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where he leads

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“Where he leads me, I will follow.” – E.W. Blandly

Only a few weeks ago, messages from the American Embassy had become a regular and consistent presence in my inbox. Updates from the Malawi government were an ongoing alert in every social networking group I am a part of, and most of those messages appeared to contradict each other, making it impossible to truly know exactly what was going on in our country. What we did – and still do – know is that we are living through a historical event, a worldwide pandemic, a life-altering, priority-shifting moment that is changing everything.

Today, all is quiet. In fact, this past week it would appear as though not a trace of COVID-19 has touched Malawi soil. And while we know this is not true, life in the “warm heart of Africa” keeps rolling along, moving to the beat of its own unique drum.

I find myself wondering, often, how it is possible to feel complete peace and disorientation simultaneously. One minute I breathe in the sweet African air, sensing a little bit of joy, and the next minute I feel an incredible loss of equilibrium. I feel unsettled and stable, lonely and hopeful, disappointed and peaceful, confused and contented. It doesn’t make any sense to me. I see God’s providence in bringing us here for such a time as this, while also scratching my head because this is not what we had planned for or what we had expected.

“We can be on the right path, but it may feel wrong.” – Jennifer Rothschild

I’m just wondering, can you relate to that?

Do you ever feel that where God has you is not where you should be, or where you think you should be? Even when we know we are right where God wants us to be, there is no guarantee that everything we experience in the season, or along the path, is going to make sense or feel right. In fact, there may be times when everything feels wrong.

I find that when I am following the Shepherd down a path that is suddenly starting to look dark and daunting, I want to bargain with Him to put me on another path. I don’t like to be uncomfortable. I don’t like the crushing and the disorientation of challenging times. I tend to prefer obedience that equals smooth sailing and smooth roads ahead.

But the path where God leads us doesn’t always promise us that, and while it may appear to be all wrong, completely not what we thought we were signing up for, it is still the path God has called us to journey.

I think that is why, in the midst of walking a path that feels wrong, we can, simultaneously, feel incredible peace. Where God leads us is not always going to be easy, nor will it fit into our standards of comfort and preference, but we can trust that God will give us stability, hope, peace and contentedness. When we fear what we cannot see, we can lean into the One who is leading us along. And this is where we find this paradox of emotions. God settles us, in spite of the instability. God fills our hearts with hope when there seems to be very little to hope in, or for. God speaks peace to our anxiety and brings contentment in the confusion.

“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” Habakkuk 3:19

When we are led to places that contradict our heart’s preferences, we can trust that God will give us everything we need (from internal fortitude to joy and peace) to continue on the path and enable us to climb the heights.  Our feet will be made swift to carry on and journey through.

As God remains on this path, so we, too, remain.

We continue following the Shepherd.

And somewhere down the road we will see the fulfillment of God’s plan in all of this.

Keep pressing on. Don’t fear the path, even when it seems all wrong.

Trust the Shepherd as “he leads you in paths of righteousness.”

“And Paul. His life recklessly caromed from adversity to persecution and back to adversity. In one passage he looks back and summarizes:

‘I have been beaten times without number. I have faced death again and again. I have been beaten regularly thirty-nine stripes by the Jews five times. I have been beaten with rods three times. I have been stoned once. I have been shipwrecked three times. I have been twenty-four hours in the open sea. In my travels I have been in constant danger from rivers, from bandits, from my own countrymen, and from pagans. I have faced danger in city streets, danger in the desert, danger on the high seas, danger among false Christians. I have known drudgery, exhaustion, many sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, fasting, cold and exposure. Apart from all external trials I have the daily burden of responsibility for all the churches. Do you think anyone is weak without my feeling his weakness? Does anyone have his faith upset without my burning with indignation?’ (2 Corinthians 11:23-29 Phillips)

None of that had the power to push Paul off his path. None of it convinced him that he was on the wrong way. None of it persuaded him that he had made the wrong choice years earlier on the Damascus Road. At the end of his life, among the last words he wrote is this sentence: ‘I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back’ (Philippians 3:13-14).’” – Eugene Peterson, Obedience in the Same Direction.

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