By Mary Donnelly
A friend and I recently went for a hike in a place that had a labyrinth of deeply wooded trails. We had gotten a late start and knew that would give us a little over an hour before it got dark, but we hardly gave it a second thought. We had hiked there once before and remembered it being easy enough to walk in somewhat of a loop that led us right back to where we had started.
I’m not quite sure how we got off course, but this time, after about an hour of walking and talking, we realized it was beginning to move from daylight to twilight. It would soon be dark, and we weren’t quite sure how far we were from where our car was parked.
We both said a quick prayer and, shortly after, stumbled upon a post with a trail map. There was a marker on the map that said, “You are here,” which was somewhat comforting, except that it didn’t identify the parking lot, so we weren’t quite sure where “here” was!
Thankfully, I had brought my smartphone and pulled up the GPS to try to identify where my car was by entering the address of the parking area. We saw a blue dot that was clear on the opposite side of where we were! It was clear that we had only a slim chance of making it out of the woods before it got too dark, and then only if we made no errors in calculating our direction and choosing the right trail.
We continued to use the trail map we found online and my phone’s GPS and compass apps and finally made our way out of the deeply wooded part just as it turned quite dark. At this point we were very close to the parking area and made it safely back to our car. Whew!
Our little adventure made me think of those times in life when we have lost our bearings and all sense of direction. Perhaps some things in your life have changed, such as a new job, graduating from college, buying a home, having a baby, or getting married. As welcome as these changes may be, there is still a process of transition, and you will find yourself needing to navigate new territories.
Or perhaps there have been unexpected and difficult changes, such as the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job and financial stability, a catastrophic health diagnosis, or a car accident or other sudden calamity. These types of things can knock you off your feet, spin you around, cause darkness to set in, and make you lose all sense of direction entirely. You hardly know which end is up or how to even take the first step.
Regardless of whether they are welcome or unwelcome changes, we can still feel lost and uncertain of how to navigate our way through new decisions, relationships, circumstances, and emotions.
Thankfully, God always knows exactly where we are and how to direct our steps. We can take comfort that there is nothing that happens to us that takes Him by surprise or catches Him off guard. We are always, safely, right in the palm of His hand.
There are steps we can take:
Don’t Panic – I don’t mean don’t feel emotions. Processing our very appropriate emotions in a healthy way is one of the most important things we can do. But our trust and belief in God is what keeps us from panic, which will only cloud our judgment.
Call for Help – In our instance we were able to use my smartphone to pull up a map and a compass. And we could have used it to call for help. But sitting down in fright and despair would not have helped us. We need to acknowledge what is happening, think things through, and take action steps. Keeping our head in the sand or ignoring a problem never makes it go away and certainly won’t help solve it.
Use Your Compass – You need to find where north is before you know which way to go. Your compass is truth: the living Word of God. When nothing else makes sense, God’s Word will not only point us in the right direction, but it is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. It will illuminate the way, even when we can’t see the end in sight. Remember what you know versus what you see and feel, and it will keep you on solid ground.
Take One Step at a Time – You might only have enough strength, energy, and foresight to take the very next step, but that is all you need. Sure, it’s great when we can see the whole plan, how long it will take, and where it will end, but we will only get there one step at a time. Sometimes God allows us to see a full picture that gives us vision to keep us inspired. Other times, He teaches us to lean in close so we can hear His voice and not rely on anything else to take us to the next step.
If you find yourself in a season of upheaval and transition from the formerly dependable norms of your life, no matter how lost you may feel, you are never lost to God’s love, grace, mercy, wisdom, comfort, guidance, strength, or hope. He is right there with you.
We were in a race against the setting sun, but God puts no pressure on you to move at anyone else’s pace. You and God are setting the pace together, and there is no fear in His perfect love.
Rest in Him and know that He’s got this!
Mary Donnelly is a follower and servant of Jesus, who is the love of her life, along with her husband, Frank, their three wonderful children, and their grandson, who is their sheer delight. Her prayer and her quest is to be transformed into God’s image more and more each day. One of her greatest pleasures is studying God’s word and applying it to her everyday life. She is a woman who knows what it means to live in captivity, bound by fears, lies, and her own brokenness, but she rejoices today because she is also a woman who knows what it means to be set free! One of her greatest passions is to share God’s truths in a way that will shine a light to another sojourner on the pathway to freedom.