When we walk on the right path – His path – it feels hard. It is not an easy road to walk, this path of righteousness. Jesus taught us in Matthew 7 that it wouldn’t be: “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” Yet we are still surprised at the isolation we feel, the hazards we encounter, the darkness that surrounds us, and the struggle with feeling lost.
So, let’s talk about the road after the narrow gate and those four challenges we all face at some point.
Jesus just said it in Matthew “…only a few ever find it.” If only a few find the gate, then it makes sense that the road isn’t jam packed with people either. Finding people we enjoy spending time with who share our beliefs, our values, and our faith isn’t always easy. They are there, but our faith journeys are each unique and we may not be at the same mile marker all time. (If there were mile markers – we’ll talk more about that in #4!) But the road is easier when you walk it with others. Walking a faith journey alone is possible, but progress is slow, the obstacles often seem overwhelming, and discouragement lurks around every corner.
I have heard so many Christians say they don’t need church or Christian friends, but it’s not biblical. Not only did Jesus come to bring us eternal life, He also came to experience the human existence and model how for us how God desires us to walk in relationship with Him. During His earthly ministry Jesus had twelve close friends and of those twelve He had three best friends. If God’s plan was for Jesus to walk His journey with others, why wouldn’t He expect us to as well?
Yes, the path may have a pothole here and there; sometimes a fallen tree is in the way and we need to climb over it or get those co-travelers from #1 to help us move it. Those hazards are the obstacles we face when we live in a fallen world – broken relationships, unfair treatment, and the awful things that simply happen to us like crime, the death of a love one, natural disasters – and all of those can be hard and feel overwhelming. Sometimes they pile up one after another and it feels like we are walking the worst-maintained road on the planet. But we must understand something very important: God knows about each obstacle we face before we ever get there. They are strategically placed to help us learn to walk with Him, not just for Him. He lifts us over them. He carries us past them. He sometimes even miraculously picks up the fallen tree and moves it. Those hazards are by divine design.
There are other hazards we face, also by divine design, but these are ones that we don’t have to face; they are the ones we choose. They are the ones we don’t like to talk about. They are the thorny bushes He has planted all along the sides of the path and they are fully avoidable. They look dangerous, and they can be, but they are there to protect us. If we stay on the path, they have no impact on us whatsoever. Yet so many times we have cuts, scrapes, and injuries because when we find the path full of obstacles, we change our minds. We return to our sin. We return to our past and resume mistakes we know have hurt us before. We want to go back to the wide, comfortable road where all of our friends walk… the one we remember being so easy. So, we jump into the bushes, we push through the brambles, and we come out bleeding on the other side. Forcing our way through causes us unnecessary pain that God never intended for us to have to endure. Once we’re on the other side and we realize our mistake, it’s hard for us to imagine a way to get back. The thorny vines suddenly seem like He planted them there to keep us out. This is because our sin allows the enemy to deceive us – to twist the truth we know (those bushes were meant to protect us) and distort them into a barrier God made to keep us out (instead of one we crossed because we didn’t want to submit our will to His). When you find yourself here – don’t believe it. Remember where you were and how you ended up where you are. Own you choices and ask Him to pick you up and return you to your rightful place on His path of righteousness.
The path of righteousness may not have streetlights every few feet, but what we do have as we walk is a lamp – a lamp to our path and a light to our feet – the guidance of His Word, the Bible. There are a couple of challenges this can actually cause for us. The first goes back to point #1; if we are walking our faith journey alone, without community, our lamp only shines so bright. If we invite and allow others to walk with us, we walk with accountability. His Word shines brightest when we are all using it to light the path.
The other thing we do is forget that we have a lamp at all. We look for other sources of light – the moon, the stars. Or, in reality, pastors, friends, social media, the news outlets. None of those were meant to be our guide as we walk His path. There is nothing wrong with sermons, podcosts, spiritual growth books, and so on, as long as we are seeking His voice before we seek the input of others. If you find yourself reading or listening more to someone else telling you about the Bible than you do actually reading it, you may want to consider making an adjustment; perhaps you’re using His lamp, but it’s not set to its full brightness…
#4 Feeling Lost
This is one I struggle with the most. I am directionally challenge and I use my GPS literally everywhere I go. I tell others it’s because the app knows where the traffic is, but the full truth is that it gives me confidence that I won’t get lost. It is hard for me to walk a road when I don’t know what’s ahead. I struggle and sometimes I just stop walking. Sometimes I feel so lost I sit in the middle of the road and cry. Here’s what I’m learning though: it’s a straight road. It may not have mile markers to show exactly how far I’ve come or how much further I have to go. Because of this and my poor inner directional guide, I can sometime see things disproportionately. I can feel like I’ve barely moved and that I’ll never reach my destination. But perception and perspective are not reality. The truth is that God knows. Every detail and every step. He has provided us with a path that doesn’t have forks without guideposts. We never have to struggle with which way to choose or navigate hairpin turns as long as we keep moving forward. If we stay out the thorny bushes, the path is pretty clear. Take a step. Take another. This is faith in its purest form. We move… then He leads.
Thoughts to consider:
- Have you entered the narrow gate? This is a choice we make when we choose to enter into a relationship with Jesus; it’s the choice to walk on His path of righteousness.
- Are you walking alone? Look for the people along the way who can walk beside you. Please know that they won’t be perfect either. You’ll hurt and disappoint each other, but you’ll also have a brighter light to walk by and someone to help you when there are obstacles on the path.
- Do you feel overwhelmed by the obstacles in your life? Don’t let the challenges discourage you. Remember that they are by divine design, so there is purpose in each one.
- Are you tempted to change paths? Have you already started to move away from Him? Watch out for the brambles! If you’re already stuck in them or injured by them, turn around and ask Him for help right now. He never wanted you to be where you are and He’s ready to place you back on His path.
- How bight is your lamp? Charge the batteries – get in His Word! Every day. Without exception. Lay down your agenda and your will and pursue His with everything in you.
- Are you frozen with fear and indecision? Take a step forward. Just one. If you’re on the right path then it will be the right step.