Sometimes God takes you the long way in life. That’s hard, because the direct route makes so much more sense. We’re all about efficiency. But God has a different destination in mind.
The nation of Israel began their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land by promptly turning away from it.
Rather than take the shorter, coastal route to Canaan, God directed Israel southeast toward the Red Sea. The direct route led through the land of the Philistines, and while God could have simply destroyed the enemy (as He would at the Red Sea), His concern lay more with the unprepared and fearful hearts of His people (Exod. 13:17-18).
So God took them the long way. And it seemed pointless. But was it?
God’s deliverance by parting the Red Sea paved the way for Israel to meet God face to face at Sinai—and to receive the Law by which they could live in the Promised Land.
If the goal was simply a destination, God seemed a lousy travel agent. A journey of three weeks would ultimately take 40 years! But God purposed to give His people something far more than a parcel of land; He offered them a changed heart.
In the end, the land, the journey to it, and even God’s Word along the way came as but the means by which they would learn to know and trust Him.
Sometimes is the Shortest Way is The Long Way
Later, instead of entering the Promised Land from the south where the people now stood, God led them east around Edom.
God took them the long way—again. And it seemed pointless.
As a result, the people “became impatient because of the journey” (Num. 21:1-5). Why take the long way around?
But as the passage unfolds, we read how God gave Israel victories all up and down the King’s Highway so that they ultimately gained control of the majority of Transjordan. This allowed them to prepare to cross over the Jordan River into the Promised Land at Jericho—a location far more strategic than from the south.
The long way ended up the best way after all.
Why God Takes You The Long Way
Often, it seems as if God needlessly extends our journey:
- For years we pray for a loved one’s health, a friend’s salvation, or for a missionary to receive funds.
- We plug away endlessly at a miserable job with no promotion.
- We wait and wait . . . and wait.
The long way seems the wrong way and, like the Hebrews, we become impatient because of the journey.
Yet when we look back in hindsight, we actually come to appreciate how God used the journey—and all the victories and failures along the way—to prepare us for something we felt ready for much earlier.
So many of us are impatient with our faith. The journey we are invited to undertake is a long haul and delivers its benefits in the longer term. We have got to learn the hardest of all lessons—that we need to be patient. —Alister McGrath
Two Views of the Long Way
On the long journey, there are two views:
- What we see—While we strain to see over the next horizon, God sees the map from above—and so knows the best way to proceed. So the Lord often leads us according to the needs of our heart, not always according to its desires.
- What God sees—The Father sees the fear buried in our hearts that the quick and easy way would bring out. In our lives, we must realize that God’s goal for us—the best He could possibly give us—isn’t found in simply taking us from here to there. It isn’t even found in a new biblical insight. These come as but the means of His real goal—to know Him.
Time and again God’s mysterious leading proves wiser than our impatient pleas for progress. Would He not receive more glory from our lives if we trusted Him along the path of the unknown than if we saw His purposes from the start?