This line was in a devotional I read recently: “God directs our steps and our stops.” I completely agree with the first part of that phrase, but I had to think for a while about the second part. The author was basing the devotion on Psalm 37:23-24, “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”
When I look at my life, I can see God directing my steps so clearly. From one moment to the next, he has always shown me the way to go next. It may not be as far ahead as I would like to see, but I have always known what the next step should be. Sometimes it has only become clear after much prayer – we can get so blinded by what we want that we don’t see what God wants – but God certainly directs my steps.
The idea that God directs my stops is foreign to me. What are stops? Times when I have had to stop my busy-ness to change my focus. A long time ago I had a series of four surgeries. I would just heal from one and have to prepare for the next. During this time I was trying to be a pastor, go to graduate school, and be a parent to John who was very young. The surgeries and recovery time were a stop in my life: unwelcome and viewed almost as a curse.
John leaving for college was another stop in my life. The hands-on, day-to-day parenting (which I loved) was over and I had to begin building a new relationship with my son. Both of these stops (and so many others) were times of depression and upheaval in my life. So many tears. So many prayers, all of which felt unanswered. I held onto my faith, gripping God’s hand and refusing to let go even when I felt farthest from him, because there wasn’t anything else for me to do. God directed my stops, just as he directs my steps, and guided me through to new times of joy and fruitfulness.
A woman I know who is always busy doing for others spent the last six months unable to walk. Talk about a stop! She, who was constantly in motion, could barely move and was in constant pain. I prayed for her and wondered how she viewed this stop in her life. Could she hear God speaking in a new way? Did she chafe against her enforced immobility? Did she feel God working and upholding her?
Do you feel God directing your steps? When have you had a stop in your life? How did you feel God working even during that time of frustration, pain or despair?
God directs our steps and holds us up when we stumble. God directs our stops and, in them, helps us find his way even when we cannot see it. The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them and saves them, because they take refuge in him. Psalm 37:39-40
Our steps and our stops.