Scripture Reading: Exodus 13:17-22
Have you ever been able to see exactly where you want to go, but it seems like it takes forever to get there? The more you walk towards it, the farther away it gets? That may not be an optical illusion. That may just be the hand of God at work.
I’ve been working on a project for several years. Every once in awhile I think I see the finish line just around the next turn. Then I realize that it wasn’t the finish line at all, but just another marker along the way. God urges me on, and seems to send me on another lap around the track.
Why does God do that? Isn’t He the One who called us to run this race in the first place and holds out the prize for us at the end? In Exodus chapter 13, God gives us at least one of the reasons He holds us back from reaching the finish line too soon.
When God promised the Israelites He would bring them into “the Promised Land,” He set them free from Egypt and sent them on their way. But instead of sending them on the straightest route, He deliberately sent them on a much longer route around the desert. He tells us why in Exodus 13:17-18a:
“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.”
The Israelites were so fresh out of Egypt that God knew that if they went straight to the Promised Land and had to do battle right away, they might have hightailed it right back to Egypt. God knew that Egypt was a much worse place for them to be and it wasn’t where He wanted them to be at all. For their own protection, God took them on the longer route.
Oftentimes we get frustrated when we have to take the longer route. We cry out, “God, why is it taking so long for me to get there? Why is it taking so long to restore my marriage that I know You want restored? To get the job that I know you want me to have? To bring back the child that I know You want to bring back? To finish the project that I know You called me to do?”
It might be that God is waiting until we’re ready to say with our whole heart: “OK, God, I’m ready to take on this battle no matter what. I’m going to fight for my marriage the way You want me to fight for it. I’m going to fight for my job, fight for my purpose, fight for my calling in life. I want to be able to stand firm in these things, God, so teach me everything I need to know before I get there, because if I get there too soon, I might hightail it back to Egypt.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us how we can get this kind of attitude: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Sometimes the shortest route in the long run is the longest route in the short run.
Don’t be frustrated when God says to take another lap around the track. Don’t give up on what God’s called you to do. Don’t give in to the thinking that you’ll never make it. Follow the example of the Apostle Paul: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13b-14).
Tell God: “Father, I’m ready when You are. Whether I reach my goal today or sometime down the road, I’m still going to trust You no matter what. You’ve brought me this far. I know You’ll bring me home.”
Want to learn more? You can watch a podcast with more discussion about this topic below.