Good grief?

My friend, may I ask you a question? Isn’t it odd that life is so full of choices: go back and travel with regret, or go forward and deal with life and hurt? We’re always tempted to avoid bittersweet trails, but should we?

My friend, life's a story, welcome to This Passing Day. I'm Mark Brunner

I’ve done a lot of hiking in my life, following many paths, some blazed and smooth and others no more than a game trail if that. For the most part a trail is one way or the other. Many of the trails in the parks that Holly and I camp in are fairly well groomed with signs telling you which way to go or which trail to follow. When I was younger I enjoyed the narrow game trails though, since it was less likely to run into another hiker. The hope always was that, perhaps, you might see a deer or flush a grouse. The hardest trails to hike however are the ones that combine both, especially those that travel through swamps and brambles. You start out on a nice gravel path and end up tiptoeing on a rotten log or ripping your clothes on a hidden bush of prickly ash. If you anticipate it on a game trail, that’s one thing. But, if you are simply plodding along on a smooth path, that’s another thing altogether. Just last summer Holly and I were hiking on a National Forest trail like that. The trail traversed a swampy area and the bridge had collapsed. The choice was either to turn back (and we already had traveled most of the trail), or find a way through. After a soaker or two we made it, albeit it muddy and a bit scraped. Good grief Charlie Brown we said.

Good grief? In a way it was. To make it to where we wanted to go we had to make a choice: go back and travel with regret, or go forward and deal with the hurt and inconvenience, but find the goal we sought. We are always tempted to avoid bittersweet trails like this, but should we?

Oswald Chambers writes. “If the providential will of God means a hard and difficult time for you, go through it. But never decide the place of your own martyrdom, as if to say, “I will only go to there, but no farther.” God chose the test for Abraham, and Abraham neither delayed nor protested, but steadily obeyed. If you are not living in touch with God, it is easy to blame Him or pass judgment on Him. You must go through the trial before you have any right to pronounce a verdict, because by going through the trial you learn to know God better. God is working in us to reach His highest goals until His purpose and our purpose become one. (My Utmost for His Highest, November 11)

When God told Abraham that he must sacrifice his son Isaac he put Abraham on the roughest of trails, one that had gone from broad, godly anticipation to narrow and bitter slogging obedience. He walked it in grief no doubt, but he walked it nonetheless to discover what God’s highest goal would be. Of course God had a plan. How could Abraham think otherwise? It would be great if you and I could anticipate all of life’s paths and at least be prepared for those that are filled with pain and sorrow. This is, however, not often God’s way. He often pulls us along on a rotten log when things seemed to be going well, even allowing us to plunge deep into the muddy swamp of sorrow and grief when joy seemed just around the corner. We can choose to go back and escape; God gives us the freedom. But how will we ever know what glory may await us after the pain has passed? That path is often filled with regret. The better path is always the one before us as long as we believe there is a purpose in walking it. Good grief is ours Charlie Brown if we dare to claim it.

We pray. Heavenly Father, thank you for the paths in our lives that aren’t the easiest to walk or the most comfortable to negotiate. Help us Lord to remember that at the end of every path that you lay out for us there is a goal, a divine one. Forgive us when we fail to recognize the fact that our lives are about your highest goals, goals that always lead to higher and better purposes. In Jesus name we pray. Amen!

Therefore my friend, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry for itself; each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matt 6:34) This Passing Day. May this passing day honor our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and be a blessing to you and everyone you meet. Find a stranger and say hello. Don't let another day pass without your day blessing someone else.

(Friday’s This Passing Day devotion is dedicated to my sister Anne, nieces and nephew Brooke, Eric & Laura and their families. Keep walking–Gale would never have turned back.)

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