By the time we rolled into the sleepy town, dusk had turned to dark. We had joined our friends for a weekend getaway up north, where the only grocery store for miles around is named after ol’ man Jim.
We moseyed our way through the national forest, finally pulling to a stop in the middle of the woods. I peered out of the window in confusion. There was no cabin in sight.
Now, I knew our destination was completely off the grid. No electricity. No running water. The bathroom was an outhouse, for goodness sake. The only thing keeping my husband and I cozy that frozen night would be a wood-burning fireplace and heavy flannel blankets.
But no one, NOT ONE soul told me we would be hiking a mile through the woods with our gear strapped to our backs. In the pitch black of night.
Clutching my pillow, I reluctantly vacated the safety of the car. Snow crunched under my feet as the unusual noises of nature kicked my pulse up a notch.
I couldn’t see. The path was not clearly marked. With only a couple headlamps, we donned our packs and began our night hike through the woods, trusting those familiar with the way to guide us.
When Your Path in Life is Unclear
As a new year dawns, it feels eerily familiar to that unsettling night in the woods. This year I feel like I’m traveling in the dark. Unsure of my direction. Unable to see the twists and turns up ahead. On most occasions the unknown creates anxiety, stress and a host of pleading prayers.
The Psalmist was also familiar with traveling in the dark. He spent many nights in the desert on the run, fleeing from his enemies and hiding in caves. From personal experience, I can tell you that wandering in the Israeli desert at night is no joke. The terrain is vast, the air is freezing, the valleys intimidating. Fear feeds on the unfamiliar. You become increasingly aware of every shifting shadow, unsettling sound and unknown danger lurking behind every rock.
It was from this experience that David penned these words:
“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
It’s easy to breeze by this verse without giving it a second thought. Yet hidden in these words is a powerful message on how to follow God when your path in life is unclear.
1. Travel with a light
Let’s be honest. Life feels a lot like traveling in the dark because we are in the dark. Sin is our darkness, acting like a veil that blinds us from truth and clouds our clarity. And when it’s dark, you need a light.
God’s Word illuminates our darkness. It reveals truth so that you can correctly make sense of Him, yourself and your world. The Bible is our only fail safe against the temptation and trap of sin; our primary weapon against the powers of spiritual darkness. Scripture provides wisdom, correction and insight (2 Tim 3:16-17). It guides us on the right path and guards us against danger, protecting us from the things that will trip us up.
Need wisdom and direction? God speaks to us through His Word, so spend time reading it today!
2. Take the next step
David could have used a number of analogies to describe God’s Word. But he chose a lamp.
In ancient times, David’s lamp would have been a handmade ceramic bowl filled with olive oil and a flax wick that hung over the spout. This 10th century lamp provided minimal light, just enough to get around the house without bumping into things.
But in this verse, the oil lamp is being used for travel. This is similar to using your smartphone light to guide you through the woods at night. How ridiculous! David could have said God’s Word is a floodlight to his path. But he didn’t. Instead, he chose a tool that will only reveal one step at a time.
When you follow God, He will only give you one step at a time. And when you are forced to take baby steps, it means your pace will be steady and slow.
We may be in a hurry, but God is not. Though we want to know everything, He will not reveal it to us all at once. If we want to follow Him, we must be patient and trust the process.
Since God is the one who determines your steps, you don’t need a plan because He already has one. You don’t need to know where you’re going or how you will get there; you just need to be ready for the next step. This means keeping your eyes open and listening to His voice so that you can walk in obedience when the next opportunity presents itself.
It’s tempting to think that if God provided us with answers and direction, we would trust Him more. But actually the opposite is true. God gives us one step at a time so that we will learn to trust Him.
Instead of asking God for the entire picture, ask Him to show you the next step. Instead of fretting over what He has planned for the future, focus on what He wants you to do today. God already knows the destination, is charting the course, and you can trust He will get you there in due time.
3. Trust the guide
That night on the trail, I may not have known where I was going but I knew my friend. Though I was nervous, I wasn’t afraid because I trusted him to get me there safely.
As we travel through life, Jesus is our guide. He knows the way. He charts our path. Only Jesus can see the dangers lurking ahead. He is not blind or caught off guard, for darkness is as light to Him.
The best part about the journey is that Jesus travels with us. He gives us just enough light to see that He is near so we can follow Him. He guides us through every twist and turn with His Word and His presence.
Following Jesus is a trust exercise. It requires faith every small step of the way. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 30 years of following Jesus, it’s that it’s not about the journey, it’s about the Guide. If I don’t know Jesus well, I won’t trust Him. And if I don’t trust Him, I won’t follow Him. If I want to follow Jesus, I must rely on His wisdom, His Word and His way, not mine. In order to do that, I must deepen my understanding of who Jesus is and get to know Him in a personal way.
How can you follow God’s path for your life this year?
- Get to know the Guide. Focus on following Jesus, for He “will make His footsteps into a way” (Ps 85:13).
- Take one step at a time. Be ready to walk in faith when God reveals the next open door.
- Be patient in the process.
- Keep your eyes on Jesus as you trust Him to deliver you safely to your destination!