Life is something that goes on for most of us at a rate that we are reasonably satisfied with, with everything we can keep in control, put safely away in a box that's kept on a shelf, ready to be accessed when we need it.
Our career is something we like to keep on track, whether it is as a doctor, a baker, a florist or a shopkeeper. We go into work and have our days planned out ahead of us.
10.00 Meeting with a customer.
11.00 Catch up on billing.
12.00 Reorder supplies.
14.00 Call the office in London.
Our routine is set out and when we are in it, we are reasonably happy. No surprises, no interruptions, no catastrophic events, nothing to knock us out of our comfort zone.
Then it happens. Redundancy. Illness. Family crisis. A Detour. Something that occurs to inconvenience us. Sometimes we bring it on ourselves, sometimes it's a complete shock. A Detour isn't usually what we want to happen, yet it is often one of the best things that can happen to us.
When we ask God to change things in us, He listens. When we ask Him to give us patience, He gives us the opportunity to learn it. When we ask Him to teach us how to love, He gives us people who in the flesh, we find it difficult to get along with. When we ask God to bring us closer to Him, He takes us to a place where we have to learn to trust Him.
The Israelites in the old testament were faced with such a situation. They had been taken out of Egypt by a series of miracles and then were faced with the wilderness, the desert and an opportunity to trust the God that had never let them down before, yet they didn't.
They decided to complain. They decided that the best option was to have a go at Moses, to say it was his fault that they had no decent food. After all, they had loads of choice vegetables and meat in Egypt didn't they? In the desert, they had nothing, they even went through a period where they'd no water. They complained about it.
Funny how they knew God had brought them into the desert, yet they didn't trust Him to provide for them there or bring them safely out the other side.
They complained. God provided for their needs and they complained. They had all the water they wanted in Egypt too. In the desert, they had their very best rose tinted glasses on.
Even though it was so much better in Egypt, they forgot that they had been slaves. Their parents and children were slaves too. Even their grandparents were slaves, but it was so much better in Egypt wasn't it?
They wanted food, so God gave them 'Manna', a kind of flakey thing that fell with the dew every night and was so called because they didn't know what it was, hence the name 'Manna' which means 'What is it?'
It was nutritious, free and abundant, yet they complained. The had a fresh miracle literally on their doorstep every day but still, they complained.
The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” Numbers 11:5, NIV
They wanted meat. They had meat in Egypt, all sorts of meat. They wanted meat in the wilderness, so God decided to give them meat. He gave them meat that spread for a day in each direction, an incredible provision of meat, quail in such amounts that it covered the ground of the camp.
In fact, God gave them quail to teach them. They asked for it and they got it. They were sick of quail. So they complained again.
Why is this relevant to us now? Every time they complained and moaned about where they were, how bad things were, and that they had nothing, God provided. God was constantly providing miracle after miracle, saying "I am worthy of your trust, you need to learn to depend on me."
Exodus tells us of incidents of water being bitter, water being needed and food being needed and each time God provided, yet the Israelites refused to trust in Him.
They complained. They refused to learn to trust God and they paid for it. A few years into their period in the wilderness, Moses sent 12 men to spy in Canaan, to look at the promised land. 10 gave bad reports, saying they couldn't defeat the giants that lived there, that they hadn't a hope of getting to the promised land. Joshua and Caleb gave good reports, saying there was an abundance of fruit, vines and it flowed with milk and honey (Numbers 13:27), and that they could defeat these enemies.
The people decided to believe the reports of 10 men instead of the testimony of the Lord God, the one who had brought them out of Egypt, sent plagues on the Egyptians, allowed them to leave their captors laden down with gold and jewelry and had then parted the sea to allow them to cross on dry land.
Their choice at this stage was critical. They believed man instead of the Lord and as a result, spent another 37 years in the wilderness.
What had started off as a detour turned into a disaster for them all because of their attitude and reaction to the situation. They trusted man and not God. They lost out.
Contrast this with the story of Joseph in Genesis 37. He was sold into slavery by his brothers, (a major detour in anyone's life it has to be said) and yet he trusted God. He rose to the top of his master's house as he trusted God. A second detour happened, his loyalty to his master got him imprisoned, yet he still trusted God. He was given responsibility by the warden, who trusted him so much that he let him go about business his own way:
The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did. Genesis 39:23, NIV
He was left in prison for a few more years when suddenly, Pharaoh called on him and he became the Prime Minister of Egypt, all because he trusted God.
When we are faced with a detour, we can complain about it, moan about it, prolong it and wallow in it or we can trust God in it. We may not like it, but we can know without any doubt that God is working through the situation to bring us into a closer relationship with Him, and our attitude in the situation will determine how quickly we get to that place.
He could be using it to show us the things we listen to instead of Him, the things we trust before Him, the things we believe about Him.
A detour rarely happens when we want it to, yet it can be the most incredible experience we will ever go through. For many of us, we are going through a detour in our church lives. Some of us are looking forward to it. Some of us are not looking forward to it. Some of us are waiting to see what happens.
Wherever you are at this time, trust God. Seek Him. Ask Him what He is doing in this time. Talk to Him about His plans and where you fit in to them. Listen to Him say to you "I am worthy of your trust, you need to learn to depend on me."