Random dirt road somewhere in the jungle, Peten, Guatemala

Directions from an outdated map

I love Google Maps. Without it, I would be lost–well, literally. I am directionally challenged, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. As far as I’m concerned, the hood of the car always points north, so if you tell me to turn any direction (north, east, south, west) I won’t have any idea which way I’m supposed to go. I laugh when people ask me for directions because if they only knew how discombobulated I am all the time, they’d never ask me how to get from point A to point B.

Before I give anyone directions, I usually always Google it so I can tell them north, south, east and west–because most of the time the people who ask me for directions understand that, even if I don’t. Oh, the irony! But have you ever tried to give directions from an outdated map? That’s a foreign concept to most people now because of Google Maps and other digital navigation services, but there was a time when you had to rely only on paper maps. And if your paper map was wrong, you were going to be in a heap of trouble.

Random dirt road somewhere in the jungle, Peten, Guatemala

Random dirt road somewhere in the jungle, Peten, Guatemala

Today’s verse is Isaiah 48:17.

This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you what is good for you
    and leads you along the paths you should follow.

The trouble with asking for directions is that many times you have to wait for an answer. Especially if you ask me! You have to wait for me to look it up on Google Maps!

Life directions aren’t all that different from navigation. And it’s usually a good idea to ask someone who knows where they’re going for directions, but no matter who you ask, you still have to wait for an answer. And I get tired of waiting. And when I get tired of waiting, I strike out on my own. I’m a pretty resourceful person, so going my own way isn’t exactly a challenge at first. But the difficulty with following your own map is that it’s not up to date.

You can follow your own rules, follow your own directions, follow your “heart” or whatever you want to call it from dawn until dusk and you’ll end up going in circles because the core of who we are inside is lost.

We’re born lost. Some of us just won’t admit it. Like somebody in a grocery store who won’t ask where the peanut butter is–of course they know where it is, they just want to walk the length and breadth of the store three times to find it. Right?

Admitting that we’re lost takes humility. I don’t know why. It just does. Even knowing that I’m not the world’s best with directions, I don’t like admitting that I’m lost when I’m out on the road somewhere. I want people to think I know where I’m going. I want people to think I’m a good navigator, a careful navigator, that I’m smart enough to find my way around when I don’t have a map.

But navigating life is a little different from navigating a grocery store. There are similarities, yes, but the stakes are higher. With one, the biggest risk you take is going home without your peanut butter; with the other, you risk the blessings you haven’t received yet.

God has told us everything we need to know about how to get where we’re going, and the beautiful thing about the Bible is that it’s never outdated. Unlike Google Maps, it doesn’t need to be updated. The Bible has the directions we need. We just need to listen to them. God teaches us what is right and good through Scripture. He leads us down the paths He wants us to take. But He never forces us to go against our will. We have to choose it still. You’ve heard the expression about leading a horse to water? I’m pretty sure that’s what God does for us. He leads us to the crossroads, tells us what we need to know to make the right choice, and then leaves it up to us to decide which path.

Some choices aren’t that clear cut. Sometimes you have two good choices. But more often than not, you have a right choice and a wrong choice, and if you’ve listened to the Bible, you’ll know the difference. But choosing the right over the wrong isn’t always easy. It’s better, but it’s not easy. And of course, you’re free to do whatever you’d like, even if you’re a Christ follower. You don’t have to follow the paths God has laid out for you. You don’t have to use God’s directions as you navigate this life. You can make it up as you go, if you want. But if that’s what you choose to do, you should remember that you really don’t know where you’re going.

Have you ever tried to navigate using both Google Maps and Mapquest? More often than not, the directions they give you aren’t the same. True, you’ll eventually get to your destination, but one way is better. One way is faster or avoids more road construction or takes into account the type of neighborhood you’re driving through. And if you try to take one set of directions and use it alongside a different set, you’re just going to end up confused.

So stick with one direction provider. Just make sure it’s someone who really does know where they’re going. And if they don’t know either, make sure they know who to ask.

Knowing God means letting Him into your life

Psalm 18:30 says,

30 God’s way is perfect.
      All the Lord’s promises prove true.
      He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.

 I struggle with going God’s way sometimes because I want to go my way. With my way, I can see how the path twists and turns. I have a plan that will help me navigate around the blind corners and the steep hills . . . at least, I think my plan will do that. Of course, when difficult times come along my way, my plan turns out to be pretty much useless. What’s nice about going God’s way is that He really does know all the pitfalls along the path you’re walking. Really. He doesn’t have just some half-baked plan on how to survive when life gets tough. God knows everything about the road He asks us to take.

And as far as God’s promises? God has never made a promise to me that He hasn’t kept. He has promised never to leave me, and He hasn’t. He has promised to provide for me, and He has. He has promised to protect me, and this one I’ve seen Him actually do time and time and time again (and I would love to know the things that He’s protected me from that I know nothing about). He hears me when I call to Him. He listens when I need Him. He doesn’t always act when I want Him to, but He always acts when I need Him to. And He’s always moving. He’s never still, which means that I can be still and wait for Him to work.

God is my shield. He’s the refuge where I take shelter from the storms of life. Like yesterday. Yesterday was a rough day. There were conflicts at work, not necessarily involving me but conflicts where I found myself between people. I always end up between people, and it’s the place I like least in the world to be. And there were all sorts of different difficulties (odd and assorted) going on in life at the same time, and to just sit and think on it all was overwhelming, discouraging and pretty depressing. So I stopped thinking about it and read Psalms. I read every Psalm from Psalm 46 through Psalm 56. The common theme through many of those Psalms is how God does the fighting for you. That you just have to be still. And then the message at church last night was on Elijah and how even though Elijah had gotten down and depressed about something insignificant that God still had work for Him to do. And that when Elijah was being pursued, what he needed to do wasn’t to fight; he just needed to stand and let God fight for him.

God’s way is perfect.

All the Lord’s promises are true.

He is a shield for all who look to him for protection.

I know all of these are true from experience. But here’s the kicker, if you don’t ever go God’s way, how will you know it’s perfect? If you don’t ever give God the opportunity to keep a promise, how will you know that His promises are true? And if you never look to God for protection, how will you know the strength of His shield?

I can sit here and talk about God all day long, but it only goes so far. And people around you can talk about God’s goodness and His mercy and His power and protection until they’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t mean anything personally until you experience it for yourself.

I used to be like that. I used to sit and wonder and how people could speak so familiarly about God. I used to marvel at how people seemed to be best friends with Him. I was shocked that God would intervene in peoples’ lives on such an individual basis. I mean, I knew it happened in the Bible, but that was the Bible. And things in the Bible don’t happen in modern culture. Right?

But when I stopped following my own rules, when I stopped walking my own path and decided to get on the road God had chosen for me, I learned that He really does know what He’s doing. And when I started taking Him at His word, I discovered that every promise He’s made to me is really, actually, honestly true. And when I ran to Him for protection, He wrapped me in His arms and reassured me and reminded me that He will never leave me.

If you don’t ever give God a chance — a real, honest chance — you will never understand who He is. And I’m not talking about a half-hearted attempt. Even those people out there who are Christians can fall prey to this. We’re all so comfortable in our Christian churches and our Christian homes, listening to Christian radio, watching Christian TV and going to Christian movies. We’re so caught up in “being Christian,” we have forgotten what it means to follow Christ. Or maybe we never knew what following Christ was from the beginning.

Give God a chance. Follow His way for a little while. Trust in one of His promises. Seek shelter under His wings during a difficult day. Believe Him. He’s waiting for us to open our eyes and accept the relationship He’s been offering for all our lives.