“The bruises are starting to heal,” she said quietly. “It could have been much worse.”
I swiped through the photos on my friend’s phone in disbelief. Her car had been crushed in a head-on collision a few days earlier, moments after she’d left the office. An impatient driver had swerved around a stopped vehicle and directly into her path.
Thankfully, neither my friend nor the other driver had been seriously injured. Seat belts, airbags, and crumple zones had protected them from the blows of colliding metal and glass.
My friend could only shake her head at the aggressive driving that had caused the accident. “No one seems to have patience anymore,” she marveled.
I nodded in agreement. In our hyperconnected, on-demand culture, we generally don’t tolerate even slight delays. We swerve around the person who walks “too slowly” in the airport, around the line that’s just “too long” for us to wait in.
Even the latest internet download speeds aren’t fast enough for us. A few years ago, a University of Massachusetts study measured the time that over 6 million viewers would wait for an online video to load.
The result: two seconds.
After that, viewers began to give up. Within 10 seconds, half had abandoned the task, their attention veering to another pursuit.
Of course, humans were fidgeting long before the internet age, and swerving into oncoming traffic before the wheel was even invented. Our attempts to outmaneuver God result in heartache and strife, as Scripture demonstrates with a number of famous swerves.
Sarah, the wife of Abraham, had been promised by the Lord that she would bear her husband a son, despite her age and infertility (Genesis 15:4). Frustrated after a 10-year wait, she convinced Abraham to conceive an heir with Hagar, her slave. Once pregnant, Hagar despised her childless mistress, who eventually pressured Abraham to drive the slave and her son, Ishmael, into the wilderness (Genesis 21:9-21).
While God did not abandon Hagar and Ishmael (Genesis 21:17-21), he fulfilled his plan through Isaac, to whom Sarah gave birth “at the set time that God had stated” (Genesis 21:2). So much for shortcuts.
Aaron, the brother of Moses, also tried — and failed — to sidestep God’s directions. While Moses “was delayed” with the Lord on Mount Sinai, the restless Israelites persuaded Aaron to find them a new leader: “Come, make us a god who will go before us” (Exodus 32:1).
Rather than exhort the Israelites to wait for Moses’ return, Aaron appeased their frustration, melting their jewelry into a golden calf they could worship (Exodus 32:2-6). Such grave disobedience resulted in bloodshed: after returning from Mount Sinai, Moses resumed control of the Israelites, and ordered the Levites among them to slay about 3,000 of the people as punishment (Exodus 32:25-29).
Saul, anointed as Israel’s first king, was told by Samuel to “wait seven days” for him at Gilgal, where Samuel would provide further instructions and offer sacrifices (1 Samuel 10:8). To his credit, Saul almost succeeded in following orders — but on day seven, with no Samuel in sight, he took matters into his own hands and proceeded with the sacrifice.
Just as he finished, along came Samuel with a devastating reproach: “You have acted foolishly! Had you kept the command the Lord your God gave you, the Lord would now establish your kingship in Israel forever; but now your kingship shall not endure … because you did not observe what the Lord commanded you” (1 Samuel 13:13-14).
Peter tried to grab the wheel from Jesus to avoid the apparent roadblock of the crucifixion. When the Lord “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem … and be killed and on the third day be raised” (Matthew 16:21), Peter opted to swerve: “Then (he) took him aside and began to rebuke him, ‘God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you’” (Matthew 16:22).
Jesus retorted that the real roadblock wasn’t his impending passion and death, but Peter’s own arrogance: “He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do’” (Matthew 16:23).
With our limited vision, we can’t see that delay, vexation and suffering can all be part of God’s plan, a road map more perfect than ours. In afflictions great and small — the cancer diagnosis, the broken relationship, the financial problem, the flat tire — God is always and mysteriously at work for his glory and our good.
God doesn’t necessarily choose paved roads, but if we’re willing to follow his route with patience and humility — and without swerving — he promises that we will indeed get to where we need to go.