When God Surprises Your Life with a Hard Left Turn

The crossroads we would never choose are often God's best gifts to us.

I recently heard that God is the God of hard left turns. So many of us began life headed one direction and ended up in a place we never thought we would. I bet that happened to you, didn’t it? Me too. And to the apostle Peter.

When God Surprises Your Life with a Hard Left Turn

(Photo: El-Araj, one possible place of Peter’s hometown. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

For Peter, it was a long, long way from Bethsaida to Rome—from his birth to his death. It’s the same in the changing courses of our lives.

So many of us grew up in certain towns or earned degrees for a particular field, but we find the Lord has led us in a completely different direction.

I went to college to study music theory and classical guitar. (Exciting, I know.) But nowhere in my wildest dreams could I have imagined today my profession would have me leading real tours and virtual video tours to the Holy Land. That seems to have little to do with music theory and guitar, you know?

Why does God lead us with hard lefts?

Signal Right, Turn Hard Left

We aren’t alone in those confusing crossroads of our lives. Peter and Paul went before us.

  • Peter grew up in the Greco-Roman city of Bethsaida. Speaking Greek came easily, as well as his native Aramaic. It made perfect sense why the Lord would chose him to share the good news of salvation with Gentiles (as he would with Cornelius). But instead, Peter ministered primarily to Jews.
  • Paul, on the other hand, grew up as the model Jew. In his own words, “a Hebrew of Hebrews, trained under Gamaliel,” etc. Who better for an effective ministry to Jews? But instead, God made him the apostle to the Gentiles.

Imagine Peter’s surprise when the Messiah showed up. The hard left turns in Peter’s life proved even more incredible. They came in rapid fire.

  • Peter never imagined once He followed the Messiah, he would deny Him.
  • Peter never expected the church, only the kingdom of God on earth.
  • He never saw himself in Gentile Cornelius’ home.
  • He never saw himself dying in Rome on a cross.

These events, which we so easily equate with the big fisherman’s life, Peter himself never could have imagined before meeting Jesus–and even afterwards.

Think back through the hard left turns of your life. Amazing aren’t they?

Painful, weren’t they?

St Peter's Square, near where Peter was killed

(Photo: St Peter’s Square, near where Peter was killed. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Hard Left Means More than Hairpins

When God takes us hard left turns, we find the “hard” part as more than sharp, hairpin turns, but hard in the sense of challenging—even painful.

Hard lefts hurt. If your hard lefts have been anything like mine, I’ve found that God seldom slows down as He jerks the steering wheel. He makes hard lefts that flatten our faces against the windshield.

“Where are we going?!” we ask. “Trust me,” He answers—and accelerates.

When we look backwards where we have been, although we can see the ways God directed our lives, we still struggle to understand why He did so. The what and the why don’t reveal themselves at the same time. Often the reasons for the hard lefts show up years removed from the events themselves. For many of these transitions, the whys hide away until glory.

The reasons wait for us in heaven like Christmas gifts the Father has piled away in a locked closet.

Whats and Whys for Good and for Glory

As you look back at the hard lefts God has allowed in your life, filter them through the wisdom of good theology. All that comes to us through the wisdom of God has as its purpose—without exception—God’s ultimate glory and our ultimate good in mind (Rom. 8:28). And that’s what we want, isn’t it?

If we look back, we can see how the Lord used our initial passion or education or family or giftedness as an essential stepping stone to today’s surprising places. Taking that a bit further, we can trust that the Lord is preparing us today for more hard left turns to come. Places we would never—ever—chose, but places essential to God’s plan for us and for His kingdom.

Somehow, in some way, in some distant future place, God will connect the whats and the whys of our hard lefts in a way that will astound us.

Even more amazing will be the immediate transformation in our hearts that His way proved the best.

Tell me what you think: What hard lefts have you experienced that proved incredible? To leave a comment, just click here.

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