“When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, ‘If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle.” (Exodus 13:17, 18 NLT)
Mathematics was not one of my beloved subjects of study in school, but a few things seemed to have stuck in my memory. One classic gem from geometry was that the shortest distance from the first point to the second point is a straight line. This holds true when applied to linear, flat, or two-dimensional surfaces like a football field. There are other possibilities when applied to three-dimensional surfaces or on a sphere, such as the surface of the earth. In this case, a great circle path then becomes the shortest distance.
Life’s journey is a path taken to reach a destination; specifically, a providentially purposed destiny. I am sure you have wondered why the path you are traveling seems to be the longest or out of the way path when your perceived destination appears so nearby. Spiritually, one reason for this is that one’s relationship with God is not developed on a linear plane but multi-dimensional.
There were two basic routes the Israelites could have traveled from Egypt to Canaan; short or long. God did not lead them by the shortest or quickest direct route; rather he took them on what they considered the longest, hard and roundabout route through the wilderness. God knew they would have retreated by taking the short route.
Geographically for us, the straight line or shortest direct route is often the most desirable one to take. Yet spiritually from God’s perspective, the roundabout way is his choice route, and ultimately our best route in reaching our divinely intended destiny. At a certain point in the Israelites travel to the Promised Land, they attempted to pass through a territory using a main road to take a direct route northward. The king of that territory refused their request forcing them to turn around. (Numbers 20:14-21)
God does not always allow us to choose our way with a simple click to avoid toll roads and closed roads or take the shortest distance or direct route. Although it may not be easy, the best choice is simply to trust God for leading you because he has navigated your journey by his GPS — God’s Purposeful System. Many times, God’s navigation is not the shortest, direct and most desirable route in our view.
Short routes often hinder an important aspect in our spiritual development and walk with God. God purposes to develop our character and a relationship of trust and intimacy with us, which as in any relationship does not happen on a short run. It takes time to develop real intimacy and genuine trust; it takes trying experiences to develop character. The development of this intimacy with God and confident trust in Him becomes the delight on our spiritual journeys that are designed also to carve our character by the tests that come along the way. If your way seems to be on a hard, long roundabout road these days, enjoy the journey while enduring the test. God’s GPS is the best!
“Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands … He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” (Deuteronomy 8:2, 4 NLT)
Rev. Johnson A. Beaven III is pastor of Citadel of Faith Church of God in Christ. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @jbeaven.