In all the setbacks of our lives as believers, God is plotting our joy. ~John Piper
Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left turn your foot away from evil.
And you thought you'd be reading about my adventures in dealing with car sickness. Hehehe...just wait!
So I've been in Kansas City only one week and at times it seems like days and at other times, years. So much has happend...joy, pain, confusion...It's difficult to process it all. But I'm trying. I know that God is at work. I've seen His mighty hand working miracles in my own life and heart. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me continue to share some more insight from John Piper regarding the book of Ruth and the road each of us travel upon...
At one level, the message of the book of Ruth is that the life of the godly is not a straight line to glory, but they do get there. The life of the godly is not an Interstate through Nebraska but a state road through the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee. There are rockslides and precipices and dark mists and bears and slippery curves and hairpin turns that make you go backward in order to go forward. But all along the hazardous, twisted road that doesn't let you see very far ahead, there are frequent signs that say, "The best is yet to come."
As I was reading this earlier this morning I thought back to my family's many trips to Big Bear Mountain and my difficulties with feeling the need to have them pull over ever few miles so I can stare at the lovely ground...you get the picture right...not pretty! Car sickness is a wonderful reminder of where my focus should be. You see, if I keep my eyes straight ahead on the road, I can generally get through it without feeling the need to...you know... But the moment I begin to watch the scenery and get lost in what's going on around me, I become ill. And you might find this odd that I'm correlating car sickness to my walk with God...but hang in there with me.
I've noticed that as my gaze begins to look to the right and left at what everyone else has, or has accomplished, I become jealous and my focus is no longer on Christ but on what the world says I need. And it's so easy to do. It's attractive to see all that the world offers, just like the scenery on the windy road to Big Bear. But as I gaze on worldly attractions, I stray further from the path that God has for me, and my life becomes spiritually sick with anger, jealousy, pride, ambition...
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. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. 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.
There isn't a straight path in front of me. There are many curves, hair-pin ones, switchbacks and the lovely ups and downs in the road. And just as I must keep my gaze upon the actual physical road when navigating that terrain, so must my gaze be upon Christ as I travel upon the road He has laid before me. He has not promised that it would be easy. There are times that it may seem like I'm traveling backwards in order to gain ground again. But they are a part of what He has planned.
For instance, we were in a car wreck this past Sunday (a truck rear ended us...and we're all okay) and since then I had been having a wonderful dull headache that would drain the energy out of me. It even progressed to the point yesterday where my jaw was hurting and made it difficult to chew anything. I was miserable but tried so hard not to let Alisha know that (yes...there's a bit of the pride there...and independence...God's working on that...). We went to the House of Hope and Healing last night, and I was reminded of something I wrote about a month ago. That post (Hello Mustard Seed) challenged my thoughts about healing...and God decided to bring that to my mind as we were sitting there and I was receiving prayer for my lovely headache. My faith may have been just as small as that mustard seed, but God knew that and had brought me back to that place in the road where I had believed in His healing, so that He could show His mighty works and heal me. I walked out of that prayer room, healed from the headache, the tension, and by the end of the evening..my jaw felt wonderful again. Even when I woke up this morning I was not racked with pain as I had been since the accident. In the midst of the pain it seemed like God had brought me ten steps backward, when in reality, He was trying to show His glory and His might so that I may move forward again.
My eyes needed to be upon Him, not upon what the circumstances were. My gaze had drifted to the side of the road once again and He used that pain to direct my eyes back to Him.
Everything we do in obedience to God, no matter how small, is significant. It is part of a cosmic mosaic that God is painting to display the greatness of his power and wisdom to the world and to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places (Ephesians 3:10). A deep satisfaction of the Christian life is that we are not given over to trifles. Serving a widowed mother-in-law, gleaning in a field, falling in love, having a baby - for the Christian these things are all connected to eternity. They are part of something so much bigger than they seem.
What I experienced, the setbacks I may have had in life, the small steps of obedience that He is calling me to...it's not about me...it's about Him. It's about His glory. It's about living my life for Him. My gaze is upon Him once again and my life is laid before Him so that I can say...
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.
And hey...as a bonus when my eyes are upon Him...I won't get car sick!