“We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
BETWEEN WHERE WE ARE AND WHERE WE WANT TO BE IN ETERNITY, THE ROAD THAT MUST BE TAKEN IS AT TIMES A DIFFICULT TRACK THROUGH DESOLATE COUNTRY. There is no other way to reach home. God is our guide and His help is our hope, but the journey must still be made.
The spiritual life is not principally about the avoidance of difficulty. It’s about going toward God despite the difficulties that obstruct us. For now, our greatest prayer is not for peace but for progress toward the Promised Land. The peace will come in due season. This was John Bradford’s thought when he prayed, “Life is a pilgrimage. I came from the Lord and I will return to the Lord. I may pass through dangerous places. O Christ, be my guide.”
In our journey toward God, much that lies before us is unknown. From where we stand at present, it is impossible to see either the heights of joy that we’ll reach or the depths of sorrow through which we must pass. Each day dawns with the promise of both triumph and testing. If we commit ourselves to God, there is no telling what will happen. This only do we know: our God is the sovereign King of His creation. He is moving all of history toward a glorious finale, and those who are loyal to Him are going toward something unimaginably, and eternally, great.
As wayfarers, our need is for courage, not comfort. “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:36). Do we remember what the Lord prayed for His disciples? He said, “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Those who would follow the Lord can’t go “around” this world any more than He did — they must follow Him “through” the world. “Father, hear the prayer we offer: not for ease that prayer shall be, but for strength, that we may ever live our lives courageously” (L. M. Willis). While the foolish spend their time praying to be excused from the journey, the wise simply pray for whatever strength that this, the greatest of all journeys, may require.
Not fare well,
But fare forward, voyagers.
(T. S. Eliot)