Here’s a truth that I have learned over years of following Jesus – He actually does have plans for us and while he sometimes appears to leave the details up to us, He will take action to get us back on the right track if we veer off of it.
In chapter 11 we find this happening twice, and the chapter is bookended by these stories. Working backwards, consider the story of Abram at the end of the chapter…
Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Harran, they settled there. (v. 31)
I’m no Bible scholar, but Harran was not where they were trying to get to. So why did they settle there? Did they give up? Did they find in Harran something better than what they thought they might find Canaan? Was someone hurt and sick and they had to rest them for an extended period? Did they run out of supplies or money?
A bunch of things could have happened to prevent their journey to Canaan and the best we can do is speculate about it. Speculation should not be overused when asking questions about what the Bible says, but I do believe it has its place. I would guess that whatever the circumstances were, the true reason that Abram’s family settled in Harran was that God did not want him in Canaan…yet. He would eventually deliver it to Abraham’s descendants, but wanted to teach them first. God’s work in our lives often happens on the journey to get to where we are going, not in the place itself.
Perhaps you have been waiting to arrive when you simply need to enjoy the process. God is working on you right now, and offers you the ability to be closer to Him during this time than you ever dreamed possible.
Unfortunately however, I have also experienced God’s methods from earlier in the chapter. I would contend that while it may be hard when God steps in and says “not yet”, the difficulty can be even greater when he allows us to have our way for a bit. There was a time when people had progressed so much that they just kept drifting further and further away from God. God permitted their progression to a point, but eventually had to step in. They were so far off the path that he had planned for them that if they took one step further they would destroy themselves.
I’ve been there. I’ve grabbed hold of the reins and said, “God why don’t you let me steer for awhile?” It wasn’t arrogance as much as impatience. I needed direction from God, and when I couldn’t hear it, I decided to take action. I justified it by telling myself, “I’ll just get moving and see if God is up ahead of me. I mean, that’s what taking a step of faith means, right?” In reality, what I really needed to do was wait. This mistake came at great cost to my family and me, but ultimately God intervened and lead me out of it.
Here’s the deal though, now that I’m this side of it – I don’t necessarily regret it. First of all, regret should be reserved for things we never try, not things we try and fail at. In fact, while I wish I didn’t have to fall on my face to learn, I learned things through that experience that I could not have learned any other way. I can still sit back and know that while I may have run top speed into a brick wall and even burned the whole thing to ground, God made beauty from the ashes.
The comfort I offer you today is not that life walked hand in hand with God is easier. Actually, God will sometimes drag us kicking and screaming through the valleys. The comfort comes in knowing that while we might let go of His hand from time to time, He never lets go of ours.