Don’t fight the shepherd’s hook

I was a creative writing/literature major in college. During my senior year, I had to find a poem that meant something to me, memorize it, and recite it to the others in my advanced poetry class. 

I chose “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. The narrator came to a fork in the road and struggled to choose which way to go. He knew he wouldn’t likely get back to that same spot again, and so he felt the weight of the choice. Only when he looked back years later could he see the benefit of taking the less traveled road. 

So often when I get to the crossroads of life, I just want God to show me which way to go. I pray for guidance and then hope to see a blinker in the sky. But often God lets me struggle like the narrator in the poem. In the waiting and the choosing he sees my heart and examines my motives.

“All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD” (Proverbs 16:2). 

Other times God chooses the path for me, but not with a blinker. Sometimes he opens doors and presents opportunities. But just as often he closes doors. 

There was a time when the apostle Paul wanted to go to Asia, but God didn’t allow it. Paul tried multiple times at various regional borders “but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to” go in (Acts 16:7). Try as Paul did, God shut Paul’s path to Asia for reasons known only to God. 

Closed doors can be painful. Dreams, like preaching the gospel in Asia, die. Sometimes it means a different role or traveling companions. But when I see closed doors as a nudge of the Shepherd using his hook to keep me from a path I wasn’t meant to take, they are cause to rejoice, not lament. 

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he reminded them and us that we walk and live by faith and not by sight (5:7). There’s just too much we don’t see. 

The Shepherd’s ways are always good—even and especially when he’s pulling you from what you are no longer meant to do. I’m learning not to dwell on the pain of closure. Instead I thank God that he walks so intimately with me that he recognizes when I need to leave a situation. And when I’m not strong enough to do it on my own, he knows just what to do to get me off of one path and onto another. 

Amber Albee Swenson has authored four books, writes an occasional devotional blog, and is a regular contributor to several Christian organizations. In 2011 she started speaking to women with the intent of bringing the Bible to life in tangible, applicable ways.


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