Which Way? – Psalm 25
Show me the right path, O Lord;
point out the road for me to follow. Psalm 25:4 (NLT)
How often I’ve asked God to show me the path I should go. Particularly when making a big decision like a job change, a move or other life transition.
If I’m honest, when I’m asking for this kind of clarity there’s an underlying expectation that if I walk in it, I will find it fairly smooth. Yes, there will be the necessary character building struggles, but overall, I’m hoping for a relatively comfortable path.
Then I meet people like Rose Mapendo. Rose is a Congolese refugee who has survived the execution of her husband and sixteen months in a death camp with her ten children. This was not a path she would have chosen and she admits that for a time she refused to speak with God. She was angry with him for the path that had been marked out for her. But to talk with her today she freely acknowledges that God’s path had a purpose. She now speaks for those who have lost their voice and travels all over the world inspiring others with her message of hope and forgiveness.
“This is my story,” she says confidently. “He has kept me alive for a purpose and I will do with my life what God asks me to do.” There is no hint of bitterness in Rose’s life. For Rose to be awake is to pray. There is great sadness and chasms of grief that well up almost every time she speaks of those years. But she seems to be able to live in the tension of real pain and the hope and joy of transformation.
Your story is likely less anguished that Rose’s. But each of our pain is real and yours may cause you to question your path. What if your path includes being abused or the pain of childlessness or the untimely death of a loved one? Or the constant struggle of financial difficulty, physical pain or a wayward child? Have you ever looked around and wondered why your path seems so much more difficult than someone else’s? If so, you’re not alone.
Even the disciples had these questions. In John 21, Jesus is sharing his heart with Peter and giving him the one thing we often beg for–clear direction on where this will all end up. Unfortunately, the news for Peter is not a pain-free life. In fact, Jesus tells him, he will die a humiliating and painful death. Peter’s first response was to turn and point to John asking Jesus, “What about him?” If his path is going to be difficult, he wants to make sure others have to endure pain as well. But Jesus’ response is a reminder that each of us is only responsible for our own path and the ever important reminder that it’s not about us. “What is that to you? ” he asks. “You must follow me.” And he can be trusted because he has been to the grave and back.
Sometimes God leads us on a path that finds a clearing after the weeds. But other times it seems, this is the path–the way of suffering. And during this Holy Week we are reminded that God does not ask us to walk this path alone. No, he walked it before us all the way to the cross and walks it with us now through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
May you grow more and more in love with Jesus as you are reminded this week of all he has done for you. The pain he has endured and the enemy he has defeated. And may you find the joy of sharing in his suffering as he directs you. Whatever it means, may you follow him.
Kelli Gotthardt is a writer, speaker, and consultant. She has spent most of her career in the corporate world, but God is now directing her into full-time ministry. Her current focus is women’s issues and she travels nationally and abroad helping women leaders develop life rhythms that will increase their capacity to listen, lead, and love. Kelli is a frequent blogger and a contributor to Christianity Today. She finds renewal in silence and solitude and exercise like running, yoga, and paddle boarding on the ocean. She has been married to Richard for 24 years, and they live in Santa Cruz, CA, where he is a pastor. They have three teenagers and are adjusting to the new reality of having a son away at college. You can learn more about her at KelliGotthardt.com.