Has your life/ministry jumped the track? Gone off the rails? Have you ever agonized over the  questions, “God how did we get here? How did things go so very wrong?? This isn’t what I thought or imagined? What about Your promises? Can anything good ever come of this?”

Major life detours can take many forms- a death, a loss of a job/ministry, breakup of a relationship, marital issues, career shift/change, health set back etc. Most of the time these life detours are so traumatic because our journey is not what we expected. Somehow we got American culture mixed up with Scripture, erroneously thinking that a Christian’s life is supposed to be a smooth direct line,  continually getting better and better at lightening speed. When life does not meet up to these expectations (which it won’t) we left asking questions like, “God, did I really hear You? God did you really speak to Me? Did I do something wrong to get here? Did I blow it somewhere so badly that I have ruined God’s overall plan for my life? How could God let this happen? Can He be trusted?”

If you have ever had a major detour in life, and if you have ever asked any or all of these questions, know that you are not alone. In fact, you are in great company with some of the greatest heroes of the Bible.

Paul the Apostle- Jesus promised Paul at Paul’s conversion that God would use Paul powerfully, to minister widely and preach for Him. But right away, Paul was rejected in church after church (they were afraid of him due to his past). Instead of walking into leadership at a growing mega church, God’s Spirit took Paul in the WILDERNESS for 3 years. God was training and shaping Paul in that wilderness. But even after Paul launched into itinerant ministry he was rejected, thrown out of churches, stoned, beaten, arrested, shipwrecked etc. I know it must have been very difficult for Paul to sit in a Roman prison for years. Wouldn’t he have wondered what God was up to? How do you minister in a prison? But Paul (through the Spirit) wrote 2/3 of our New Testament in that prison cell. And through his trials, Paul was able to share the gospel with some of the most influential leaders in Rome!

Moses- Moses had been a prince with incredible potential. Then he was forced to flee into a WILDERNESS. And God kept Moses there, tending sheep until Moses was 80 YEARS old! Then when Moses started his ministry, Pharoah refused to listen or cooperate, the people were not too willing or grateful, and the obstacles were numerous. And then God brought Moses and the people into the WILDERNESS. They did not get to go straight into the Promised Land. God decided to develop them in the wilderness for 40 YEARS. Moses dealt with constant complaining, rebellion and infighting.

Joseph- He was famously given wonderful promises by God. But before Joseph saw God’s word come true, Joseph was sold into slavery, falsely accused, arrested, betrayed numerous times and imprisoned for many years. I would have been tempted to think that I hadn’t really heard God, or that God had forgotten about me. But Joseph could not have handled the position God had for him, without the developing he received in those unfair, unjust situations. He had learned that God could speak through dreams, he had learned how to organize and administrate, he had learned to systematically plan ahead. And God used Joseph to save an entire region from certain starvation.

Elijah- Before and after this champion of God faced off against 400 prophets of Baal, he spent a LOT of time alone with God in a WILDERNESS.

Jesus- Immediately after being baptized, Jesus launched His new ministry, not with a dazzling budget, but with 40 days of grueling temptation in a WILDERNESS.

What about YOU? Has God given you a promise? God gives us promises because we are really going to need them. We will have a dark time, when you will be tempted to forget in the dark what you heard in the light- and that promise could be the lifeline that you cling to in your own WILDERNESS. Faith, remember, is the evidence of things NOT seen. If you already have all you wanted, you don’t need a promise or faith. We fast paced Americans sometimes only care about the DESTINATION and getting somewhere GREAT fast. But God cares more about what we will BECOME in the waiting. Here are 3 things to remember if your life has taken a detour:

  1. Don’t look back. We get tempted to wish for things to go back to how they were when “they were good.” We may long for, attempt to go back to, a time or a ministry that is gone. Our mind glosses over all the things that were really wrong during that time. We start to act like the Israelites begging to go back to Egypt. God is NOT a fan of His children always trying to go back (Lot’s wife). We can appreciate the good about what was. We can cherish those memories. But God has much more in store. You did not ruin God’s plan for your life. Your are not that powerful or awesome. God may have planned this “detour” all along. It’s time to leave Egypt behind and press on into the Promise.
  2. Develop as much as you can in the desert. God develops His champions in the WILDERNESS (David, John the Baptist, John the Revelator etc.). If you find yourself in a scary unexpected desert, it’s time to listen for that still small voice, notice that burning bush and even entertain an angel or three. God often gets our undivided attention by removing the distractions. Yield to the moving of the Holy Spirit; wait on Him as long as it takes. He will move that glory cloud on when it is time. While you are in that desert, seek God, learn a skill (Joseph), be faithful and work hard.
  3. Determine to wait on God. Delay is NOT denial (Abraham and Sarah- Isaac). A detour is not defeat. Again, it may only be a detour from a human perspective. Determine to let go of control of your life. God really does order our steps. And as long as we hold on to Him, He really does “work all things together for good for those who love God.” God doesn’t use anyone powerfully until He has thoroughly developed and tested them first. He is teaching us to trust Him fully, and to give up OUR plans and OUR timeline. He is the pilot and we do not get to back seat drive.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Have you been in a wilderness of unexpected twists and turns lately? What is God developing in you during this time? What skills are you pursuing? What has God been speaking to your heart? What promises of God do you need to dust off and hang onto tighter? From one “desert wanderer” to another, God bless your ministry and all you are becoming. This detour will not define you, but it will refine you and refuel you to what He has been planning all along. God bless- Trisha