It nearly cost Edward Rosenthal his life.
Rosenthal, 64, was hiking in Joshua National Park in southeastern California when he simply took the wrong turn. It’s easy enough to do, and who among us hasn’t done it?
We all get lost sometimes.
In Mr. Rosenthal’s case, it was a near-fatal mistake. He hiked 13 miles in the wrong direction. When he finally stopped and realized his error, Rosenthal was alone and lost, with no way out and no one to hear his cries for help. After six hopeless days, he was finally found by rescue workers, weak and dehydrated.
When Edward Rosenthal made that fateful wrong turn along the hiking trail, he was probably pretty confident it would lead him out to the right place. It seemed the right way to go at the time. No one intentionally tries to get lost, especially if they’re in the wilderness hiking.
Getting lost is an accident.
Despite our best intuition and judgment – our best logic and reasoning – we still can make the wrong choice and we can go in the wrong direction. For Mr. Rosenthal, as in some of life’s critical decisions, the stakes were high. And there are plenty of times in our lives – especially at those crucial junctures – when simply relying on our own intuition isn’t good enough.
“There is a way that seems right to a man,” the Bible tells us, “but it ends in death.” (Proverbs 14:12, emphasis added).
The prophet Jeremiah prayed “I know, Lord, that our lives are not our own. We are not able to plan our own course.” (Jeremiah 10:23, NLT).
When we try we find it is not within our power.
“I claim not to have controlled events,” Lincoln confided to a friend in the dark days of the Civil War, “but confess plainly that events have controlled me.” One of the president’s favorite quotes was from Shakespeare:
“There is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them how we will.”
That “divinity” is our Sovereign God.
The Book of Proverbs offers wise counsel when it comes to finding our way and choosing the right road.
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart,” we’re told, “and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5, KJV).
Godly decision-making starts with godly trust. It begins with a confidence that God loves us and will lead us. This is what he has promised to do. It is up to us to believe it. We’re not to be indecisive on this matter or half-hearted. We must trust God with all our heart – fully and without reservation. No matter what the circumstances or our own feelings.
If we won’t trust God with our lives, we don’t trust him at all.
If we will fully trust him we shall find him fully true. “In all thy ways acknowledge him” – not in some things but in everything, and here is the promise – “and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:6, KJV). It does not say God could or that he might; he says that God shall direct us.
The writer goes on and admonishes:
“Be not wise in thine own eyes” (Proverbs 3:7, KJV). For in this is found the ultimate conceit and life’s greatest self-deception. The “best and brightest”, independent of divine guidance, stumble into ruin. The greatest tragedy of the human race has been man’s rebellion against God’s way.
God never ceases to be merciful.
Even if we do take the wrong turn, when we come to that realization, God will still show us the way back. Did not the Good Shepherd leave the 99 sheep safely in the fold so that he might seek that one lost sheep that had wandered away? And he didn’t stop looking until he found it.
God does the same with us. Because he loves us, he seeks us. Because he cares, he leads us back.
Isaiah promised the people of Israel that “The Lord is a faithful God…He will be gracious if you ask for help. He will surely respond to the sound of your cries…he will still be with you to teach you.” [Isaiah 30: 18 -20, NLT].
And God will guide us.
“Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, ‘This is the way you should go,’ whether to the right or the left.” [Isaiah 30: 21, NLT].
This world is not the easiest place in which to make our way. It’s filled with some surprising and often intimidating twists and turns – and critical intersections. Our lives are confronted daily with temptations, sincere advice, and popular appeals that “seem right”.
It can all be quite confusing at times.
But if you and I will place our trust in God and in his love for us, and seek his direction in prayer and through his Word, he has promised never to leave us. He will show us the right turn to take and even when we make a wrong one, he will rescue us and show us the road back.
He loves us that much.
“For this God is our God forever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death” (Psalm 48:14, KJV).
He’s there – always. He will show us the way.
May God bless you and your family.