I don’t think anyone expected last year to unfold the way it did. One minute my calendar could hardly hold everyone’s activities, and the next thing I knew, it was blank. Life came to a screeching halt. The Bible study I teach turned into a podcast, our men’s basketball NCAA party turned into a family movie night, my kitchen became a classroom, and the couch became a church pew.
It felt like a “Road Closed” sign popped up out of nowhere and forced the world on a giant detour. At first, I thought the detour would be short-lived. I expected summer to bring with it a healthy dose of normality, which in many ways it did. We swam and played and grilled and enjoyed the outdoors but mainly kept to ourselves. We saw friends and family again but were hugs permissible? I never expected to live in a world where I needed to ask.
As summer faded, the detour continued into the start of a new school year. My kids graced those familiar hallways with their faces covered, while others stayed at home and viewed their teachers on a screen. We went to church (a blessing not everyone had) but sat in isolated clumps reminiscent of tiny islands. While things felt almost normal, we weren’t quite there.
Will this detour ever end? The question consumed me often. Then came cold temperatures and the fear of flu season and contact tracing became the plague my kids hoped to avoid, but we were not successful. After rearranging my schedule through various stents of virtual learning, we took a path I said I’d never take: homeschool. (So much for a quick detour.)
I cried (a lot) the first few weeks of homeschooling. The pressure to educate my children well buried me in anxiety. Was I doing enough? Was I doing it right? Was this my life now? By God’s grace, I felt no bitterness towards my kids, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t long for the path I had once pictured: my kids in school, my house picked up, and my days spent writing. After all, that was the dream and the plan, or so I thought.
Detours Don’t Exist with God
Regardless of whether you consider yourself a planner or not, we all carry dreams and plans, and ideologies of how we think things should be. We assume marriage and kids and careers should all happen by a particular time. We conclude that happiness sits behind doors one, two, and three. We believe the fulfillment of specific dreams will satisfy us, so we chart our courses accordingly.
Then when life doesn’t work out the way we hope, disappointment assaults us, confusion grips us, and we feel lost. Confident in our estimations, we treat everything leading us away from our determined path like a detour and refuse to embrace the idea that God might have a different plan.
As a result, we wish the time away and push back against the course we’re on and perpetually seek and hope and pray for the path we really want. Please, God, please. And when it still doesn’t happen, we feel forgotten.
Yet God declares, “I will not forget you” (Isa. 49:15). “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). “I am the Lord your God . . . who leads you in the way you should go” (Isa. 48:17). God never fails to lead us, but we do fail to follow. Christ is the good shepherd (John 10:11), and good shepherds lead their sheep.
An unexpected path isn’t a lapse in Christ’s leading. Nothing happens apart from God allowing it. Christ knew a “Road Closed” sign sat in the dead center of your plans. The reality is He either put it there (in love) to prod you in a different direction or allowed it to remain there for your benefit, allowing us to conclude a rather earth-shattering revelation: the detour is the road.
Unless we are in sin, making sinful choices, we are not on an accidental road. There are no detours with God—only routes always meant to be. Routes that may not be easy, but as a child of God, we can trust, we are not trekking through valleys or enduring drought-like conditions for nothing. Our God has a plan, and we are still in it.
“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” –Prov. 16:9
Every Season Has a Purpose
We may not understand this side of heaven, but every God-given road has a God-determined purpose. Seasons of suffering develop faith-filled perseverance, and seasons of waiting produce character, while seasons of joy fuel us for the day of uncertainty. Quiet seasons create space for our souls to listen, while seasons of chaos allow us to put into practice the truths we’ve come to know.
Moses is an excellent example of unexpected, purposeful seasons. Moses knew God intended to use him to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, but Moses got ahead of God when he killed an Egyptian caught beating his brethren (Ex. 2:11–15). As a result, Moses fled to the desert, to the land of Midian, for a forty-year detour where he learned to love and parent and shepherd and wait, along with gaining valuable experience in the land that he would one day lead God’s people through.
Though Moses couldn’t see it, his time in Midian oozed with purpose. His four-decade hiatus was not a detour; it was the road. A detour implies wasted time, but God does not waste time. And I don’t know about you, but I find that immensely encouraging. God doesn’t take us on meaningless detours—God takes us on purposeful paths of His choosing.
This past year may feel like a giant detour from ordinary life, but with God still in control, we can trust, the detour is the road. We’re here because God put us here. God’s plan for me right now isn’t writing eight hours a day, except a crazy pandemic got in the way, hurling God’s plan into oblivion. God’s plan for me right now is teaching, molding, and loving my kids.
God’s route may not be the route we desire, but we can be sure God’s route is always for the benefit of drawing us closer, revealing His character, and making us more like Christ. If I push back against His plan simply because it’s not what I wanted, then I push against God’s love for me, and in my situation, God’s love for my kids.
I’m not saying we never take paths we shouldn’t. God pleads with those on highways of idolatry to repent and turn around, go back, and seek Him. But when circumstances outside of our control take us on an unexpected journey, we can rest assured Christ is still leading us down the road that will benefit our faith the most, lead to eternal blessing, and make us more like Him.
So, sister, we may as well embrace the road.
God Is Still Leading You
You may not be where you want to be, but if you’re seeking to follow Christ with all your heart, then you can trust you’re in the right place. It might be a place of refining and chiseling of corrosive sinful tendencies. A place that may not feel very comfortable, and you never thought you would be. Nonetheless, it’s a place your loving Father chose for you.
The sheep don’t tell the shepherd which way to go. The sheep simply follow wherever the shepherd leads, trusting in the shepherd’s care, provision, and expert knowledge. Unless you are living in persistent sin, you are not on a road of your own making. Your faithful Shepherd is leading you.
God’s sovereignty doesn’t stop at foreign relations. He doesn’t just care about the big things. God’s sovereignty grips the tiniest details of our personal lives and weaves them into a purposeful path meant for God’s glory and our good. God didn’t accidentally lose you somewhere along the way. That “road closed” sign is not an indication of God’s love for you.
So let’s stop trying to turn around. Let’s stop searching for a different path. Let’s stop envying the route of others. Let’s put the map down and embrace the road we’re currently walking. Let’s trust in Christ’s ability to lead us well, even when it’s not what we expected. Let’s pray and ask God what He has for us right here, right now, believing that with God, there are no detours—only roads that were always meant to be.