Through the years I have reflected on the importance of those junctures in life where we are confronted with two pathways and we must decide which way to go. The following is an excerpt from a poem by Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken. It eloquently captures these defining moments in our lives.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler.
Long I stood and looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear.
Two roads diverged in a wood,
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.
Often these crossroads are so profoundly important that the direction we take has a rippling effect for years to come and even for a lifetime.
The road we choose can open us up to the blessings of the Lord or frustrate His plans for our lives for many years to come. In this verse we are warned about the sobering impact of choices that can affect the present and shape our future:
“Choose this day a blessing or a curse.”
Deuteronomy 30:19 NASB
These critical moments in life are our “Valley of Decision” (Joel 3:14 NASB).
Each time we come to that place of decision, the following instructions are important to consider:
“We are blessed when we stay on course,
walking steadily on the road revealed by God.
Then we never have any regrets.”
Psalm 119:1,6 MESSAGE
“Therefore stand at the crossroads and look.
Ask where the good way is and walk in it
and you will find rest for your soul.”
Jeremiah 6:16 NIV
The story of a young Hebrew girl in the Book of Ruth is one of my favorite examples of a crossroad.
Ruth was faced with the dilemma, “Do I go back to my own people and return to all that is familiar or do I stay with my mother-in-law, Naomi, and go to a land and a people I don’t know?”
She chose to go with Naomi and this decision made it possible for God to pour out upon Ruth one of the finest gifts He can give to a woman. He gave her the love of a kind and caring man. I have often marveled at the happiness and fulfillment Ruth would have missed out on if she had decided to leave Naomi.
Several years ago, Barry and I encountered a similar crossroad.
It was the year of 1999. God brought me out of a place where I wanted to stay so that He could bring me into a better place. His glory cloud moved on and I had to move on with Him, no matter how heartbreaking a transition it proved to be. Yet here in this new place where I was so reluctant to go, the Father blessed us with rich, life-long friendships and the fulfillment of the desires of our hearts beyond anything we had ever experienced. He opened doors for serving Him that were beyond our fondest hopes and dreams.
What a tragic loss of God’s destiny would have occurred if I had decided to tell the Father:
“I will not go where You want us to go. I want to stay here where I’m established; where I’m comfortable; where You have raised me up in ministry; where everything I’ve ever known since You first found me has taken place.”
As I pen these words, my heart is overflowing with gratitude that in a critical Valley of Decision, the Father gave me the courage to begin life over again in a strange land, with a people I didn’t know, so that Barry and I could enter into His finest plans for us.
There are also times in our lives when we are catapulted into that valley because we have failed. In that disheartening place, despair can hover over us and easily destroy us.
What a comfort it is to know that the Lord doesn’t abandon us, even when we make serious mistakes. During those times of painful error, God does for us what He did for Peter. This apostle walked intimately with Jesus as His friend. But under pressure, Peter denied even knowing Him.
Then we see an amazing love story unfold.
Out of compassion for his agony and his haunting regret, Jesus set in motion a plan to restore His devastated friend back to the place where Peter could fully resume the Lord’s course for his life.
Yet, Peter still could have aborted that plan for his restoration.
Faced with his heartbreaking betrayal, Peter could have made the choice to drown in remorse and be destroyed by it, just as happened to Judas. Instead, he chose to remember in the midst of his horror and emotional turmoil that the love Jesus had for him was greater than his greatest failure.
If he had given into a despairing remorse, it is possible that we never would have heard of Peter again. Instead he decided to receive the Lord’s compassion and the grace to forgive himself. Then after the devastating pain of his betrayal, he went on to become a finer, bolder, more powerfully anointed apostle than before he failed.
Long before Barry came into my life, I spent many troubled years wandering in barren places because of my disastrous choices in the Valley of Decision. Psalm 107 captures how intensely I struggled. It is also an encouraging reminder of God’s merciful intervention when we find ourselves paying the price for our wrong choices and we are driven further and further away from His best for us:
“I wandered for years in the desert, looking but not finding a good place to live. I was half starved and parched with thirst, staggering and stumbling and on the brink of exhaustion. Then in my desperate condition I called out to God. He got me out in the nick of time. He put my feet on a wonderful road that took me straight to a good place to live. So I thank God for His marvelous love and for His miracle mercy to us whom He loves” (Psalm 107:4-8 MESSAGE).
When our life is derailed by our wrong choices, God can do for us what we can never do for ourselves, no matter how hard we try.
Just like He did for Peter, He can help us because:
He has the power to restore us to a place of beauty when we have made ashes out of our lives.
He is able to bind up our broken heart and comfort us when we are battered by irresolvable pain from the consequences of our mistakes.
He can give us back our freedom when we end up in a desperate captivity in our soul.
He can take our regrets and exchange them for the oil of new joy.
He can set us free from heaviness of heart and clothe us in an amazing, new garment of thanksgiving to our God (Isaiah 61:3-4 NASB).
David experienced this beauty for ashes.
He also failed miserably when confronted with a choice to make in the Valley of Decision.
On the roof of his palace, he had to decide to either give into his lustful desire for the married woman, Bathsheba, or walk away and shut the door on that temptation. Not only did he choose to get involved with her, but he also arranged to have her husband sent to the front lines of battle where it was certain that he would be killed.
Yet, when David humbled himself before the Lord and cried out to Him, “I have sinned” (2 Samuel 12:13 NASB), he immediately began to experience restoration.
In this passage in the Word, he captured the cry of many of our hearts who have also experienced God’s forgiving, restoring love in the midst of our failures:
“O Lord, My God, I cried to You for help and You did heal me.
You pulled me out of the grave and gave me another chance at life when I was down and out.
When things were going great I crowed, ‘I’ve got it made. I’m God’s favorite. He made me king of the mountain.’ Then you looked the other way and I fell to pieces.
But I called out to You and You changed my wild lament into a whirling dance. You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers. I’m about to burst with song. I can’t keep quiet about You. God, My God, I can’t thank You enough” (Psalm 30:1-12 MESSAGE).
If you are in captivity because of your failures, I want to pass on to you what the Father spoke to me when I was in that same place. What is most encouraging is that the Person speaking these words has the power to give us the miracle of another chance at life:
“I didn’t send My Son into your life to judge you, to reject you, to condemn you or pass sentence on you. I sent Him so that you might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him.
I’m here this day to break the enemy’s yoke from off of you and to tear off your shackles.
I’m saying to you to come out of your captivity! I’m giving you your freedom.
Escape like a bird from a hunter’s trap. The trap is broken and you are free and whom I set free is free indeed.
Now the best thing for you to do is to get on with your new life.
My Spirit beckons.
There are important things I have for you to do and wonderful places for you to go.”
John 3:17 AMPLIFIED
Nahum 1:13 NASB
Isaiah 49:9 NLT
John 8:32 NASB
Romans 8:13-14 MESSAGE
Psalm 124:7 NLT