Stop, Look, and Listen

by Sandra Julian Barker

Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10 NIV

People often call the traffic signal in the middle of the intersection a “stoplight.” Even though the green for “go” light and the amber for “slow and be prepared to stop” are important lights, the red for “stop” is the most important of the three. If we don’t stop when the light is red, we run the danger of a deadly crash with harm to ourselves and those around us. I guess that’s why we so often call it a stoplight.

I’m reminded of a verse in Job where Elihu says to his friend, “Listen to this, Job; stop and consider God’s wonders…God comes in awesome majesty” (Job 37:14, 22 NIV). Elihu was basically saying, “Job, you need to stop, look and listen — consider all the wonders God has created. He’s so awesome!”

Too often, we tend to zip through life without stopping to appreciate the beauty God has placed in the world around us. Stopping to smell the roses is not just an indulgence, it makes life more beautiful, enjoyable and worthwhile.

Then there are times we need to stop what we’re doing and reassess our lives. Does God want you to continue on this road, or does He want you to go in another direction? In the book of Jeremiah, God told His people to “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16 IV). Don’t we all want rest for our souls? A soul at rest is able to think more clearly – to see the path in front of her and examine what the next step should be.

It’s easy to get caught up in everyday life – do what has to be done and then push on to the next thing, because if you don’t do it, no one else will.

But sometimes, we need to stop and peek around the corner before we plunge ahead. Be still and whisper a prayer before taking that next step. You may need an extra dose of God’s guidance and strength to face whatever lies beyond that corner.

In Matthew 20:32-33 NIV, there’s a story of two blind men who called out to Jesus. Scripture tells us, “Jesus stopped…” and asked, “What do you want Me to do for you?” I love that question, because I believe He stands at our heart’s door and asks us that same question: “What do you want Me to do for you?”

The two blind men answered, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.” And what did Jesus do? Of course He had compassion on the men and healed them – He opened their eyes so that they could see.

What better answer can we give to Jesus when He asks what we want than to answer, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened!” I’m reminded of the first line of an old hymn, “Open my eyes, that I may see glimpses of truth thou hast for me” (written by Clara H. Scott in 1895). 

Oh, to have our eyes opened to the love of Jesus, the wonder of who He is, the good ways He wants to show us and help us walk, and the joy, peace and rest He offers us along the way.

Lord, help us to stop, look and listen. Help us be still and know that you are wonderful God!

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Sandra Julian Barker is the author of more than a dozen books, numerous magazine articles and a story in the best-selling “Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul.” She has a passion for sharing the love of Christ, encouraging hope and helping others seek God’s path of purpose in their lives.

Sandra’s latest book includes her own story of God’s grace in the face of great tragedy. She blogs at sandra-ramblingrose.blogspot.com/ and is in ministry with womenvictorious.com.

Join the conversation: What have you noticed lately when you took the time to stop, look, and listen?

The Good Path

by Marilyn Turk @MarilynTurk

This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.  Jeremiah 6:16 NIV

One day I went out for a walk. I usually stayed on the sidewalk in our neighborhood, but when I noticed a wide trail leading into the woods, I was intrigued. I had never noticed this trail before, and I didn’t even know existed.  But I knew I had to follow it. Although it was obvious that I was not the first to travel the path, what lay ahead was unknown to me. Where did it lead? How far did it go? How long would it take me to discover what lay ahead?

Step by step, I followed the trail, fascinated by the unveiling scenery around me, a natural barrier between two streets. Through the trees and undergrowth, I could see the backyards of houses or their back fences.  Sometimes the path was wide and clear, and I could see farther ahead. Other times, the undergrowth closed in around me, and I could only see part of the path. yet I pressed on.

I questioned myself – why did I go off the main sidewalk? Had I committed to a journey I wasn’t prepared for? Yet, I wanted to find out where it led, trusting the invisible hand that beckoned me. As I traveled, unexpected surprises met me along the way—a fallen tree I had to climb over and lovely wildflowers in yellow and lavender bringing color to the greenery around them. I stopped to take a few pictures with my phone, then continued on, pulled forward like metal to a magnet.

Occasionally, a jogger or a biker passed me on the path. I didn’t mind though, because I knew my pace was my own, and I needn’t hurry to catch up. This was my path, my time, and my chance to enjoy the journey.

When the path appeared dark and mysterious, fear threatened my progress. Yet I continued, expecting to see light just beyond the obscure places. And I was not disappointed, because the path finally opened up for me, and I found myself at the end, glad to have experienced the journey.

The destination was important, but the discoveries made along the way were equally so.

Life is much like my walk down the trail. Like the verse above, when we ask God to lead us, He often takes us down trails we hadn’t expected. We can be afraid and balk at the challenge, or we can accept the new opportunity as part of God’s plan. Sometimes we meet roadblocks or detours and think we’re on the wrong path. But God has reasons for these as well, and He calls them all “good.” He wants us to learn, to grow, and to trust Him, as we travel. But how can we do that unless we keep moving forward?

