By Dale A. Robbins
"The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand." (Psalms 37:23-24)
As the Sunday evening service concluded, it was obvious that most people in attendance were not anxious to head out into the dark, misty night. The autumn weather in Northern Indiana had been cold and damp with a drizzling light rain all day, and now had evolved into a increasingly thick fog.
As folks departed, I greeted each at the door reminding all to be careful on their drive home. Taking time for casual pastoral chit-chat was not uncommon, but aware of the eroding driving conditions, I felt a need for brevity so to get the church doors locked and make my way home too.
The remaining parishioners approached the exit, including a dear elderly woman, a saintly woman of faith who had been a faithful prayer warrior to the church over the years. Apparently oblivious to my haste or the deteriorating weather, she lingered at door, asking her daughter to go ahead and wait in the car so she could speak with her pastor briefly. There was no way I could refuse. It was growing late and I was eager to get started home... but she had an urgent spiritual matter, so we chatted for another few minutes then concluded with a prayer.
Hastening toward home through the soupy fog, I recall thinking about the delay that hindered my departure, yet feeling a satisfying peace in my heart that I had taken the time to minister to the elderly woman. Then suddenly... just seconds later, I spotted some kind of obstacle in the road ahead and slammed on my brakes! As heavy mist rolled by my headlights, just a few yards beyond I could make out the barely visible reflection of a broken tail light and scattered wreckage. I got out of my car to investigate... and found a demolished automobile in the middle of the road. And to my further shock, the vehicle had smashed into the side of a train stopped on the tracks of a railroad crossing! There were no warning signal lights on this sparsely driven back-road... no reflectors on the side of the dark-rusty train car. It was virtually invisible, obscured by the darkness and blinding fog.
Mine was the first vehicle on the scene after the accident. Together with crew from the train who eventually emerged, we called for help and remained with the severely injured driver until emergency personnel arrived. The poor fellow was mangled and bloodied, but able to speak, thanking those of us who helped him. He remarked repeatedly how that he had no warning, was unable to see the train stopped at the crossing. “I sat out there dazed and alone for just a few minutes,” he said. “It was a good thing that you came shortly behind me.”
Yes, it was a good that I came along promptly, to help him and call for help... but then I shuttered with an alarming thought! “Had it not been for the delay by the little elderly woman at the church, ‘I’ would have been the first one to arrive at the train!” Other than the reflection of the first vehicle’s broken taillight, I was unable to see the train either. It was likely that I could have been critically injured or possibly killed. Unbeknown to me at the time God was behind the scenes, quietly guiding my steps, working out a scenario to delay my departure to avoid possible disaster.
The incident that occurred that night, was a rare glimpse into something remarkable that God does virtually unnoticed on a daily basis for His followers... and apparently few fully understand or appreciate. While there are instances that the Lord's guidance or involvement may be more anticipated, such as when we consult His Word for wisdom (Psalms 119:105), or when we pray and perhaps hear the "still small voice" of His Holy Spirit speaking with our heart (John 14:26, Psalm 27:7-8)... yet obviously there are cases such as this that His intervention is completely a surprise. Even though we do not see or hear Him, perhaps oblivious to His presence... He is always there, just as Jesus said, "I will be with you always" (Matt 28:20), and "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Heb 13:5). The Lord is present with us 24x7, always aware of what’s happening... intricately involved with the details of our lives.
As I thought about these things, I recalled other similar instances from my life that were, no doubt, quiet acts of God's unexpected intervention. Close calls, near misses, airplane flights that got canceled, travel plans that were diverted... what seemed like lucky coincidences that resulted in sparing my life from danger or disaster. The Lord Jesus, along with perhaps a few of His Holy Angels, were my constant invisible companions... leading, guiding, rerouting, protecting... literally directing the very steps I was taking. I can not possibly imagine how many times God has intervened silently in my life this way, or how often He has done the same for you or His other followers, but I assume it must be each and every day.
This brings to mind the Psalm I first cited at the beginning. The New Living Translation puts it this way... “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand” (Psalm 37:23-24 NLT). This is an amazing and comforting verse. As far back as ancient times, God has been in the business of watching over and bringing guidance to the lives of His faithful who believe in Him... who love and follow Him with their lives. His oversight is often subtle, unnoticed... like a loving parent who stands in the shadows watching over his child, not interfering with our free will to make our own decisions, yet there with us quietly directing the details of every step we make... and prepared to hear our cry or to extend His hand to help if we should fall. “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps” (Proverbs 16:9 NLT).
This is a part of what the Apostle Paul meant when he said that we “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). Christ has promised in His Word that He will “never leave us”... and that He will “be with us always.” So even if it somehow “seems” or “feels” like He is far away, we instead lay aside such feelings and hold fast in faith to the promise of His Word. He is always present with, or to be more accurate, “within” the heart of all those who believe and follow Him... ever present to protect, assist, and to provide guidance... whether we are fully aware of it or not. By faith we know He is always there... so we need not be fearful of anything, anyone or any situation that comes our way... because our Almighty God, the all-powerful Lord of the universe is with us... already aware of every issue, working out the details of His plan in our behalf.
No, we don't suggest that in following the Lord, our path will always be trouble free or even without calamity... and even the things that God permits in our "best interest" may not always be perceived to us as desireable. But what we can be assured of is that regardless of whatever we face, whether we encounter hardships or stumble into perils, the Lord is our our constant companion, guiding and realigning our path continuously, keeping us on track so that things will work together for what He determines to be for our good. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them (Romans 8:28 NLT).
Finally, let's take a moment to reflect on one of the most comforting and often quoted verses from the Bible, the 23rd Psalm. This passage conveys this same sense of trust in the Lord’s unseen guidance and protection. For centuries it’s reassuring words have been the frequent companion to combat troops at war... or a prayer of assurance to many who have faced danger or the perils of the unknown. It describes the loving guidance and protection of our Great Shepherd, with the confidence that wherever He leads us, whatever the destination may be, no matter what dangers or circumstances may lie in wait, He will be with us. As we continue to trust and follow our Lord Jesus, He indeed continues to guide our paths and steps, bringing us ultimately to a place of blessing, goodness, mercy... and into His presence forever.
“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalms 23:1-6 (NLT)
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