As I walk into this realization that God sometimes leads us where we do not want to go, my soul is torn.
I hold both shock and joy, frustration and humility. I ask myself, “How could God call me somewhere I do not want to go? Isn’t He a good God? Isn’t He my friend? Isn’t He kind?”
Simultaneously my soul questions and praises God’s ways. My spirit shouts, “Lord, what an honor and a joy to be called by you! How could I not follow?” But it also retorts, “Lord, this is uncomfortable; this isn’t what I wanted. Why are you leading me this way?”
As I sit with God, He calls to my remembrance Peter and Jonah.
Jesus called Peter to be a leader, to be the father of the church. Jesus called Him into his destiny and drew Peter out on a path marked with incomprehensible joy and incomparable suffering. Healings and miracles, powerful movements of the church, rejoicing and celebrations, persecution and answered promises–these flooded Peter’s path.
In John 21:18-21, when Jesus spoke direction into Peter’s life, Peter most likely felt both joy and sorrow, excitement and fear, humility and awe. But, Peter’s recorded reaction was “Lord, what about him?”
Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!’ Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, ‘Lord, who is going to betray you?’) When Peter saw him, he asked, ‘Lord, what about him?’
Jesus answered Peter by saying, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”
I imagine as Peter walked out the call of God on his life, he met many forks in the road. I imagine every now and then Peter thought, “I don’t want to go down that road.” But, he did. He trusted in the goodness and faithfulness of God. He trusted in God’s ways and purposes, despite being used by Him in manners and in places he may not have preferred. While I don’t know what the spiritual and emotional process was for Peter to come to that place of willingness and acceptance, I know Peter would tell us that his worldly sufferings can’t even compare to His eternal riches.
I know Jonah wasn’t jumping out of his seat to go down the path God called him to, to preach to the people in Ninevah. In fact, Jonah 1:1-2 actually says, “The word of the Lord came to Jonah ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah ran away from the Lord.”
Maybe along the path of your life, God’s called you to places you didn’t and don’t want to go. Maybe He’s called you to end a relationship or maybe He’s called you to trust Him when the relationship was ended for you. Maybe God’s called you to walk down the path, while persevering through physical pain. Maybe the path produces emotional turmoil. Maybe the path of God includes a job that you’d rather not to be in, or a city that you just don’t fit in.
When God calls us somewhere we do not want to go, we must go. When He speaks a direction into our lives, we must take the step of faith. If we do not, we will be disappointed with life. We’ll live in anguish, regret and frustration. We’ll constantly be dissatisfied because the Holy Spirit will not let us forget the irrevocable call of God on our lives. We were created to do God’s will, and if we persist in not doing what He tells us to, we will live ineffective and purposeless lives.
Will we trust in His goodness even when the path appears anything but good? Will we trust in His goodness even when it doesn’t make sense, even when our reason shouts, “That’s crazy, you’ll get killed doing that!” or “You’ll make a fool of yourself!”?
For those of us whose hope resides solely in Christ, whose lives cease to have meaning without Him, what choice do we have but to follow Him where we do not want to go?