Jeremiah was called by God to bring His word to the people. His people were steeped in sin and judgment was imminent. They were looking in the wrong places for peace and security. God was calling them to choose a different path. They were being given a choice and were standing at the crossroads.

Would they trust Him?

They would not. God informed him: “You shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you; and you shall call to them, but they will not answer you” (Jeremiah 7:27, NASB). Their bad choice resulted in missing out on wonderful blessings they would have been given had they taken the other way. As they traveled with Him, He would have revealed Himself in new ways and their love for Him would have grown. It was the way of rest and life and security. Their lack of trust in God’s plan for them cost them dearly.

Perhaps we have our own idea of what we plan or want to do. Maybe we’re confused about which way to go. But God knows the plans He has for us, and once we trust Him with our future, He will give us peace, “rest for our souls,” that comes from the confidence that we are following His leading.

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The Good Path – @MarilynTurk on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Marilyn TurkAbout the author: Marilyn Turk’s roots are in the coastal South. She loves God, discovering stories hidden in history, and lighthouses. Her novels show how faith works in the lives of her characters and include two World War II novels, The Gilded Curse (placed second in the Golden Scrolls Awards) and Shadowed by a Spy, and the Coastal Lights Legacy series set in 1800s Florida, Rebel Light, Revealing Light, Redeeming Light, and Rekindled Light. Marilyn is also a contributor to the Daily Guideposts Devotions book.

Join the conversation: Has God ever taken you on a journey on an unexpected path?

At Crossroads

by Candy Arrington @CandyArrington

This is what the Lord says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.”                                                                                                                                                                 Jeremiah 6:16 NLT

 Years ago, my husband and I enjoyed a trip to Scotland. Planning took months—flights, lodging, and itinerary. We flew to England, rode the train to Edinburgh, rented a car, learned to drive on the wrong side of the road, and traveled up through the highlands. We saw lochs, stone castles, ruins, and the remains of ancient roads. We heard the history of battles and conquests and royalty.

I made reservations ahead of time at inns along the way, breaking the trip into what seemed like manageable chunks of driving time. But when we got to the western isles, everything took longer than expected. We had to make a ferry crossing, but the schedule was different from what was posted on online. We lost precious hours of daylight waiting for the next ferry.

Once on the other side, the road was literally a rutted cow track. We bounced and jostled through fields and over hills, often pulling aside to let other vehicles pass on the narrow lane. At one point, I was almost in tears. It felt like we were hopelessly lost. I begged my husband to turn back, but he said we’d gone too far to give up.

Eventually, we found a phone box and called the inn where we had reservations. The innkeeper assured us we were on the correct road even though we still had hours of driving time remaining. It was comforting to know we were traveling in the right direction.

Night descended, and at last, a light glowed in the distance. When we finally reached our destination, exhausted and weary, the innkeeper greeted us warmly. Rest was sweet.

The next morning, we woke to the sounds of bells and looked out to see cows grazing in the front yard. After breakfast, we climbed into the car again and drove to the tip of the island, the farthest western point in Great Britain. The spectacular view across the ocean was like nothing we’d ever seen, making the arduous trip worth it.

We are all pilgrims on the journey of life, and often stand at intersecting paths and wonder which direction to take. Sometimes we embark on a project or task and find it full of obstacles. Then we’re faced with the decision of whether to give up or continue. Other times, the road is smooth, but insight reveals we’re headed in the wrong direction. No matter what type of fork in the road we face, the words of Jeremiah 6:16 apply—stop, ask the Lord for direction, walk in the good way, and rest secure in your decision.

Often life circumstances cause us to face crossroads with confusion. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions and seek counsel from those who have answers. Look to God for wisdom, through prayer and scripture, and make the best decision about which direction to take based on direction from the Holy Spirit. When you seek God’s guidance, you can rest in the knowledge that you haven’t made the decisions in your own strength and reasoning. Comfort comes in knowing God is guiding, especially when the journey is arduous and filled with twists and turns.

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At Crossroads – insight from @CandyArrington on walking with God @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Candy ArringtonAbout the author: Candy Arrington has written hundreds of articles and devotionals, often on tough topics. Her books include AFTERSHOCK: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide (B & H) and When Your Aging Parent Needs Care: Practical Help for This Season of Life (Harvest House). Candy is a native South Carolinian, who gains writing inspiration from historic architecture, vintage photographs, nature, and the application of Biblical principles to everyday life. Learn more about Candy at www.CandyArrington.com, where you can also read her blog, Forward Motion: Moving Beyond What Holds You Back.

Candy’s book, When Your Aging Parent Needs Care, is a help to those who face the special effort of caring for a parent. It provides support and direction to enable the caregiver to be spiritually, physically, and emotionally prepared for the day to day challenges they face.

Join the conversation: Have you doubted a decision that you have made? Share your story!