Perhaps you read the title of this post and immediately thought, “Seems like I rarely get to choose my path. For me, life just happens, and it feels like I’m seldom in control of my destiny.”
You might be irritated with me because the last thing you want to read is some positive-thinking mumbo jumbo. In fact, you’re ready to hurt the next person who tells you to have a better attitude.
I get it. Life is often hard, and it seems like we are sometimes thrown into a septic tank and told to swim harder (yuck).
- You didn’t choose cancer, but your whole world is being turned upside down right now.
- You did everything you could to save the company, but you can’t control the economy.
- You didn’t want a divorce, but it still happened.
- You worked hard but got laid off anyway.
- You tried to be the best parent possible, but your kid is messed up and on drugs.
Where is the “power of choosing your path” when life unexpectedly hits the fan, and you want to crawl into a hole and die?
Before you jettison this post in frustration, let me throw out a couple of things for you to consider.
First, perhaps it’s time to start expecting the unexpected.
I’m not encouraging a fatalistic attitude. I’m also not suggesting you walk around in a perpetual funk waiting for calamity. That’s no fun, and nobody likes to hang out with Eeyore (the depressed, negative donkey in the Winnie-the-Poo stories).
However, and I speak from 62 years of experience, at least 51% of the time things don’t go the way I would like. Anymore, I’m surprised and excited when something goes right! It’s interesting how expecting the unexpected makes the unanticipated a little easier to accept.
Second, when what you want turns out differently than you desired, you still can choose your path moving forward.
About eight years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. Obviously, I didn’t want cancer. But I did face the challenge of choosing my path forward, and it involved more than what type of treatment I would opt for.
Choosing my path meant I could quit (end my life like a neighbor did when he had the same diagnosis), live in denial or depression (neither would have solved anything), or embrace the reality of my situation and adapt.
Cancer was an unexpected challenge, but I chose to fight.
Let’s say you find yourself in a role as a leader or pastor. Of course, you chose that position, but perhaps you’re discouraged now due to a lack of health and growth in your organization.
Yes, you may have (and probably did) contribute to the current state of affairs, but many things happened entirely out of your control. Even so, what happens today is up to you.
Will you decide to be apathetic and surrender to the circumstances? Will you choose to resign? Or will you choose to get help, press on, pray more, and work harder? You choose your path—at least until the board presents you with another path option—but you always have the power to decide what’s next.
Every time you come to a fork in the road, and a choice needs to be made, you always have options. Whether or not the possibilities seem obvious, they’re still there, and your responsibility is to discover and decide.
You discover what’s available. What’s next? What can you do? What should you do? What’s in your heart? What has God already revealed to you? What skills, natural and supernatural, do you have in your toolbox?
Ask your family and friends for advice. Get on your face and cry out to God for wisdom. Try not to overthink the options in the discovery process, but you must see the possibilities before you can act.
And then, when the options are relatively clear, you decide; you choose a path and move forward. Will you consistently pick the best path? Nope. Will you sometimes zig when you should’ve zagged? Yup. Will it be easy? Probably not. Will your decision involve risk? Often. But choose a path, nonetheless, and then by the grace of God keep moving.
Incredibly, God gave you the power to choose. It’s called free will. And He’s promised to be with you every step along the way. Even in the valley of the shadow of death. Even when you’ve chosen poorly. Even when you fail (and you will from time to time). God never abandons you. Never.
Whatever you’re facing right now, here’s what I know for a fact: it’s not a hopeless dead-end. At the very least, you can always turn around. The term for that is repentance. But even if you completely change your direction, you will, once again, be faced with several options, and the choice regarding what to do next still is yours.
To quote the theologian Forrest Gump (yes, from the movie), “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.”
True. But you get to pick which chocolate.
So, don’t give up. Don’t throw in the towel. Don’t close your eyes in fear or your mind in anger.
See the options before you, thank God for the power to choose your path, and then do your best to choose wisely.
By the way, God’s got a pretty big box of chocolates.
“I have chosen the path of faithfulness.”