Finding the Way
“Among so many, can He care?
Can special love be everywhere?
A myriad homes, a myriad ways,
And God’s eye over every place?
I asked. My soul bethought of this—
In just that very place of His
Where He hath put and keepeth you,
God hath no other thing to do.”1
[Adeline D. T. Whitney]
Does God condescend to show people the way through this world? He guides suns and planets in their orbits, so that they never wander from their course. He directs them so carefully, so accurately, that in all the vast universe, with its millions of worlds and systems of worlds, there is absolute precision in all their movements, with no deviation, age after age. No star is ever too fast or too slow. No planet ever leaves its orbit. The sun is never late in rising. God has marked out paths for the worlds, and He causes them to move in these paths.
But does He interest Himself in anything so small as the individual lives of men? Or, even if He does give direction to the careers of great men who carry important destinies in their hands and are sent on missions of far reaching responsibility, does He give thought to the daily paths of each one of the millions of His children? Does He show a little child the road through the tangles? Does He guide a wandering one home?
There is no doubt about the teaching of the Bible on this subject. For example, we are told that God is our Father. What are the qualities of fatherhood? Is there anything in the life of a child too small for a kind father to take interest in? Is God any less kind than human parents?
Think, too, of the interest of Christ in us, as proved by what He has done and suffered for us. He came to earth and endured our mortal life, that He might learn the way by experience (Hebrews 5:1-10).
To us the path of each day is always new—we have not passed this way before, and we cannot tell what any hour may bring to us. But He knows all the way, for He went over every inch of it. There is no human experience which Christ does not understand (Hebrews 4:15). No suffering can be ours which He did not feel. No wrong can hurt us but that He was hurt far more sorely. Is the burden heavy? His burden was infinitely heavier, for He took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses, and bowed beneath the load of our sins. There is no phase of struggle, of suffering, of pain, of temptation, or of joy, with which He is unfamiliar. And knowing thus the way, from having experienced it for Himself, He is able to guide us in it.
Therefore we have the privilege to pray, “Show me the way I should go” (Psalm 143:8), and expect to be answered. There will be a Hand extended to guide us, to open the path for us, and to help us over the hard pinches of the road.
But do we really need God’s guidance? Are we not wise enough to decide what course it is best for us to take? Can we not find our own path in this world? Some people think they can, and they disdain to turn even to God for direction. They think they can get along without Him, so they make no prayer for direction, but follow the light of their own wisdom. No wonder they never find the way home. There is a story of a tourist in the Alps who refused a guide. He said he could find the way himself. So he went out alone in the morning—but he never came back. The journey of life through this world is far more perilous than mountain climbing.
There are particular times, also, when we need to make the prayer for direction with special earnestness. There are times when every star seems to have gone out, and when clouds and darkness appear to have gathered about us, hiding every waymark, so that we cannot see any way out of the gloom and perplexity. We need then to have God’s direction, or we shall perish. In the darkest hour of Christ’s life, when He could not see even His Father’s face, and cried out like one forsaken, He still kept His faith in God firm and strong. It was still, “My God, my God!” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34) But while there are notable times when we need guidance in a special way, there is no day in all our brightest year when we need no guide, when we dare to go forward one step without one. The day we do not seek and obtain God’s leading will be a day of disaster for us. The day we go forth without prayer for divine blessing, when we do not lay our hand in Christ’s as we go out into the great world, is a day of peril for us. Indeed, we often need the divine guidance the most when we think we do not need it at all (Matthew 26:41).
On the other hand, it is often true that the experiences we dread, in which we seem to be left without help, when the darkness appears most dense about us and we cannot see the way, even a step, before us—are really fullest of God. We cry out then for deliverance, not knowing that it is God who is leading us into the shadows. It is when the sun goes down that we see the stars. Ofttimes it is when the light of human love is quenched that the face of Christ is first really revealed, or at least seen as never before. We cry, “Show me the way,” thinking that we have lost the way, and crying to be led back into it, when lo! the clouds part and we see Christ close beside us, and know that He has been beside us all the time.
God’s way does not always lie in the sunshine; sometimes it runs into deep glooms. We are not always out of His way when we find ourselves facing obstacles and difficulties. When we cannot see where we are going, we may continue in the everlasting way, because God is guiding us. He leads us away many a time from the path which we would have taken. Always He leads us away from whatever is wrong. God’s way is a way of holiness—a pure, clean way. It is the road to heaven.
When we pray for guidance, we must surrender our will to God. If we ask Him to guide us, we must let Him do it—we must yield our own preference, and accept His. For example, we may think we should always be active in some kind of service for our Master. Then one day we are called to suffer ina sick room and have to stay there for a month. We think the time is lost, because in it we have done no work, helped no one, relieved no distress, spoken no word of cheer or comfort. What is the compensation for this loss of time in doing good, this missing of opportunities for serving others? We cannot tell, but we know at least that God’s will does not call us always to activity; sometimes they serve best “who only stand and wait.”2 We are in this world to grow into the likeness of Christ. If then, we have been growing a little more patient, gentle, thoughtful, humble—if the peace of our hearts has become a little deeper, quieter, sweeter—the time has not been lost, for our “rough” path is God’s way for us.
[John Milton; “When I Consider How My Light Is Spent”]
Always when we pray to be guided we must take God’s way wherever it may lead us; we must let God decide whether we shall work or rest. One writes: “No time of seeming inactivity is laid upon you by God without a just reason. It is God calling upon you to do His business by ripening in quiet all your powers for some high sphere of activity which is about to be opened to you.”3 Job’s trial of affliction and grief was not merely a test of faith, but also preparation for further responsibilities (Job 42:10; Luke 19:12-19). We are doing God’s work not only when we are pressing forward in eager haste to accomplish some achievement for Him—but quite as much when we are keeping still and allowing God to work in us, enriching and beautifying our lives.
[Frederic D. Huntington; “Helps to a Holy Lent”]
To know the way of God we must know His will. The one business of life is to learn to do that will. We say in our prayers, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven,” (Matthew 6:10) without always considering the great significance of those words. If our prayer is answered, our whole life will be drawn into the divine way. What effect, for example, will God’s way have on our grudges, our unbrotherly feelings, our jealousies, our resentments, our selfishnesses? They will all be taken captive to Christ that we may be brought in tune with the law of love. So in all life. The way in which God guides us is a way of holiness. It is an ever-ascending way, for its destination is heaven. Therefore that prayer is one we must make continually. We must always keep climbing upward. No matter how Christlike you are today, you should be somewhat better, somewhat more like Him tomorrow.
The way is easier to know than to follow. How many of us live up to our ideals? Yet our only safety is to “walk in the light, as he is in the light.” (1 John 1:7) The Good Shepherd says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) “If ye know these things, happy are ye if you do them.” (John 13:17)
Divine guidance is needed not only for what some think of as the “spiritual” part of our life—for Sundays, for religious exercises—but for the weekdays as well, and for all the common paths. To pray that the will of God may be done on earth as it is in heaven means we are to follow the laws of heaven in all our earthly affairs—in our business, in our social life, in our friendships, in all of our conduct (1 Corinthians 10:31).
We need never doubt that God’s way leads always to the best things, to the truest and to the most real good. When we insist on our own way instead of God’s, we are always making a mistake, the end of which will be sorrow and hurt. But let no one ever think that the way of the Lord is a mistake, however disappointing to our hopes and dreams it may be. One day we shall see that every divine leading, whatever it may have cost us of earthly measure to follow it, was both wise and good. “Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16:11)