Have you ever felt like you are wandering about day to day, not knowing if this is all leading somewhere? The feeling is more common than you know. Most of our lives accomplish a lot, for good or ill, over the long-haul – the slow accumulation of minute changes that add up over time. This means we might not see the effects on a daily basis. We may not see the changes as they happen, we may not see our successes until down the road when we look back, we may not hear about how our words or deeds made a positive impact on others.
This week has brought into focus this feeling for many, a feeling that started taking root months ago with an election. Sometimes we feel lost in the political arena; sometimes we feel lost in a spiritual arena; sometimes we feel lost when we lose a loved one, when a home burns down, when a car accident happens. Sometimes we feel lost when the Pittsburgh Steelers lose and don’t go to the Superbowl. Just sayin’ – you’re not alone.
And sometimes, the people who seem to have it all together are actually feeling lost too. Don’t you think Noah ever doubted the instructions he received? We know King David sure lost his way, leading to a murder and an affair. Did you know Paul and Barnabas had an argument that lead to Barnabas and John striking it out on their own instead of helping Paul with his next missionary journey? Jesus himself spent his last few hours of freedom praying to God in a garden that God would not make him go through with this dying-for-humanity thing. “Is it really THAT important? Isn’t there ANY way around it? You’re will be done, but couldn’t we, um, change your will? I’m just not so sure about the path you’re taking me on…” That’s feeling lost.
The good news: God is in control. The better news: God knows and understands exactly how you feel, and whether you feel HIM or not, he’s right there guiding it all. That’s pretty exciting. A monkish hero of mine (literally – he was a monk), Thomas Merton, once put some pretty stellar words to this feeling in the form of a prayer. He reminds us that God is in control and God knows our heart, so even if we feel lost about what to do about the love we feel for God, he sees the love we feel for him and appreciates that regardless of how lost we are. Here’s the prayer:
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” – Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
Though I may know nothing about it. Here’s an exercise. We’ve all felt lost, but there’s also another feeling we’ve all experienced from time to time. Have you ever looked back on some event in your life and seen how all the pieces somehow just came together? Have you looked back on something bad that happened and found good things that came from it? Have you ever looked back on a time you felt utterly lost and then realize it was all leading somewhere? Even though you knew nothing about it?
Remind yourselves of those moments daily and they will give you staying power during the lost times. And anytime you are feeling lost, invite God to come join you. Some of my favorite experiences in life are when I was lost (Barcelona, Rome, Dublin after dark…) – and they were favorites because I had great friends with me (love you, Justin & Wes!) and knew God was always at my side. Being lost or feeling lost isn’t actually a bad thing once in awhile. It’s the very nature of adventure, it’s the same thing that gives us a thrill on a roller coaster, it’s the same feeling of surrender we feel when we give things over to God and say, “I’m lost – can you walk me through this one?” Any adrenaline junkie knows the exhilarating feeling that can come with an experience where you are no longer in control. Embrace being lost from time to time – tell God you trust where he’s guiding you – and keep taking steps. You’ll often be pleased the sorts of places you end up.
For further reading:
- Thoughts in Solitude, prayers by Thomas Merton
- Seven Storey Mountain, autobiography by Thomas Merton
- How to Survive a Shipwreck, by Jonathan Martin
- Out of Sorts, by Sarah Bessey
Pictured below: Lost in Scotland until I finally found these fellas in Edinburgh!