Life is often referred to as a journey. The paths we take and the decisions we make determine where we end up, but it is often difficult to find the “right” path or even know what it looks or feels like.
“Do I pursue a relationship with this person? Should I take this job transfer? How do I lead my teenager through this issue? Where do I go to further my education? Should I quit my job and start my own business?”
Wisdom offers clarity on recognizing the best course so we do not stumble or end up in the wrong place.
Roughly twelve years ago, my husband and I desperately needed help finding our way forward as it had been clouded by loss, confusion, and painful circumstances.
We were into the seventh month of a new position at a church when crisis hit. Ruthlessly and unexpectedly, he was fired. Church leadership recognized that they had pursued a new direction with my husband without preparing the congregation for such a dramatic shift. Instead of working through the shift in a more gradual, positive way, they abandoned their goal and mission, blaming its failure on him.
We were devastated and confused. God had clearly led us to this ministry, but seven months later we came to a fork in the road but the best path forward wasn’t very clear.
We wanted justice; we wanted to protect our reputation that had been stained by this public disgrace. Of course, we wanted to honor God as well. This created tension. What was the best thing for us? What was the right thing? They seemed in conflict.
It felt right to defend ourselves against this wrongdoing and fight those who had wronged us, but that would have been a public lawsuit against the church and its leaders. That seemed right to us as individuals, and would serve our personal need for vindication and restitution. But we weren’t sure it was God’s way forward. They seemed to diverge.
We approached a respected pastor and friend to guide us forward, to help us see with clarity what God would have us do. His perspective was clear and unclouded by emotion (as ours had been) and his loving guidance was sound. “Don’t hurt the Bride.”
What he was referring to was the Church. The Church (all Christ-centered churches, of various denominations, holding to the truth of the gospel) are referred to in Scripture as the Bride of Christ. And his advice was to not hurt the church at large for what one part had done possibly in error or even sin.
It was difficult to hear, but the moment these words came from his mouth we knew they were truth. We knew they were sound and giving us certainty in the path forward. The path would not be easy or without pain, but it would be straightforward, firm, and peaceable.
As I have studied Biblical Wisdom, I have seen many passages instructing the reader on what the path of Wisdom looks and feels like. It helps by giving us characteristics of what today, we might call the “right” way or “best” way forward…the way of the wise.
Here are 4 of those Characteristics we can look for and the outcomes we can expect:
- Straight: The way of Wisdom leads us along paths that are straight- not twisted. It is a way of honesty and integrity, not of deceit or duplicity as those ways are twisted, scattered with obstacles, and difficult to navigate.
“I will guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.” Prov 4:12
- Full of Light: Light is a product of truth. Truth in essence is actual, factual, and verifiable and these qualities shed light, bringing reality into focus. The right path will be paved in truth; visible with increasing intensity as we trust in truth to lead the way.
“The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” Prov 4:18
- Level and Firm: The way of Wisdom is to take ways that are stable, secure, and tested. This is not to say we avoid all risk or uncertainty, but if a path is obviously unstable, with shifting pieces and variables, it is likely to be more difficult to navigate with integrity.
“Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.” Prov 4:26-27
- Peaceful: We are called to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18) as much as it is possible, when it depends on us. The way of Wisdom does not eagerly wage war, it does not stir up trouble, and works to find peaceable solutions when conflict is unavoidable. Blessed are peacemakers!
“Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace.” Prov 3:17
I am convinced that the guidance we received was sound and divinely appointed. I cannot say what would have happened had we gone our own way. But I doubt seriously that we would be where we are now! My husband currently leads a church and is tasked with loving and caring for this body of believers…the Bride.
Would God entrust this to us if we had sought justice or revenge against those who hurt us? With all my heart, I believe, no. By prioritizing the needs and integrity of the Bride of Christ over our own, there was a foundation laid to love her with even greater service and devotion. This is evidence of God at work in our hearts and lives!
Is that the kind of outcome you want? Do you hope to look back at the paths you have chosen with gladness and thanksgiving? Do you want to enjoy healthy relationships, a fulfilling career, or be financially secure? Do you hope to see God glorified and using you to help guide others? Those are results of finding the right way.
However, if we don’t, we stumble and lose our way. It is frustrating and costly to be caught in the same negative cycles, choosing the wrong paths, and getting undesirable outcomes.
It is tempting to think no one can do this or recognize the right path every time. We may need help seeing the path forward more clearly, by someone with a different vantage point and wisdom from God. Maybe they are less clouded by emotion, have walked this path themselves, or can recognize if our naturally sinful self is seeking to mislead and misguide. We need each other to help in times of confusion if the path ahead isn’t very clear.
However, our greatest guide is the one who navigated this path perfectly and has been called “the power of God and wisdom of God.” (I Cor 1:24b)
He demonstrated by his life, the very essence of walking in wisdom as His way was and still is straight, full of light (He IS that light), firm (unshifting and unchanging), and peace-seeking.
Through Christ, we can have the wisdom of God; the capacity to see and know what is right and walk this journey of faith in wisdom and power. He is our model. He is our guide.
It’s okay if we still need each other to see the way forward. That’s how the body of Christ works. These 4 Characteristics of the Right Path will help us determine the best path or if guidance we have received is sound.
We need wisdom for the decisions we make and the paths we take. It benefits and protects us in countless ways as we navigate this journey of life.