Does God put obstacles in our path to make us turn around?

My parents and I had been planning to take a short trip to Colorado Springs for months. My tax accountant is in Colorado Springs (it’s a long story), and with all the changes I’ve had in my financial life this year, we figured we needed a face-to-face meeting with him.

I got new tires put on my car specifically expecting to drive it to Colorado Springs, but Tuesday morning, our plans changed. We’d gotten the car all loaded up, and Mom prayed over our trip for safety–and just like that, the car wouldn’t start. It just sat there like a lump. My 2012 Malibu was dead in the front yard.

We had to make a decision. Was it a sign that we shouldn’t go? Did that mean we needed to reschedule and go the week after? We thought about it, prayed about it, and then we transferred everything to my mom’s 2006 Malibu (I say we, but I mean my dad). We got on the road, and we called the local Haven dealership to come pick it up and check it out.

We got word yesterday that the battery died. I guess it’s not unheard of, but seriously? How many more unexpected expenses are going to pop up in my life now that I technically don’t have a paycheck coming in? Gosh.

And it begs the same question we faced when my car died Tuesday morning. Is this a sign that I’m going the wrong direction? Is it an indication that I’m making the wrong choice because all these things are happening? Does God put obstacles in our path because He wants us to stop what we’re doing and change directions?

Today’s verses are 2 Corinthians 12:6-10.

IMG_20150217_065918If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

This is Paul speaking. There has been a lot of discussion on exactly what his “thorn in the flesh” was, but I don’t think anyone has really come to an actual conclusion. All we really need to know is that God allowed this issue, this difficulty or obstacle, in Paul’s life so that Paul would rely on God’s strength instead of his own.

I haven’t arrived as a Christ follower. I’m still a work in progress, and I will be until I go home to be with Jesus. But I’ve picked up a few things in the years I’ve walked with Jesus, and one thing I know for sure is that if God sets you on a path going a certain direction, He isn’t going to change His mind about it. If you start following Him down a road, and a big boulder appears in your path, that doesn’t mean you stop moving forward. It means you ask Him to help you get around the boulder.

An obstacle is only an opportunity to grow stronger. Maybe you need to rely on God’s strength to move an obstacle out of your path. Maybe you need to learn patience to wait for God to move the obstacle for you. But that doesn’t mean you turn around.

In my experience, God doesn’t say no with obstacles. God says no with His Word. God’s Word is cut and dry about what is right and what is wrong and what God expects of us. Someone who throws obstacles in your path instead of talking to you is passive aggressive, and God isn’t passive aggressive.

If you’re following God and you find an obstacle in your path, first make sure your heart is right. If God is at the center of every decision you’ve made and if you’re truly seeking Him with your whole heart, don’t let that obstacle convince you to turn around.

Second, ask God what you’re supposed to do. Maybe you’re supposed to wait. Maybe you’re supposed to go around it. Maybe you’re supposed to take your mom’s car instead of yours. Whatever the situation is, God will show you what you’re supposed to do, whether it’s pressing onward or sitting still.

But whatever you do, don’t let the appearance of an obstacle in your path convince you to give up. God finishes what He starts. No, the path won’t be easy, but when you come out on the other side, you’ll be able to point to God and proclaim that He’s the one who got you through. It won’t be through your power. It won’t be because of your accomplishments. It will be because He is God and He is strongest when you are weakest.

Glen Eyrie Castle - Colorado Springs, CO

God is a God who finishes

If you know anyone who writes or who fancies themselves a writer, you will know that one of the hallmarks of either is that they have a hard time finishing their stories. To write a story is a marvelous thing. To build a universe inside your head, to craft characters who are like real people to you, to weave a complicated plot line–all of that takes time and effort. A lot of time and effort, mixed with concentration, dedication and much gnashing of teeth.

Writing is frustrating. And I’m not even talking about the publishing process. Just the act of writing is difficult, and it takes a lot of sacrifice to finish a manuscript. Even if writer starts a new book, you don’t really know if they’ll finish it.

Fortunately for us, God is the kind of author who always finishes what He starts; it just might not happen when we think it will.

Glen Eyrie Castle - Colorado Springs, CO

Glen Eyrie Castle – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Philippians 1:6.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

I like to finish things. It doesn’t matter what I’m working on; finishing projects makes me feel accomplished. Maybe it’s my performance-based mentality, but that’s just the way I am.

The trouble with finishing is that it takes a lot out of you. And that’s just finishing, not finishing strong. Finishing strong? That’s something else entirely.

Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament, including Philippians, was an athlete. He loved sports, or if he didn’t, he just talked about them all the time. But one of the most common sports Paul talks about is racing.

I don’t run. My office puts on a Fun Run every year; I don’t think those two words should ever go opposite each other. The only time I run is when there’s a skunk in my yard, and that has nothing to do with fun.

But many people do like to run. If you’re one of them, good for you. And I’ve watched enough Olympic track sports to know that the quick, fast speed of the sprinters is impressive but what really requires the discipline and endurance of a champion is the long races. The 1,000 meter races. The marathons.

Those little sprinters who can run flat out and set ridiculous records are awesome. But have you seen someone in a 1,000 meter race cross the finish line without difficulty? Have you seen someone running a marathon cross the finish line and not be tired?

Maybe it’s happened. I haven’t seen it. Run for any great distance, and you’re going to get tired. And you’ll be tempted to quit. I mean, why not? It’s only a race. Right?

But that’s not the case at all. Anyone who runs competitively knows that there’s more to racing than just “the race.” It’s the thrill. It’s the challenge. It’s the title and the medal and the recognition. It’s the achievement. Even people who don’t race competitively but who still participate in marathons look at it like something to be accomplished. Even if they don’t win medals or endorsement contracts, they want to finish … because it means they’ve finished.

Finishing matters. Anything else is giving up.

People give up all the time. We drop the ball. We walk away from opportunities. We stall out just in sight of the finish line. That’s people. But God isn’t people. God is God. And He always finishes what He starts.

He has started something awesome in all of us. Each of us is a masterpiece He’s painting, a beautiful symphony He’s composing, a complicated novel He’s weaving, a design He’s engineering. Whatever the metaphor, God is working on us. He’s perfecting us every day.

God wants to finish strong in our lives. On the day He brings us home, whether it be by death or by rapture, can we say that we let Him? Yes, God will do what He wants to do; that’s part of being God. But He never forces anything on any of us. We can choose to let Him work in our lives. But we have to choose it.

Don’t kid yourself, though. Letting God work in your life can hurt. He has to strip away the parts of us that aren’t like Him. He has to put us through difficult circumstances so that we let go of whatever we’re holding on to that is slowing us down. He has to remind us that this life isn’t all there is. But through it all, He’s there. He never leaves us. And even when it doesn’t feel like He’s working, you can trust that He is because God is a God who finishes.

So let Him do His thing. But don’t be surprised if your life blows up. And don’t give up when it does. Just hold on to the promise that He never abandons us and remember that He’s writing a story of His own, and He has some editing to do. And if you can hold on, your life will be beautiful, not only to you but to Him and to everyone you know.