[CF Devotionals] 2012-01-10 - Sidetracks

Romans 8:28 (Holman Christian Standard Bible) We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose."

When our family was taking a drive to see famous local Christmas displays, in one town, we missed our turn and had to go down a side road, to turn around. It turned out that some of the pretiest and unique antique decorations were down that side road. If we hadn't been sidetrack, we would have missed a real treat. But most of the time, we don't consider sidetracks to be joys; rather, they are annoyances, frustrations, time-wasters. Or so we think.

Sometimes the sidetracks are where God's best lessons are learned, where the most growth occurs, and after all is said and done, we think "I wouldn't have missed that for anything." Perhaps there's something we've hoped for and longed for, but God hasn't been ready to give it to us ? not just yet. He has a sidetrack for us first. Perhaps there's someone on the sidetrack, that He'll use us to bless. Maybe He has a lesson for us that can best be learned via a sidetrack. Or perhaps there are simply joys that we would miss if we stayed on the straightest, fastest path.

One of my unpleasant but growth-producing sidetracks was a bladder cancer scare back in the 1980s. My infections just seemed intractable, and the odds were high, that I had cancer. And by the time I developed the severe symptoms (excruciating pain, continuous bleeding etc.), it would have been a high grade of cancer. But it turned out that I had something more rare, a stricture - and I was so thankful. I had suffered months of the worst pain of my life (including an unset broken elbow and later, neuralgia). At the time, I didn't understand the "whys," and I railed against God and I reached a point where I simply didn't think I could bear the pain any more. And it affected everything. It basically shut down my normal life. I didn't feel like doing anything, and to this day, that's a period that's "lost" to my memory. Richard will say "remember when we?." And if it was during 1984, the answer is inevitably no. But on that Thanksgiving Eve when I was pronounced cancer-free and told my pain was gone, the whole world changed for me. I appreciated the little things, even more than before, and my priorities changed forever. God used this painful sidetrack to teach me so much.

It reminds me of bypasses, the asphalt variety, not the cardiac ones. In too many areas of the U.S., we have bypassed ourselves out of the joys of going through small towns. Yes we save a little time, but we miss so much. We miss history. We miss interesting people, and the towns miss the business, and often go under. There's a lot to be said about taking the "scenic route," and that's true of the Christian life, as well. Life can be richer, and we can grow more spiritually, if we learn to appreciate the sidetracks and scenic routes on which God takes us ? instead of whining about them and trying to zip by them.

What sidetracks have God taken you down in your spiritual lives? I would love to hear from you.

[email jan] Jan