Is This the Right Way?

“I hope you know where we’re going.”

My mother-in-law would say this whenever I drove her anywhere.

Ten years before my mother-in-law passed away, we moved her from her long-time home in Idaho to be near us, then in SC and later in TN.

For the first five years, she was in an assisted-living facility. She was still mobile (with a walker) and verbal then.

When she first came, we had to gently insist that she needed new hearing aids. We could yell right next to her, and she’d encourage us to “just speak up.” When we finally got the new aids, she could hear much better and didn’t fuss about them any longer.

The new hearing aids required that we visit the audiologist’s office every few months for a tune-up and tube replacement. It was my responsibility to chauffeur Mom to these appointments.

Mom had never driven. She had several physical issues as a result of being born two months premature in the days before the streamlined NICUs we have today. She was used to her husband driving her wherever she needed to go. And she was used to the familiar roads in her small town in Idaho.

She did not have Alzheimer’s, but she had a degree of dementia that flared up most often when she was nervous or agitated.

So on our drives, in a place and vehicle and with a driver she wasn’t used to, she would frequently express her hope that I knew the way.

I would reassure her again and again. Once I teased, “No, I thought I’d just get in the car and drive around until we found it.” But her uncertain look told me that teasing probably wasn’t wise.

Later I would learn that when we’d get in these repetitive conversational loops, logic didn’t work. It was best to respond factually and then divert her attention. Trying to keep up a conversation kept her mind from reverting back to wondering where she was going . . . most of the time.

Her repeated question often reminded me of a poem I saw in one of Rosalind Goforth’s books. She and her husband were ministering in China when “foreign devils,” as they were called, were not welcome. They were staying in a “barn-like room” with paper windows full of holes. She couldn’t get warm. She got sick. She cried out, “O Lord, have you no pity? Oh, help me! Why should I suffer so?”

Just then someone brought in two baskets with a letter from two missionaries who had stayed with them the day before. The missionaries saw the Goforths’ meager accommodations and must have sensed that they had used most of their supplies to serve them. So the caring guest missionaries sent an assortment of food. Rosalind rejoiced at the kind provision. “But the most timely and precious evidence of God’s love and care came, when tearing paper off a bottle of grape juice,” she noticed this poem:

Is this the right road home, O Lord?
The clouds are dark and still,
The stony path is hard to tread,
Each step brings some fresh ill.
I thought the way would brighter grow,
And that the sun with warmth would glow,
And joyous songs from free hearts flow.
Is this the right road home?

Yes, child, this very path I trod,
The clouds were dark for Me,
The stony path was sharp and hard.
Not sight but faith, could see
That at the end the sun shines bright,
Forever where there is no night,
And glad hearts rest from earth’s fierce fight,
It IS the right road Home!

The poem was from an English paper printed in 1914, four years earlier, with no author listed. Who knows how it “happened” to find its way to Rosalind right when she needed it. She read the words over and over and finally prayed, “O Lord, if this is the right road home, then I will not murmur!”

Two days later, Rosalind returned to their home in Changte while others went on with the tour. Noting that she looked like a ghost of herself, friends cared for her until she recovered (Climbing, pages 118-120).

Even those of us who know the “prosperity gospel” is false sometimes fall into the trap of thinking the Christian life is akin to the “American dream.” When troubles come, we’re dismayed, because this isn’t what we thought the Christian life would be like. Did we take a wrong turn? Did God really mean for this to happen?

But He told us, “In the world you will have tribulation.” Yet He sandwiches that truth between two promises:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Several people in the Bible must have wondered if they, too, were on the right road:

Abraham and Sarah waiting long years for the son God promised.

The children of Israel wandering for forty years in the desert.

David, though anointed as the next king, hiding out in a cave from Saul.

John the Baptist in prison.

Peter when he heard Jesus speak of suffering and dying.

