Just after I posted about how the Lord often uses bends in our road to grow and mature us, I received a prayer letter from missionary friends who are experiencing one such bend. They have gone from ministering in a country in Asia to a country in Europe. Another missionary couple I know recently changed countries of focus from a place in central Europe to western Europe. Often times, when bends like this occur, those at home scratch their heads and, whether it is stated aloud or not, think that the first time something must have gone "wrong" and that now they've got it "right." Now they're "right" where they're supposed to be. Now they're "right" about where they feel the Lord wants them.
There is serious damage done in thinking that bends in the road mean a person wasn't listening to the Lord. In the book of Proverbs we are repeatedly entreated to fear the Lord and we all ought to find ourselves doing so. We all should seek the Lord and strive to walk in His will all the days of our lives. But when someone is doing both of these things and plans change or lives take a different turn than expected, it would be foolishness to believe that these changes are because the Lord was not leading or involved in those decisions and the changes regarding them.
You may not understand why there is a bend in your road. Other people may not understand your bend and you probably won't quite understand theirs. But that's okay. What we all need to realize is that the Lord's arm is never shortened regardless of our circumstances and that He will always work His will for our good and His glory. We need to realize that He will never allow us to walk blithely into a place where He is not when we are seeking His will. "Never leaving" and "never forsaking" and always "working all things for good" are promises that cannot be negated regardless of time or situation or circumstance. As we follow the Lord, He will direct us. That's a promise. Bends in the road are, often times, simply a part of His leading and direction; they are not necessarily things to be deemed needful because we got it wrong at first and now we've got it "right."
Life is full of them. Twists, turns, changes, loops, stop signs, red lights, slow for pedestrians, you get the idea. I don't think I could find one person who has lived this life beyond the age of seven who has lived it in a straight line with no surprises or twists they weren't expecting. Change is as common and universally expected as death and taxes. Though death and taxes are not appreciated they are generally accepted. Change, however, is often mentally fought against, blithely ignored, or otherwise futilely resisted until it is grudgingly accepted as a last resort. But change is also often the means through which the Lord takes us further down the road on this journey we call life and is necessary for our growth and maturity.
Change can be hard. Often times the waiting game consists of an "I don't know" stage, as my best friend calls it, a resigned period of knowing a solution will come, and the final stage when the sun comes out and answers are finally had. The "I don't know" stage is my least favorite. You know the stage - this is when every single answer to every single question you have is "I don't know." I find when I can finally be resigned to waiting and trusting in the Lord, this is when peace comes and I find that I really don't need to know the final outcome because I know the Lord will reveal it in His perfect timing. Then the answers arrive and it is often accompanied with a bend in the road. A direction changes. Plans are different. Understanding about a calling or job switches. And you have a bend in the road.
It's a life-long growing process to get to the point when these bends, these changes of life, are not only expected, but accepted as well. When the "I don't know" stage becomes "I don't know but He does so it's okay," you know you've learned something and matured just a little bit. Then the next change comes along and you go right back to "I don't know but I sure want to!!" and you realize you still have a lot to learn. And that God is gracious. And that as you resign yourself to waiting for His direction, He will guide you. And that answers will come and that He will continue to lead you on down the next bend in the road.