“You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33b
If you remember from yesterday, Judy and I had climbed to the top of a bluff in Southern Illinois. It was smack dab in the middle of the COVID hot mess and we needed a break, so we took a hike. As we stood there, it was just beautiful. Tens of thousands of acres were bursting into spring and God was shouting, “Hey just like winter’s dreary brownness must give way to the new life of spring–this will pass.” It was a good moment. Before long, with night just over an hour away, it was time to go down from the bluff and head home. Folks say there is no place like home–that is if you can find it.
Well, the magical phone app Judy was using is called, “All Trails.” It really is quite cool. You start the app at the selected trailhead and using GPS it guides you through the woods. The trail is shown right there on the screen–even ones that aren’t even there. And that, dear friends, is where the fun began.
So, according to our trusty app, Stoneface trail made a loop back to the car. Now a loop is better because you don’t have to see the same scenery twice. It’s all new. We decided to take the loop. At first the trail was pretty evident. We came to a low split rail fence across the trail. We thought it meant no horses on Stoneface. What it really meant was if you go past this point you are going to die. We went past that point.
We walked and hiked for a while and strangely that grumpy feeling started coming back again. It may have had to do with the fact that I started to realize that the app was lying to us. “Trail? What trail? I don’t know anything about a trail.” So, we reached the point where we had to go down the bluff. Remember, there is no trail, there is no sign of a trail…only a friendly app that kept saying, “you’re on the trail.”
Now there are not words to describe this journey but I’m going to try. We were walking, sliding, down a 90% embankment (ok maybe it was like 20%) and rocks covered with leaves are rolling like ball-bearings under our feet. We cross rivers (ok- creeks), change time zones, and go through small Grand Canyons. I’m growing concerned. “Hey Judy, we have less than an hour of daylight.” “No problem” she said. “The app says we are on the trail,” she said. I won’t tell you what I said.
On we went with our app spewing out lies about trails. Then it happened. I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye and there just forty yards away was Bigfoot–or the Abominable Snowman–I couldn’t tell for sure. We were in deep weeds. Then, I heard a duet being played by a banjo and guitar. Yup–we were going to die. On we marched–lions, tigers and bears frolicked all around us. “Hey Judy,” I said. “The app says…,” she said.
So, the app lied. Period. But there is one thing it didn’t lie about. After about an hour or so, she said, “I see the car.” I said, literally, “Thank you Lord.” Another ten minutes or so and I was hugging that glorious thing–no, not Judy, the car. So, what is the moral of this strange and twisted trail–I mean, tale. Trust.
While the app didn’t tell the truth about the trail, it did tell the truth about the one thing that mattered–the destination. It led us to the car. And, you know, I think the app kinda reminded me of God. First and emphatically, unlike the app, God never lies…we just stop believing and trusting Him. We think He promises paved roads and smooth journeys and then we get mad when He doesn’t deliver. Read this carefully–God never promised that. In fact, Jesus said in John 16:33b “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”
He told us the path would be rough. He told us the trail would be difficult. He didn’t promise storm free living, rather He promised He would never leave us–never abandon us, and He doesn’t. Most importantly, He said we are going home, and we are. If we confess our sins, trust in what Jesus did on the cross, turn from our sins and choose to follow Him–we are going home. That is the gospel truth–literally.
So, there you go. If you go to Stoneface…don’t take the loop. If are feeling overwhelmed–trust Jesus. If you are feeling like God didn’t keep His end of the deal…remember the truth…it’s not smooth sailing but He is leading us home. No matter how big the waves of the storm, He is bigger. So, rest in Him. He’s got this.