Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path. [Psalm 119:105 (NLT)]
Although we usually visit my daughter’s family in New Mexico in October, my broken ankle canceled our plans. The only bright spot in the cancelation is that I won’t have to participate in the dreaded family tradition of navigating through the corn maze at the pumpkin farm! I say “dreaded” because I’m so directionally challenged that I’d have trouble finding my way out of a box. Actually, after our first outing, I’m surprised any of us ever again ventured into another corn maze.
For our first venture, we chose what was reported to be the best (and largest) maze in the area—a 16-acre corn field that had been transformed into an intricately designed labyrinth. Although we had a small map, we soon became convinced that it was for an entirely different maze. Between the trail’s fiendish twists and turns and its 6-foot walls of corn stalks, we soon were totally lost. We had no idea where we were, let alone where we’d been or where we were going. Hot, thirsty, and tired, the little ones started to whine and complain and we adults weren’t much better. What was supposed to be a fun family outing was turning into a miserable afternoon.
While pausing to finish the last of our water, my husband happened to glance down at the stakes placed along the pathways. Connected by twine, they kept people from taking shortcuts or straying off the convoluted trail into the corn. Seeing that some stakes had a barely noticeable tiny arrow drawn on their ends, we tried following the markings. Finding that they never led us into dead ends or left us walking in circles, we continued following those arrows all the way to the exit. Even though the solution to our problem was right in front of us, in our frustration, we hadn’t seen it.
While wandering through that maze, we were like a flock of sheep without a shepherd—and a flock without a shepherd is just a herd of lost sheep (maybe even dead ones since they’ve been known to follow one another off cliffs or into deep water)! While we may be smarter than sheep, like them, we need guidance and our Shepherd is the Lord. While it’s easier to follow His lead when all is going well and the path seems straightforward, it grows more difficult when the path He’s laid out for us is a complicated or challenging one. In God’s world, however, there are no shortcuts and sometimes we have to navigate through what seems a hopeless maze. Think of the convoluted routes taken by the Apostle Paul on his four mission trips, the less than straightforward route to Canaan God gave Moses, and the many years and challenges encountered by David before he became king. The paths on which God placed them were filled with twists, turns, and even a few dead ends.
Although our Shepherd will never abandon us, it sometimes seems as if He has. Feeling hopelessly lost, we find ourselves unsure of where to go or what to do as we wander through a maze of difficulties or major decisions. Rather than tiny arrows drawn on wooden stakes, God guides us through our journey with His word. Without it, we can find ourselves as lost as my family was in that corn field. Whether the path God puts us on is a complex maze or a straightforward four-lane freeway, He has provided us with all the guidance we need in Scripture. Far more accurate than our useless map and easier to understand than those arrows, His word can be trusted to lead us through our troubles to hope, safety, sustenance, strength, and peace.