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How to View Life's Detours

When you think about the perfect life, what do you think about?

For many people, it probably looks something like this: You’re married to a great person who’s the love of your life. You have kids that are always well-behaved and get straight A’s in school, and all of you are healthy and have a nice home with two late model cars in the driveway. Both you and your spouse have stress-free jobs that you find fulfilling and enjoyable. And of course, you have plenty of friends.

But what happens when life doesn’t turn out the way we want it to? How do we respond to the disappointments, the inconveniences, the heartaches, the suffering, and the unexpected detours that invariably come with life?

Some people get bitter, and others grow discouraged, but I believe there’s a better way. It involves recognizing that God uses life’s detours to accomplish his designs.

It’s kind of like the difference between Phoenix and Pittsburgh. A few months ago, a good friend and I had the opportunity to travel to Phoenix, Arizona. And since Phoenix is almost entirely flat and has a road system that was well-planned—with virtually all roads laid out in a pefect grid pattern—it was incredibly easy to get from one part of the city to another.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand, can be a bit more…interesting. Your destination might literally be a mile away, but it will take you half an hour to get there. You have to go around this hill, over that bridge, and under this tunnel. And you also have to take into consideration other factors like traffic, construction, and icy road conditions. I often wonder how anyone gets anywhere on time.

In reality, life is a lot more like the Pittsburgh than it is like Phoenix. And God understands that, but we often have trouble understanding that. We’re like the tourists to Pittsburgh who wonder why the local person showing them around is taking them on all of these strange and convoluted routes even when their destination seems so close.

God understands that what might seem to us like the longest way to a destination is actually the quickest way. He uses and even creates life’s detours to accomplish his designs.

In fact, God using life’s detours to accomplish his designs is at the heart of the Bible’s message. Think about the gospel.

When Jesus died on the cross, it looked like a painful defeat. The people who had been following him had their entire worlds turned upside down. They thought it was all over. After all, this Messiah who was supposed to bring salvation to Israel couldn’t even save himself.

But God had a plan the whole time.

By dying on the cross, Jesus was actually taking upon himself the punishment that we deserved. The sinless one substituted himself in the place of us sinners. And then he victoriously resurrected from the dead, conquering sin, conquering death, and making it possible for us to be saved.

Therefore, what appeared to be history’s greatest defeat actually turned out to be history’s greatest victory. God uses all sorts of detours to accomplish his designs.