When I left Rochester for Dulce I received a gift from the leadership group at our church. It is a picture with a Bible verse on it. The picture is an outdoors scene, showing a path through a forest. The path is made of wood, with a few steps going up in the distance, and the Bible verse is this: "Teach me your ways, O Lord; Lead me in a straight path."
According to the picture the verse is Psalm 27:11. I can't fault the wisdom of the Psalm. It is good to seek guidance from God. It is good to ask God to show us His ways. We should want to stay on His paths and not run off other ways, going according to whatever whims or temptations catch our attention. And if God's path is straight, so much the better. It is so much easier to follow a straight path, one that we can see a far way down, than one that winds and only reveals itself gradually and in small pieces.
So I was looking at that picture and thinking of writing something like I just did in the previous paragraph, when I opened my Bible to read the verse. And it turns out that Psalm 27:11 says something just a bit different than the picture in my office.
"Teach me your way, O Lord, and lead me on a level path because of my enemies."
That verse is from the English Standard Version of the Bible but I did a quick comparison and something similar is in all the major English translations. David, the author of the Psalm, does want the Lord to guide his path, but there is more to it than just that. David is in great danger as he seeks God's direction.
On Sunday mornings this summer and fall we have been working our way through the first letter of Peter. One of the consistent things has been the presence of hardship and suffering among the people Peter wrote to, and the ways that they should live as Christians in the presence of that suffering.
Peter and David are both teaching us the same thing, which is that life as a follower of God in the world is a life in which hardship naturally follows. And in reading each of them we see that we need for God to provide the direction for our lives. There is no other way. If God does not guide our path we will stumble around in the wilderness, becoming more lost with each step.
There are many things about God we won't understand during this life. Why we have to go through any particular hardship is one of those things that we rarely understand until after it is over. But we do know that God will show us the way. Let us seek to stay close to Him, in good times and bad, knowing that the path He shows us through any trial will always be the one that brings us a bit closer to Him.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.