W Publishing Group
O Lord…if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come.
– Genesis 24:42
Life is a journey. Like every other journey, it has a starting point. You had no choice about it, of course, any more than you had a choice about your parents or the color of your eyes or your race or gender. But the minute you were born you embarked on a journey – the journey of life.
And like every other journey, it has an end. It may come suddenly and unexpectedly, or after years of declining health – but it will come, and like your birth, you’ll have no choice about it. You can ignore it or laugh at it, but that won’t change its inevitability. A wise poet once said that death comes equally to us all and makes us all equal when it comes.
But like every other journey, it also has a middle – and that is our real journey: those years between our birth and our death. For some it is tragically brief. For most of us, however, our life’s journey will last many years, moving successfully from childhood to adolescence and young adulthood, then on through the middle years to old age.
Like birth and death, this part of the journey is also inevitable. Try as we might, we can’t turn back the clock or stop the relentless march of time. Years ago I never dreamed I would live well into my late eighties, but life has a way of surprising us, and none of us can predict how long our journey will last. My wife, Ruth, and I talk about it frequently, knowing that some day soon our journey through this life will be over and we will embark on another journey – one that will last forever.
CAUGHT UP IN THE PRESENT
Life is a journey – although sometimes we forget it. Life becomes so hectic, and we become so preoccupied with our immediate concerns that we don’t step back and see the whole picture. For many people life is a constant struggle just to survive. Others have everything they could ever want yet remain unsatisfied and unfulfilled.
Perhaps you see your own life’s journey as a series of unrelated events – some good, some bad – strung together like beads on a string. Or perhaps you feel trapped like a leaf in a rushing stream, tossed about by circumstances beyond your control. Or like many people you may never have stopped to think about the road you are traveling – never asking where you came from or why you are here or where you are going.
But God didn’t intend for our journey through life to be this way. Instead, He meant for it to be filled with joy and purpose, with even the most ordinary events being part of His plan. He also wants us to guide us as we make decisions and give us hope for the future. Most of all, He wants to join us on our life’s journey.
WHAT KIND OF JOURNEY?
Life is a journey – but what kind has it been so far for you?
Perhaps your journey has been marked by disappointment, sorrow, and heartache. You yearn for something different, something better in life – but lasting happiness and peace have eluded you. Or perhaps you decided years ago to spend your life pursuing excitement, pleasure, fame, or success. For a time those may have satisfied you – but eventually (if you’re honest) you discovered they led only to boredom, disillusionment, emptiness, or even self-destruction.
Or you may have found yourself overwhelmed by crushing problems beyond your control: sickness, financial pressures, broken relationships, fear, guilt, loneliness, despair. Life for you has become a hopeless burden with no end in sight. Or perhaps you are one of those whose journey has been relatively free from problems yet aimless and empty, without any real purpose or direction. You may even believe in God and consider yourself a sincere Christian, and still you’re discouraged and confused, overwhelmed by circumstances you don’t understand and don’t know how to escape. Tragically, every year thousands decide they can’t bear life any longer and decide to end it. You may even have been tempted to follow them.
The words of Job in the Old Testament are just as true today as when they were written thousands of years ago: “Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward” (Job 5:7). Job knew it from personal experience, and so do we.
CAN LIFE BE ANY DIFFERENT?
But must our journey always be this way? Are we destined to lurch down life’s road from one pothole or detour to another?
Down inside we all sense that this was not the way life was meant to be, and we yearn for something better. We suspect there must be another way, a different path from the one we have been traveling. But why do so few people seem to find it? Why have we missed it? Can life be any different?
The answer to that last question is Yes! No matter who you are or what your life has been like so far, the rest of your life’s journey can be different. With God’s help you can begin again. With Him you can confront your problems and begin to deal with them, and you can avoid life’s pitfalls and detours. More than that, with God’s help you can make an impact on our world. I have experienced this in my own life, and over the years I have met countless others who have discovered it as well. So can you.
Life is a journey, but how can it become a good journey, a journey that is not only satisfying and challenging, but one that fulfills the purpose for which we were created? Answering that question is the reason for this book, and in the following pages I invite you to join me in discovering God’s plan for this exciting journey called life.
You will only make this journey once. Why not make the most of it?
THE DIVINE APPOINTMENT
Before we begin, however, we need to understand three great truths about our journey through life. They are like the backdrops or scenery for a play, setting the stage for everything that follows.
The first truth is very simple – but also very profound: God put you on the journey of life.
You aren’t here by chance or by accident; you are here because God put you here. Long before the world was created, God knew all about you, and He planned to give you life. From all eternity you were part of His plan. No, you didn’t have any choice about whether or not you would be born – but God had a choice about it, and He chose to give you life. He is the Creator of everything – including you. This journey is yours to travel – but God gave it to you. Never forget: God put you on the journey.
Throughout the Bible this truth made a difference in people’s lives – and it will in yours as well. God told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5), and Jeremiah accepted God’s call to be His prophet. The young shepherd David understood it: “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). When David became king, he led the Jewish people to the greatest heights they had ever known. Y
ou and I aren’t here by chance or by accident; God put us on this journey called life. We came from Him, and our greatest joy will come from giving ourselves back to Him and learning to walk with Him every day until we return to Him.
