Like many others, I have a bad sense of direction. Before the days of GPS—when we used printed Mapquest directions or a folded map—I made quite a few wrong turns and detours. A number of trips took longer than I wanted, frustrating anyone in the care and embarrassing me. My wife still gets the privilege (she might use a different word) of helping me on trips as “the navigator,” a duty that falls on whoever rides shotgun on road-trips. GPS has made life a little easier, but why can’t they give me directions earlier so I’m not swerving at the last-minute? GPS or Google Maps also doesn’t always have all the information (at least not right away), such as a road closure, traffic jam, or a closed business.
Last year, my wife was driving a rented car on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. As we sped up steep cliffs and around sharp turns—on the other side of the road—just hoping no vehicle was coming, there was one instance where the road abruptly ended. Likely due to hurricanes, the middle of a mountain road just around a tight bend had crumbled away. There were no signs warning us to the danger and our GPS assumed the road was intact. After slamming the brakes and catching our breaths, we had to find a different route.
When we think about the path God has for us and how he leads us, we might sometimes be tempted to question his sense of direction. Did God mean to direct me this way? Did I make a wrong turn somewhere? Did he know the way this path would go? We wonder if God has us in the right place or if we somehow got disconnected and lost like our GPS when the satellite signal is weak.
But God’s sense of direction is perfect. God never leads us astray, gets us lost, or needs us to take a U-turn (or one of those terrible “Michigan lefts”). He has a good and wise plan. Always. The path journey he has us walk is not without reason and it’s always for our good (Rom. 8:28). Though we might not always know why we went the way we did or why he has us on the road we’re on, we can know for certain that God always leads us with purpose and love.
God Leads Israel in the Wilderness
After 400 years of slavery, God freed Israel and led them out of Egypt (Ex. 12:33-42) and toward the promised land of Canaan. This deliverance isn’t the end of the journey; it’s the beginning. After God delivers his people, he guides them. Through a pillar of cloud at day and fire at night, God directed them in the way they should go (13:21-22).
We’re told in Exodus 13:17 that he doesn’t lead them in a direct route through the land of the Philistines, but instead, he takes them the long way through the wilderness. He knows their faith is still small and they will fear the Philistines too much and turn back. He graciously leads them along a path they can handle, even if it requires going through the wilderness (a place where he will grow their faith and prove himself).
God takes them the long way not because he’s lost or has a bad sense of direction. He knows what he’s doing, and he knows what’s best for us. God not only has purpose in where he’s leading us, but he knows the best path to get us there. The destination and the journey both matter to God.
That doesn’t mean the wilderness route isn’t hard, because it is, but if God takes us down a path he always has good reasons to do it. He will carry us and sustain us. And he will protect and provide for us.
“So He takes us the long way. And that’s not the wrong way. Because there’s a funny thing that happens on the long way–you actually do become something rather than just end up somewhere. In fact, you might say it like this: the most formative parts of your lives–the ones that fashion real character, dependence, faith, and perseverance – are often the most difficult. When you feel like you are wandering around in circles, when you don’t seem to be making any progress, and when you might even feel trapped–those are the forging times.”
You are not where you are by accident but by God’s sovereignty and wisdom, even if it feels like a dead-end.
You are not alone. God is with you.
You are not there so God can punish you, but so he can prove his power, faithfulness, and love to you.
If you’re looking around wondering why God has led you this way, or when you look around you feel stuck or threatened, look to God with the eyes of faith. Trust his leading. The long way and the winding way is worth it. God’s path for our life is full of purpose and love even when it’s full of twists and turns. God knows what’s best for us and how, when, and where to get us there.
The Shepherd Who Leads Us
God has not only led you in the past with purpose but he will lead you forward. Even if it seems like there’s an insurmountable wall, God will remove it if he wants you to move forward. Even if a deep sea stands in front of you, God will part the waters. He can make a way when there is no way, just as he did for Israel at the Red Sea.
“Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over?” (Is. 51:10)
This becomes a defining feature of God for his people. As Isaiah 43:6 says, the Lord is the one “makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters.” God has led you and God will lead you. Along the entire journey, he guides us by his wise, powerful, and loving right hand.
God is a good Father who leads his children. We are his people, and he leads us as a good shepherd. The well-known Psalm 23 describes how God leads us, both through the dark valleys and to the still waters of rest (23:2-5). He doesn’t just give us directions or hand us map; he walks with us and goes before us. “He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young” (Is. 40:11).
Though sheep get spooked and don’t always know why they’re going the way they do, and though sometimes God must use his rod or staff to redirect a straying sheep, God leads us with care, gentleness, and purpose. He knows the place he’s taking us and he knows the best route to get us there.
God never leads us into dangers or trials that he won’t walk with us and carry us through (Is. 43:1).
God is our good shepherd directing our path (Ps. 23:2-3) to do us good in the end (Deut. 8:16).
God not only has purpose in where he’s leading us, but he knows the best path to get us there (Ex. 13:17).
Wherever God leads us, he goes with us (Is. 43:3-4). You are not alone in the wilderness, God is walking beside you and going before you.
For Further Study
- God Leads Us: Ps. 5:8; 16:11; 23; 31:3; 32:8; 119:105; 139:10; 143:10; Prov. 3:5-6; Is. 40:11; 48:17; 49:10; 58:11; 63:11-14; John 8:12;
- “His Way was Through the Sea” by Garrett Kell at thegospelcoalition.org Garret Kell
- “The Long Way is Not the Wrong Way” by Michael Kelley at ftc.co
 Michael Kelley, “The Long Way is not the Wrong Way,” https://ftc.co/resource-library/blog-entries/the-long-way-is-not-the-wrong-way.
 There are lot of good Christian hymns and contemporary songs about God making a way for us. Consider reading or singing one of them as an encouragement to your heart. Some examples include, “God Will Make A Way” by Don Moen; “Waymaker” by Michael W. Smith; “Chainbreaker” by Zach Williams; “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” by William Cowper; “He Leadeth Me” by Candi Pearson-Shelton; “Oceans” by Hillsong; “Trust in You” by Lauren Daigle; “Be Thou My Vision” by Mary Elizabeth Byrne.