The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
Many years ago, as a young missionary in a new country, I was eager to explore the beautiful hills and vineyards near my new apartment. I was on a long walk in the Vienna woods. I had moved to Austria to work with young college students. New to the area, I did not realize how easy it was to get lost in the forested hills. I had no map, no water, no food, no jacket and at that time, no cell phone.
Venturing too far, too late in the day, the sun began to set and fear began to tug at my heart. What would I do if the sun went down before I found my way to safety? All of the paths looked the same, the woods became more ominous with the shadows of the sun sinking in the sky. My German was very poor and I could not read the signs.
A breath prayer emerged from my lips, "God, please, please help me. I am lost and I need to find my way back home before it turns dark. I am afraid and I don't know what to do."
Gradually, as I walked forward little by little, I began to see light shining through the trees that indicated a more populated area just below. I spotted a familiar building in the distance and followed its shadow until I came to the lower part of the woods where I had entered the woods hours before. Finally, I found the path that led me home. It was such a joy and relief to finally reach home, where I belonged.
Scripture often uses the metaphor of a pathway to describe our journey in life. Each of our paths and journeys of life are different, but each of us sometimes gets lost. Sometimes our pathways are covered with the darkness of sin, selfishness, difficulties with others, scars from our past. Often, our hearts are filled with fear as we look at the shadows and not to God. Yet, the more we walk the pathway of our lives with God, the more we will grow to understand His love.
Learning to know the heart of God as we walk our path is the key to experiencing His love more consistently, and learning to understand His will for our lives. We have to believe in His good will toward us to be able to experience His ever-present love. We must replace the darkness of fears or bitterness with the light of His loving desire to guide and bless us at each step along the way. We can only rest in His love when we have rid ourselves from the fear of our heart as we walk the path of our life with Him. His love will lead us home. His goodwill and promise to be with us, will give us security.
God's love is not just a feeling that we are supposed to "muster" up. His love is based on His character and promise to be with us. I love our verse for today, because it gives us the substance of God's commitment to us, amidst our own path of life, to assure us of His goodwill and love.
The verse we have to read today has encouraged my heart so very much. Even though the people of Jeremiah's time had rebelled against God's ways and had compromised His will for their life, God still watched over them and promised them that in their future, He would do them good and not evil, that He would take them closer to His heart. This is what God promised them on their road ahead:
He would set his eyes--watch us--and willed them His goodness and presence to provide for the His children--us.
He would lead them from their place of banishment to their own land, from the dark path where they had walked to a new place--a path of life. His will was to guide them home and to to guide us home.
His heart is to build up his children, and not to overthrow them.
He will plant us and allow us to grow, and not allow us to be plucked up--pulled away from His presence and protection.
But most of all, we see God's heart:
"I will give them hearts that recognize me--that knows me. They will be my people and I will be their God." God wants to give you a new heart, a heart that is so close to His, that you understand deeply and experience in reality His deep love and commitment to you. God longs for us to be "His people" --His family, to own Him as our very own father, and he has already extended His son, Jesus, to adopt us, to be in community with Him, to guide and protect us. His love is not just a "feeling," His desire is to love us in the foundational reality of our lives and He wants to guide us that we may be secure belonging to Him.
If you feel lost on your path of life, or have any fear or feeling that you are alone, please know that God's heart for you is so very good. He will guide you and bring you to know Him and to understand Him. Just give yourself to Him, as you are in all of your circumstances today--and let Him begin to lead you toward His love, His goodness and His desire to show you how to live with Him in harmony.