Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this. Wisdom is good with an inheritance, an advantage to those who see the sun. For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it. Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked? In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him. (Ecclesiastes 7:10-14, ESV)
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Many of us have been taught since we were children about walking the straight and narrow path. From a Biblical perspective, that certainly is the way to salvation (straight gate and narrow way). Once that life event has happened (or the process has truly begun – pick your terms), I would venture to say we won’t see a whole lot of straight paths through the rest of our earthly journey.
When my brother Mike was diagnosed with cancer, he chose Ecclesiastes 7:13 as the verse to serve as his basis of understanding and perspective. Through his final five years, we talked often about life on the crooked path he was walking. I won’t say he welcomed death at the end. In fact, he fought very hard for many years and explored more avenues than most of us even think of during the course of our “normal” living. Yet, in the end, he was content to know that God was still God and fully in control. Life was not easy for him – in fact, breathing was not easy – but Mike understood that was part of the broader plan for him. He was content walking God’s crooked path and trusting him rather than seeking out some easier, safer way based in self reliance.
I realize it is a basic part of human nature to want life to be easy, or at least easier. Our parents most likely wanted to do things for us they could not do and to provide a “better life” than they had. We too want to pass on to our children the ability to exceed what we have accomplished. Yes, this is all a part of human nature. And, yes, you can hear the “but” coming on this one …
But … what about our willingness as sons and daughters of the Everlasting God to accept what He has in store for us, even if it doesn’t fit our ideals or plans? Given the choice, I’d happily have Mike around to talk with and visit. I have no illusions of immortality, but I would run things on my own timeline and in a fashion that made things easier for me. But (there it is again) what about what God wants and what He has planned? Can Solomon really be right in saying God makes the road crooked … intentionally … and I have no business wishing it were straight?
As hard as it is to embrace it, that’s exactly what I believe is being said here. We live in a fallen world and, while it is a result of sin, we know that God is still the Master Designer. There isn’t a road out there, straight or crooked, that He doesn’t know intimately and has not walked. If I am to believe what I’ve learned in terms of God’s unchanging nature and goodness, I have to believe the rest including his holiness and knowledge. He never promised us an easy life the way we define “easy”. He only promised to be the same God as He was when Solomon wrote the passage above, when He formed the Earth out of nothing, and when He concluded His ultimate plan of redemption in His Son. He promised never to leave us alone, to be as close as the whisper of a prayer. As Mike was fond of praying in his final years, “God, we know You’re here, and we know You’re You.” What a fantastic perspective when you are smack in the middle of another blind turn on the crooked path of life.
So don’t always wish for an easy life as you see it. Ask God to reveal Himself as especially near and close. And, while you are at it, thank Him for the crooked road He made. Without it, you might never understand just how good God can be to you. You will survive the journey, though you just might have your definition of survival altered a bit along the way.
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- When in your life have you experienced the crooked path and how has it impacted your relationship with God?
- Have you been one to wish for straighter paths in life? When that doesn’t happen, have you found yourself frustrated or confused?
- Are you willing to change your view/definition of survival and the “easy life” in light of what God says through Solomon in this passage? How?
ESV - Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.