WE ARE NOT ALONE
We need, however, to understand a second truth: God wants to join us on this journey.
Think about that a moment. God could have created us and then abandoned us and forgotten all about us. Many people, in fact, believe this is exactly what God must have done, or at least they act as if they do. They assume God isn’t interested in them – so why should they be interested in Him? To them God is distant, remote, unconcerned about the problem and decisions they face every day.
But this isn’t true! God not only put us on this journey but He wants to join us on it, if we will only let Him. We don’t need to be alone, for He is with us! The psalmist asked, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there” (Psalm 139:7-8).
If we understand this truth, it gives us hope – hope that our lives can be different, because God cares about us and wants to help us. No matter what happens, God will never abandon us if our trust is in Him. Moses declared, “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8). Jesus promised, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Across the centuries millions have discovered the truth of these words, and so can you.
A NEW PATH
There is, however, a final truth we need to understand about life’s journey: Not only has God put us on our journey…not only does He want to join us on this journey… but God calls us to a new journey. To put it another way,God calls us to take a new path – the path of faith and trust in Him.
Imagine you were hiking in the woods one day, planning to go somewhere you had never been before, and after an hour or two you came to a fork in the trail. Now, instead of having only one path you could follow, you had two. But which was the right path? Both obviously led somewhere – but where? Which would get you to your destination?
On closer inspection you saw that one path appeared much wider and easier to travel and was apparently used by more people. You were tempted to take it; after all, if most people traveled it (you reasoned), it must be the right way.
But then suppose another hiker approached. What would you do? The logical thing would be to ask him if he knew which path you ought to take to reach your destination. Without hesitation he urges you to take the second path, even if it is narrower and less traveled. Only it, he says, will take you to your destination. Are you sure, you ask him somewhat doubtfully? Certainly, he replies – because I made the path. In fact, I’m headed that way myself, and I’ll walk with you so you won’t get lost.
Which path would you choose? You probably wouldn’t even hesitate; you would choose the second one. You still would be on a journey, but now you would be on a different path – the right path.
This is what God urges us to do: to choose a new path – a different path from the one we have been on. This path is one He has laid out for us, and He assures us that it alone leads to true life. Our journey will continue, but now we will be on the right path, even if most people don’t take it. Jesus put it this way: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
WHY TAKE IT?
God invites us to change paths and take the rest of our journey with Him. In fact, He not only invites us, He urges us! But why should we? Why not stay on the road we already know, even if we haven’t yet found the peace and security we seek? Why risk taking a new path?
Let me give you three reasons why changing to God’s path is worth the risk.
First, the old path will never deliver what it promises.
Look around and ask yourself how many people are truly happy. On the surface some appear satisfied and content – but are they really? What happens to them down the road or when life turns against them?
The old path promises peace and security – but ends up in anxiety, fear, heartache, boredom, and sorrow. The old path promises freedom – but enslaves us with lust, greed, anger, and bitterness. Like the self-centered rich man in one of Jesus’ parables, the old path says, “Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” But God says, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you” (Luke 12:19-20).That man chose the wrong path – and it destroyed him.
The old path promises us everything, but its promises are hollow and leave us with nothing. Why stay on it?
But there is a second reason to choose God’s path for the rest of your journey: God’s path always delivers what He promises.
Perhaps you have known people who were on that road we have labeled “God’s path.” (You may even be on that road yourself.) They weren’t perfect; they may even have had some rough edges you didn’t particularly like. But in spite of that, you detected something different about them, you sensed something was missing in your own life. When things went wrong, they had an inner peace you couldn’t explain. When others were hurting or in need, they responded selflessly and with compassion. Why? Because they had discovered the secret of walking on life’s path with God.
Don’t misunderstand me; I’m not saying our journey will always be easy and trouble free. Those who say God always promises us prosperity and health have forgotten Jesus’ warning: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). Christians aren’t exempt from suffering and grief. Yet in the midst of it all, they experience “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).
THE WAY HOME
One final reason for choosing God’s path is of supreme importance: It leads us home.
Whenever I am traveling, I constantly look forward to the moment when I will return home. Even if I’m very busy and preoccupied, in the back of my mind one thought is always present: “Soon I’ll be going home!” Home is a place of peace and security and rest; home is where I belong. When my team and I went to Australia for six months, none of our families were with us. As time went on, we grew more and more homesick, and we talked more and more about home. We knew we were serving the Lord, and we knew missionaries and military personnel often stayed away from their homes much longer. But that didn’t ease our own deep longing for home.
How much greater should be our longing for our eternal home! You and I aren’t meant to live for only a few decades on this earth; we are destined for eternity. The Bible says this world is not our final home; we are “strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13 NKJV). Our true home is heaven – and that is where God’s path leads.
WHICH WAY WILL IT BE?
You and I are on a journey; we have been on it since the day we were born, and it won’t end until our time on earth is finished. But what kind of journey will it be for you?
The answer to that question is in your hands. You can’t change the past, but with God’s help you can change the future. He knows all about you: your strengths and weaknesses, your failures and heartaches. But He doesn’t want you to be shackled by the past. Instead, He wants to free you from your old ways and put your feet on a new path – His path.
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). You can begin life’s journey afresh by committing your life to Christ and learning to walk with Him every day. This is what this book is all about, and this is what I invite you to do.
Let the journey begin!