What to Know About Paths When You Feel Lost

I steer my car over the low bridge, a simple concrete slab raised just a few feet above the creek it traverses. I lower my window to hear the trickling of the water, my heart already calmer as I make my way toward the trailhead. I don’t get to this tucked-away nature preserve often enough. But every time I do, I come expectant to feel God close.

After I park, I start toward my favorite trail. My choice of trail depends on the season or on the amount of rain we’ve received in the days before. The one that crosses the creek three times is a lovely adventure in the summer or fall, with its calmer waters, but in the spring, the rock-hopping requires waterproof shoes. Today, I choose the trail that weaves through the contrast of wildflower meadows, shaded groves and creekside paths.

There’s a comfort in being familiar with the path, isn’t there? These cultivated trails offer a sense of being anticipated. My attendance here was expected and planned for. And so, I trust the way this path takes me and how it always ends perfectly, exactly by my parked car.

But I wonder, do I trust God as much as I trust these trails? How do I feel about the path God has for me?

When I get to my car and glance at the texts that came while I trekked the woods, I find invitations back into this world’s scarcity, calamity, and hardship before I’ve even left the parking lot. I want to hold onto the peace I just felt.

It isn’t lost on me that the trail in the wild feels predictable, while my manicured life with its planned streets can feel untamed. Yet, God doesn’t discern between the suburban sidewalks I frequent and the groomed paths in this nature preserve.

He is the Creator of all our paths and the author of the story that each of us leads. Every step I take, regardless of whether it lands on concrete or dirt, can be part of the path He has planned.

But there are two truths about the path He has for us:

First, we have to choose His path.

And then we have to trust it.

The promise that He has plans and a path for us shows up over and over in our Bibles. This list could scroll for pages. If each verse stands as evidence of His commitment and faithfulness to each of us, then collectively, their presence offers a whole pile of promises that can bolster our faith:

“Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways so that we may walk in His paths” (Isaiah 2:3a).

“And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left” (Isaiah 30:21).

“In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:6).

“…and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed” (Hebrews 12:13).

“The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives” (Psalm 37:23).

“You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence” (Psalm 139:5,7, NLT)

We might feel lost, get turned around, or fall. We might face hard, uncharted circumstances. We might be standing in the middle of a battle the enemy has thrown our way, or we might be battling our way back to His path.

No matter where we are, He still has a path for us. We must choose it and trust it.

I admit that many of the paths we see in the pages of our Bibles feel daunting. The path that led to a pit and then through slavery and prison. The path through the Red Sea while the enemy pursued. The path that led from falling a giant to hiding in caves. The path that walked into a furnace. Or into a fish. Or onto a cross.

When we’re facing unknowns and we feel lost, our paths can feel like a bushwhack through the wild. It’s in those circumstances that we must hold these two truths:

We know the paths of those before us.

In our slogging, when we’re mired in pain and hardship, we hold up these stories of Joseph and David and Jonah, where we can cling to His unfailing redemption and His mercy. We can see so clearly when and why Moses’, Daniel’s, and Jesus’ paths curved, and we can celebrate how His deliverance and glory leveled out the path. We read of the squishy places, the muddy sections, the dried-up parts, and we see the victory. The paths from before inform our faith because our God does not change. We know that God was there, waiting to guide them in all of it.

We know that He plans our paths, too.

Just like the people in these stories, we know that He also plans and lays the path for us. When we feel lost, we must believe that He is waiting to guide, lead and direct us. When we can’t see the path, we must choose to lean into His Spirit to ask Him to show us the way. Just as He led those before us, we can know that He will lead us, too.

We have to choose His path. And then we have to trust it.

Every time I head to the woods, I choose a trail, and I never wonder if it will lead me back out. I pray that I – that we – will trust how faithfully He leads us just the same. May we stand firm in knowing, even in the mud, that His path keeps going. His presence stays.

May we keep walking.

“You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave, you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me” (Psalm 139:5,7-10, NLT).

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