but I would have let her live.’ Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, ‘I have sinned; I did not know you were standing in the road to stop me. If I am wrong, I will go back.’” Numbers 22:28-34 (NCV)

Gentle Reader, life is a long and winding road with many unknown perils and troubles, but we can be certain of God’s love, providence, security, and care. Don’t be a Balaam and go your own way, but ask God for guidance. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5,6 (NLT)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Richard. As I was told once many years ago " let go and let God have it". By the way Hot Springs is my home town.