We’ve had friends who also must have wondered at times why life looked so different than they thought it would: a couple on deputation for the mission field when their son was diagnosed with leukemia; a young man in seminary who was in a car accident which left him paralyzed; a woman who is still alone though she thought she would have a husband and children; another woman who had to leave her beloved mission field due to her husband’s sin.

The Bible tells us often that trouble is part of life here. But the Bible also assures us time and again that God will be with us and help in trouble. God tells us not to lean on our own understanding, but to trust God (Proverbs 3:5).

He promises that when—not if—we pass through deep waters or fire, He will be with us:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you (Isaiah 43:2).

What’s the best way to stay on the right path? “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:6). If we’re seeking Him day by day, step by step, we can be assured we’re on the right path even if the circumstances are confusing.

What if we do stray from the path of God’s will? Sometimes trials are God’s chastening or His attempt to get our attention. Jonah went the opposite direction God told him and ended up inside a big fish. The prodigal son deliberately walked away from his father and ended up in a pigsty. Most of us don’t have one dramatic turn, but we gradually drift. We miss a few times with the Lord until we get out of the habit. We make excuses for a sin instead of killing it. Then we find ourselves either lukewarm and apathetic like the Laodicean church, or in a tangled mess. God issues many invitations in the Bible to repent and turn back to Him. One is Isaiah 55:7:

Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

A beautiful song based on this passage:

And I love this new version of the old hymn, “Coming Home”:

We can trust that God knows the way home and is with us every step.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

23 thoughts on “Is This the Right Way?

  1. Barbara, thank you this morning for the much needed reminder that even when the days may be challenging, God is before us guiding the way.

  2. Going through and the trusting is hard. Your post was helpful today to remember where the actual tribulations lay, and see his helpfulness in each day. Happy Sunday.

  3. Thank you for these reminders! On a side note, your issues with your MIL are reminding me a bit of my mom currently. She doesn’t have dementia (that I know of), but does tend to get upset and agitated much more easily than she used to. Thank you for the ideas of using diversion and factual conversation — I’m going to try that during my next round of despairing emails and messages.

    • Sometimes it’s a hard balance to let them know they are heard, yet trying not to wallow in the same concerns over and over. Since they become less able to direct their own thoughts (especially with dementia), it can help to bring up other things to talk about.

  4. I was going to say how timely your post is, Barbara, but then this message is always timely. I was doing a project as part of our weekly study, noting roots and fruits of faith. It is a sad realization how dismayed and easily discouraged I am when things aren’t going well.

    I appreciate your comment about Jesus’ sandwiching certain tribulation with encouragement in John 16. Even before those prayers of anguish in Gethsemane, Jesus said He would meet the disciples in Galilee after He arose — He was already looking forward to the other side.

    • I can get easily discouraged by circumstances, too. Knowing God is all powerful, sometimes I get frustrated when He doesn’t look like He’s doing anything–at least, what I think should be done. 🙂 But I have to remind myself frequently that He has purposes in allowing hard (or even inconvenient) things.

      That’s such a poignant example of deep anguish yet certain hope.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing your post at our Senior Salon Pit Stop.
    Pinned to Senior Salon Pit Stop InLinkz Linkup Shares board and tweeted @EsmeSalon with #SeniorSalonPitStop

  6. Another beautiful post, Barbara. I can imagine the conversations in the car with your m-i-l wondering if you knew the way. 🙂 I’m grateful that Jesus paved the way for us, so even when we might feel lost, we know he’s got us and will keep us on the path.

  7. Thank you for this reminder that even when the road is dark and confusing, our Savior is leading us on. I’m as struck today by that poem as Rosalind was and need to copy and keep it accessible.

  8. Barbara, your words remind me of a verse that keeps coming to mind … “We don’t know what to do but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12) Focusing (and refocusing) on Him seems to be the only way to thrive amid all the turmoil in today’s world, doesn’t it? Your mother-in-law was blessed to have you helping her. 🙂

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