The God of All Roads
For most of my life, hope was too small. I had plenty of hopes, but they mostly involved avoiding hard things and keeping myself happy. I saw God’s plan for me as a series of specific choices I had to navigate. Choosing poorly meant heartache, and choosing wisely meant success, contentment and big piles of God’s blessings, whatever they might be.
I hope these people will like me.
I hope my boss will be impressed with this project.
I hope I can pay these bills.
I hope my grandmother gets out of the nursing home.
I hope my friends will make it through this storm.
If you asked me, I’d have said my hope was in God, but really it was fueled by a misguided idea that everything would probably turn out alright. Hope was dressed-up wishful thinking. I’d see a problem, make a master plan, do everything I possibly could to get the outcome I wanted, and then throw some hope over the whole mess, asking God to go along with my scheme. Hope was chained to specific outcomes and functioned more like rubbing a lucky rabbit’s foot than anything spiritual.
That kind of hope is just too flimsy to withstand real life.
Laura and I collected a string of heartaches, like everyone does, and each time, hope seemed to unravel a little bit more. Laura had dangerous blood-clots that permanently damaged her legs. Our friends’ marriage exploded. My cousin overdosed. Long-time friendships withered away. Our church flew apart and closed its doors. Two of my oldest friends lost their teen-age daughter to cancer. My brother battled depression. My deeply loving mother-in-law passed away suddenly at Christmas time. This list is short compared what many people endure, but I gradually stopped hoping. I savored joy wherever I found it and resigned myself to making the best of whatever mess was coming next. Hope made no difference.
Then a few years ago on the longest night of the year, I went to a service at Imago Dei. I sat in the dark and listened to people share their struggles and pain from the last year. No one offered platitudes or favorite Bible verses or promises that everything would work out. The only message that night was “God is mourning, too. He’s right there in the middle of your pain, and his heart is broken along with yours.” People just poured out their hearts and we all sat with God in silence. We lit candles before we left, defiant sparks in the dark, and the roots of my hope started to shift.
The process was slow, but I began to turn from hoping God would do things a certain way (my way) to hoping God would sit with me and everyone else in the darkness. I still hope for the best outcomes, of course, and do what I can, but real hope is rooted in the truth that God will be with us in every outcome, not just the the happy, shiny ones.
God is the God of all roads. I don’t hope to find him on the one perfect road to happiness anymore. He’s waiting for us on every road, even the ones we don’t want to walk. Whether we encounter joy or tragedy, whether we feel blessed or helpless, whether we see visions of light or drown in the shadows, God is with us. Crying. Laughing. Holding us gently. Wiping our tears. Fulfilling our hopes.
Bryan Holmes has no favorite sports team, but many favorite people, especially his wife Laura, and their suddenly grown daughters Lily and Claire. By day he herds third graders, and by night he solves the world’s problems in coffee shops, tackles his perpetual pile of half-read books, looks for the best in people and leads the Formation Team. He’s learning to speak GIF.