I have a friend with a Jeep and one of the things he likes to do is to take it off road. There are trails around the country that Jeep enthusiasts go to. These trails are rated by the package on your Jeep. To go on certain ones, you have to have a certain package or another with upgrades or you won’t make it. There’s one in the High Sierra’s near Lake Tahoe called the Rubicon Trail. It’s a grueling 22 mile off road trail that challenges even the most seasoned off road drivers. I’ve watched several videos of people doing some amazing driving on this trail. These drivers move forward on this trail confidently and help others along the way. It’s pretty cool to watch them navigate, learn and maneuver some rugged terrain.
When talking about our spiritual walk, we often refer to the good times as “mountaintop experiences” and dark times as “being in the valley”. However, like the Rubicon Trail, sometimes the challenging times of life are high on the mountain or on your way up. You may get some bumps and scratches on the way through the rugged terrain. Some of the toughest times in David’s life were after the high of being anointed king. He had to navigate through some rough terrain, but in the process, God was preparing him for the responsibility of what was coming. There were some emotional set backs on his Rubicon Trail to the throne, but he kept moving forward with the confidence of his calling.
I’m reminded of Habakkuk 3:19. It says, “The Lord GOD is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility]” (AMP). I don’t know what your Rubicon Trail is, but I do know that God is your source of courage and your navigator through rough terrain. He will help you to keep moving forward towards your goal with confidence even when the roadway is seemingly blocked and you can’t see the end. He uses these times as part of His process to prepare you for the promise. Look around you to see who He has placed in your life to help get you through. Don’t travel this terrain alone. Find a strong believer to help guide you and pray you through.
I recently used a program to lose weight. After one day of following the rules and eating healthy, I stepped on the scale to see my progress. No change. The first thought to come to mind is, “This stuff doesn’t work!” It’s funny because I didn’t gain weight over night, but somehow my mind thinks that if I eat right for one day, I should have dramatic improvement. My coach encouraged me to continue following the process and to stock with it. Each day, I stepped on the scale to check my progress though. Some days I lost weight, others I stayed the same. The coach reminded me that weight loss shows up in more than the scale. Even though it didn’t show it, my measurements were shrinking. He encouraged me to continue to be patient and to follow the process. After following the process for a couple of months, I saw the progress I was looking for.
God has processes too. In 1 Samuel 16, David was anointed as king of Israel, but he wasn’t ready to be king. God had a process for him to follow first. For much of that process, David was on the run from the current king, Saul. There were several times that David had the opportunity to skirt the process and to kill Saul. David didn’t listen to the voices around him trying to get him to kill Saul though. One instance was in 1 Samuel 26. Abishai and David snuck up on Saul while he was sleeping, and his spear was right beside him. Abishai thought God had delivered Saul to David. In verse 10 David replied, “I know that the Lord himself will kill Saul, either when his time comes to die a natural death or when he dies in battle” (GNT). David wasn’t willing to skip the process no matter how long it took. He was willing to wait for Saul to die naturally.
I’ve learned that the greater the calling you have, the longer the process is. David had to wait 15 years to be king. Just like David, we must be patient in the process and trust it. Philippians 1:6 says, “And so I am sure that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus.” What God has started in you will be completed. It may seem like things are going slow or there’s no progress, and at times that you’re going backwards, but God is working. A lot of what God does in the process can’t be measured. Like David, we need to be patient. If God called you to it, He will fulfill it in His time. Be faithful in what seems like the little things (Luke 16:10). Don’t despise small beginnings either (Zechariah 4:10). God will be faithful to complete what He began in you. Just take the process one step and one day at a time.
Impatient. That’s a word that can often be used to describe me. Even though I know that something like an oil painting requires a lengthy process, I want it done quickly. But you can’t do that with oils. You paint a color at a time in an area and let it dry for a few days. You then add some more. Oil paintings require time and patience if you want an excellent piece. I always want it to look like a Rembrandt, but I’m not willing to go through the process. As I look at his work, I imagine the time it took him to create those masterpieces and am in awe of the finished product.
Our lives are not much different than his masterpieces. To become the complex work of art that God has planned for each of us, we must go through a lengthy process. We can easily get impatient wondering if God will ever finish what He started. Sometimes He adds color to our life, then puts the paintbrush down while it cures. We want the whole picture quickly, but masterpieces aren’t created in a day. They must submit to the process.
David could have easily been as impatient as I am. Imagine this: he had been anointed king, yet he had to go back to tending sheep. He had slayed a giant, but he still had to do his chores at home. Even though God had called and anointed him as king, he still had to submit to the process to become the masterpiece that God wanted him to become. He could have killed Saul several times, but he understood that would have interfered with the process, so he trusted God.
In Psalm 138:8 he wrote, “The Lord will work out His plans for my life” (NLT). He understood what we need to understand. God is the one working things out in our lives, not us. When we get impatient and interfere, we mess with the masterpiece He’s creating. He is the artist and we are the canvas. If you’re in the process of waiting right now, don’t become impatient. God is still working out His plan. The brush may be set down right now, but He’s not finished with you. He will be faithful to complete it.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
My friend tells people, “Don’t get stuck in your story,” when someone is constantly living in the past. You’re stuck in your story when you allow your past pain to rob you of your present. Yes, it happened. Yes, it was and is painful, but if you allow it to consume you, it will rob you of a life that God wants to give you. I spent a lot of time living in the pain of the past instead of in the present. I couldn’t seem to get unstuck. The pain was becoming my identity, so I grew to need it. What I didn’t realize was that it had caused me to quit paying attention to my present and stopped all my progress. I didn’t get unstuck until a friend looked me in the eye and said, “You’ve given up and you’re in a rut. This isn’t who you are, and I don’t want to see you like this.” All of a sudden I saw that I was stuck and I decided to make changes to get unstuck.
In Isaiah 43:18-19, God says, “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present” (MSG). If we keep living in past pains, we will miss what God is trying to do now. I can tell you that the pain of your past can be used for good once you allow yourself to heal. I don’t know why we have to go through painful times that feel like they’re going to crush us. I do know that it’s part of God’s process in getting us to His promise. Just like a grape that’s crushed can never become wine unless it’s moved from the press to the vat, you and I can never fulfill our purpose until we move from the pain to the next part of the process.
Everyone has a past. Everyone. But everyone also has a present. Everyone. If you’re stuck in your story, you can’t move on to the next part of the process that God is trying to do in your life. Acknowledge your pain. It’s real. It happened, but if you live there going over it over and over, you will never heal. Change your routine. Change your habits. Stop dwelling on what happened. You can’t change that. You can change your future though if you will be present in this moment and ask God to help you move to the next part of the process. Everything that’s happened in your life can be used for your good. God wants to do a new thing in your life, but you have to get unstuck and be present for Him to do it. He will make rivers in your desert and bring new life to the dry places of your life.