One of my favourite expressions is: “God rarely takes us in a straight line.” That statement is not only born from personal experience and observation, it has a biblical basis. In Exodus 13, the children of Israel are being let out of Egypt – well, technically, they are being expelled because of the terror of the deaths of the firstborn during the Passover.
Exodus 13:17 “God did not lead them on the road through Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’”
Sometimes, when God is taking a long time to get around to what we think the destination should be, we start to question ourselves – did we hear God correctly? Are we doing something wrong? Or we question God: why is He taking so long to answer? Does He care? But perhaps we need to think about this passage. What does this say that might help us have a better perspective on what we are going through?
When we are weak or desperate, we strongly desire relief, and we think the sooner the better. So when God takes His time, we may believe that He is working against us. The reality is He is working for us. As His redeemed ones, He is always working for us, whether we can perceive it or not. He knows His children, what strength we have, and what strength we need. He knows whether or not we can face the temptation ahead of us, or if we need to be led down another path, one that takes us around the trial we would not be strong enough to deal with successfully. This is confirmed in 1 Corinthians 10:13. It’s through God’s faithfulness that we are not tempted above what we are able to bear.
We also read in 2 Peter 3:9 that God isn’t slow, but patient with us. So when He is leading us through the long way, while we may think it is we who need to be patient, we should also factor into our understanding of the situation that this slowness is a result of the fact that God is patient – and that He is patient with us. Instead of grumbling about the slow pace or circuitous route, we should be grateful that He is faithfully, patiently leading us in the best route for us.
He knows what’s ahead of us; we don’t. He knows if we would be charging headlong into things beyond our ability to bear. We don’t have a clue what trials and struggles we are avoiding by going the path He leads. What may look like the shorter distance to where we want to be may actually take us farther away from Him.
As we wait, we may be tempted, like Abraham and Sarah, to nudge things along with plans of our own, trying to take control of the situation. That didn’t turn out so well for them (as we are still feeling the impact of that decision millennia later), and we need to be very careful and prayerful about any decisions we make in order to shorten our uncomfortable waits, or take things in our own direction.
Andrew Murray has a wonderful little book, Waiting on God, which I highly recommend to those who are in the waiting mode or who are seeing God take us in anything but a direct line. Murray takes the reader through many passages on waiting and helps us to see things from a scriptural perspective, giving us the patience and courage necessary when our pace or direction and the Lord’s seem to be at odds.