My two boys, Ryan and Jason, went to Boy Scout Summer camp back in June. It was a gathering of over 500 scouts at a retreat center nestled in the mountains of North Georgia. They’ve since shared many entertaining stories about their week away, but dotted among the fun adventures, two complaints have surfaced more than once. Chiefly, they pointed out the extreme heat (record temperatures of over 100 degrees!) and secondly, there was frequent reference to the long hike from their campsite to just about anywhere they wanted to go for activities. It seems their particular troop was stationed at a remote campsite along the fringes of the 1,545 acre property, so it meant A LOT of walking!
This reminded Ryan of a previous mountain camping experience also with an excessive amount of walking. At that camp, he had to hike to and from his campsite which could only be reached by navigating a series of switchback trails. Back & forth, and back & forth his group had to travel multiple times a day. Sometimes some of the scouts would tire of the seeming delays and would try to skip the marked trail, opting instead to scale straight up the side of the mountain. While it looked like a shortcut, it invariably left the impromptu hikers winded and fatigued. It wasn’t long till they learned that the designers of the camp had laid out the safest and least fatiguing path using a more gentle ascent using the switchback trail.
As Ryan recount these stories, it occurred to me that a journey with God is often like his trip to his campsite. We head out with our intended destination in clear view, but after walking a while, it seems overly tiring and filled with a lot of unnecessary course changes. It’s at this point that we’re tempted to head off the trail and tramp out a path that seems best to us. But sooner or later we’ll discover exactly what the scout campers learned… the Designer of the trail knows the best route to get to the places we need to go.
I will guide them on paths they have never traveled.
Their road is dark and rough,
but I will give light to keep them from stumbling.
This is my solemn promise.
If you’re anything like me, when you head out the door for a long trip, you know where you are going, how long you will stay, how much it will cost, what you’ll need when you get there, and when you’ll be back. If it’s an unfamiliar destination, you might also have sufficiently read about the area so you’ll know what the locale is like, where to go to find the best sites and even what to expect when you arrive. I was just looking at some photos on a friend’s facebook page of her upcoming fabulous-looking island vacation for their 20th anniversary. Thanks to the internet, she is able to post “pre-vacation” snapshots of the exact beach she’ll soon be walking on. That’s the way most of us like life. Ordered. Planned. Scheduled. And, please, no surprises! But that’s not what you can expect on a journey with God. His way isn’t always what we think is the easiest, most direct route. And, it’s far from predictable! In fact, it’s guaranteed to be filled with surprise turns.
People encounter job changes, relationship conflict, financial instability, and health issues all the time. When those things threaten your particular journey, it’s easy to wonder if you’re on God’s pathway at all. Any one of those events can seem like an unnecessary and costly detour that appears to head you in the completely wrong direction.
However, our estimation of what’s the best route is based only on our limited understanding. We can only see faint images of the endpoint, and there’s no way to foresee what course changes are necessary to arrive safely. A wise traveler will choose to trust the One who knows the end from the beginning. (Is. 46:10)
For this God is our God for ever and ever;
He will be our guide even to the end.