In college, my roommate and I went to Red River Gorge to do some mountain biking. He was from eastern Kentucky and had spent countless hours playing around in “The Gorge.” I had also been to this amazing natural resource, so we felt more than equipped to handle the day trip.
The biking wasn’t all that technical, which was good for a novice like me. While I’m not afraid of some action, I’m not exactly an adrenaline junky either. Some gentle sloping switchbacks and occasional accelerated descents suited me just fine.
Our outing was going well and got even better when it started to snow. I love snow and it just made nature all the more nature-y.
Having logged several hours of riding, we decided to wrap things up. Besides, with the shortened days of winter and overcast sky blocking out the fading sun, daylight was burning. Calling it quits, however, turned out to be easier said than done. We looked around and recognized nothing. We were lost.
We scanned for familiar territory. An odd rock formation. A memorable gulley. Specific tree clusters. Trail signs or dried up river beds. Something, anything familiar.
Backtracking proved futile as the snow had already covered our tracks.
The hidden sun made it hard to pinpoint east from west with any sort of precision. But we had to do something.
Using a combination of deduction and guesswork, we picked a direction, and started to ride, walking our bikes when necessary. A turn here. A cut through there. Channeling our inner Lewis and Clark (I was Lewis… or maybe Clark… whoever was the less brave of the two but didn’t show it and prayed quietly a lot), we plodded on.
Eventually we came up to a dirt access road used by the park rangers. Relief! When you’re lost in nature, you long for signs of civilization or familiarity. This was it.
We headed in the direction of what looked like a clearing in the distance. I still remember being high on that ridge, snow falling, vistas overlooking treetops and valleys. Riding down the frozen tire tracks, I felt a strange sense of peace and calm even amidst the unknown.
Sure enough, we came up to a parking lot. Our parking lot. Not sure if it was blind luck or divine intervention but we were safe. And just like that, we both were giddy with gratitude.
Right now, with COVID, political unrest, financial pressures, racial tensions, job uncertainty, and all the other stuff that made 2020 so miserable, nothing seems familiar. You may feel lost. I know I do, especially as we’ve recently been navigating the epilepsy diagnosis of our 9-year-old.
I would also submit that there are upsides to being lost. There is good that, while hard in the moment, arises when everything familiar is taken away from us.
One positive outcome from being “lost” is that false gods are uncovered. Take a quick look at 2020 and you’ll see so many things stripped from us: health, money, freedoms, sports, normalcy, relationships, and jobs, just to name a few.
None of these things on their own are inherently bad or wrong. In fact, put into proper perspective, they’re a gift. The problem is, they can easily be elevated from a blessing to an idol.
How do we know if they’ve reached idol status? Here’s a litmus test. Ask yourself, “How much peace do I lose, when I lose ______?”
I’m not talking about a natural yet temporal disappointment or concern or frustration. When March Madness was cancelled in 2020, I wasn’t super happy. But that faded pretty quickly.
I’m referring to a deep, paralyzing or inescapable dread or grief that colors most all we do. When we learned that Silas had epilepsy, I struggled mightily for quite some time. And I still can get sucked back into that pit. I think it could be argued that family health was a false god for me.
Please do not misunderstand. If you lost your job, of course there’d be concern. Or worse yet, you had to say goodbye to a loved one. Absolutely there would be grieving. Not only is it human, it’s Biblical.
The issue is when that loss becomes so all-consuming that you don’t feel restoration of your soul is possible. The more peace you lose, the bigger the idol. Rich young ruler anyone?
If I’m completely honest, I’ve had several false gods revealed to me over the past year. My prayer is that you too will be honest because until they are revealed, you won’t realize they are, indeed, small “g” gods in your life.
Another enormous positive from being lost is that we can cultivate a deeper relationship with God. When one by one, blessings are taken from us (or our false gods are revealed), it leaves us with the one, but also the most important thing… our relationship with our Creator.
This is the perfect time to ask yourself some pointed questions:
- Is God really who He says He is?
- Is my relationship with Him where I want it to be?
- Is my relationship with Him where others believe it to be?
- How truly honest am I with God?
- How often do I really even talk to Him?
- Who has God been throughout scripture?
- Who has God been throughout my life?
- Have I moved farther away or closer to Him?
- What is one thing I can do and will do every day to get to know Him better?
- Are my “blessings” more important to my peace than my relationship with the Prince of Peace?
- Do I live for the gifts or the Giver?
When He is all there is, we are forced to take stock in our relationship with Him. This too requires unvarnished honesty.
In 2011, I went to Tanzania for a trip with Here’s Life Africa. The joy exuding from tribes that had received the Gospel message is profound. Maybe you’ve heard similar stories. Natives who only have the clothes on their backs, walk miles for water, eat the same food day after day, void of any modern convenience that we might consider a necessity, yet they make my version of joy look like a bad mood.
When you have nothing but the peace of Christ, you realize that nothing but the peace of Christ will do. Our Christian brothers and sisters in Tanzania could easily be Israelites in the wilderness. But instead, they’ve discovered that clinging to the gift of a personal relationship with God is all the peace they need.
Lastly, the revelation that you were lost is an opportunity to develop a more consistent heart of gratitude. This is an “amazing grace” opportunity to thank God for prodding some secret places in your heart. After all, the Lord disciplines those He loves.
When you have nothing but the peace of Christ, you realize that nothing but the peace of Christ will do.
I am always blown away by how gentle He is with me as He unearths some tender spots in need of nurturing and correction. Perhaps the circumstances that lead to conviction are quick and harsh (uh… 2020!).
But when I am lost and I fall, He picks me up.
He wipes me off.
He says softly, “It’s ok. I still love you. We will do this together.”
I deserve a scolding and a swat. I receive whisper and a nudge.
Thank you Lord for not giving me what I deserve when I’m lost.
You see, getting lost and losing hope don’t have to be synonymous. It is tempting to think that nothing good can come of it, but that’s a lie from the enemy. God can work all things for our good and His glory.
God can do a lot of productive things in your life when you’re lost.
Idols revealed. Relationship reinforced. Gratitude rekindled.
Being mindful of the Holy Spirit’s work in you and through you is a thrilling reminder of God’s redemptive love for you. His grace is at work.
And that grace should be celebrated at every turn, perhaps, especially, after every wrong turn.