When God Gives Detours on Your Road Trip

It was a road trip vacation for the Swindoll-Thompson family . . . a 2,288-mile road trip to be exact. At 1:00 a.m. on the morning we were to leave, I was doing some last-minute packing.

Road Trip
(Photo Courtesy of Pixabay.com)

I reached into my clothing drawer, never expecting to uncover a little framed school picture of my son Jon from 2004. Though I had reached for socks, instead I pulled out a photo in a 3×4-inch tattered frame that brought to mind a million memories.

Jon was small and blonde, wearing a soft blue shirt and a sweet smile. His thin arms rested on the photographer’s flawless fence-post setting.

Without warning, my heart erupted. I pulled the small picture from the frame, held it to my chest, and began to       cry . . . and cry . . . and cry. Grief often shows up in such unexpected ways. Suddenly, I realized I still had much to grieve. The roads we had traveled were not leading to the destination I had expected. In some ways, I still felt lost.

Maps We Choose

I’ve been pondering some roads we travel when life tosses us onto the rocky, uncharted tundra. With good intentions, we desire a road paved with relief, control, healing—a road that leads to the comforts of home. So we follow the maps drawn by doctors, therapists, friends, teachers, medications, alternative programs, prayer, and the Internet.

Though these miles have value, we often remain lost because we are looking for an earthly destination.

While holding Jon’s photo late that night, I grieved what was missed as I focused on my map. My map included expectations of earthly healing, memories of pain endured and past losses, sadness over present hardships, and hopes of what the world may be like for Jon as he grows older.

God’s Road Trip

Regardless the challenges at hand, we all eventually come to a crossroads of sorts. Which path will we choose? For Jon to choose God’s road, I have to choose God’s road first.

I pondered this as the miles passed on our family road trip. I read through Scripture, and the stories revealed that God’s perfect way has a beginning and a sure destination.

  • Remember the many travelers who kicked up dust as they followed God’s road: the Israelites, Joseph, David, Jeremiah, Hosea, Paul, and the apostles.
  • They were dragged to dungeons, thrown into pits, disregarded and dejected, all destined for God’s eternal home, but their earthly road trip was rough with potholes.

For us all, God leaves signs along the way reminding us He is with us.

Today’s Road Trip

So what map are you following these days? I clung to our vacation map and was assured by its door-to-door certainty. But life isn’t always certain, and we need one another to remind us that though feeling lost is sometimes part of the journey home, our heavenly Father continually guides us.

I would love to hear from you, perhaps to help you through some uncharted territories and provide hope as you press on. Let’s all remember; we must travel along rough roads in life to reach our final destination: our home in heaven.

Question: What maps have you been following, and what destination are you hoping for? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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7 thoughts on “When God Gives Detours on Your Road Trip

  1. Hi Colleen – I really can relate to how grief reappears in unexpected ways at unexpected times. I have three children – a (typical) girl, age 10; and two boys on the autism spectrum, ages 8 and nearly 6. The boys were diagnosed within 6 months of each other, when we first moved to Virginia from Pennsylvania in order for my husband to start his medical practice. This put us 6 hours from family when family was needed the most! But God’s grace and mercy brought many people into our lives who have become our family down here, and I don’t doubt that He brought us here for a reason. I cycle through the stages of grief, and just when I think, “Oh, I’ve accepted everything and I’m good,” something else happens and it bubbles right up again. (I’m sure you’ve been there.) “Blessings” by Laura Story has been a poignant song for me, pointing out that no matter what our greatest disappointments are in this life, those very painful things are reminders “of a greater thirst [that] this world can’t satisfy.” We are meant for something more, and like you said, God has a perfect map for where we should go. His way is certain when life is anything but. I appreciate your posts, especially today, as I am with the boys alone all day and it gets very draining!

    • Dear RohnaH,
      What a touching note…I cannot imagine the challenges and many moments of exhaustion you must encounter! And then the diagnosis…one then the next…I am grieved for all you have endured; at the same time, I can hear a deep, resounding faith that grows when our seasons of life are more than difficult. I was just reading some of Viktor Frankl’s work-he survived the Holocaust but spent many, many months of suffering beyond imagination. In his work “Man’s Search for Meaning” he writes “It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life-daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk…but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual”. Essentially, this is what you have done Rohna…chosen to focus on truth, on Christ (which provides the right answer for all our lives), and to choose the path of transformation. While we know this world does not and cannot satisfy, it is so easy to place our focus on relief or rest or an escape from the responsibilities God has allowed; and so often the focus is on demanding God answer our “why’s” when in fact, who are we to question our creator. I’m am honored to meet you here and to hear such resounding faith in the midst of life’s unending demands. I too am a Laura Story fan…what wonderful and authentic lyrics! Thank you for sending your note; I hope we are able to continue connecting. My prayer is that, while the burdens may grow, our God will be greater still in your life. Warmly and sincerely, Colleen

      • Yes, I would like to continue to connect, too! Thank you for your prayer. Today has been a good day – I made it through Walmart with both boys and no one pitched a fit over anything (not even me)! That’s a blessing all by itself. Who says God isn’t in the small stuff?

        • RohnaH,
          Great to hear from you! I think a celebration is an order because getting through Wal-Mart without a melt down is near miraculous! I have left so many carts in stores because it was impossible to keep going…either for me or for the kids or FOR OTHERS. God is in all stuff and I’m thrilled he was with you on your successful adventure…even if it was Wal-Mart! I’m celebrating with you. Now, Jon and I are off to the store later today so let’s pray it’s as successful! Thanks for your note, Colleen

  2. Thank you for being so transparent it helps me be that way!
    Grieving comes at such unexpected times. I buried my dad over the weekend, after a much longer struggle than any of us expected. I thought I was prepared and then the tears came flooding in. Thinking of all the things that he wont be present for. How my children will never know him as adults, etc. At the viewing some dear friends of 27 years, whose paths we don’t often cross, walked in and were such a comfort. As we sat and talked of course the conversation was on kids and the colleges they would be going to and how they had grown. They were talking about empty nest syndrome they were facing, and without much thought I replied well I wont ever have to go through that. Then faced very quickly with having to relive the death of dreams for our daughter who would never live them. She is alive, and I can hold her in my arms, but the dream of who she would become has been buried with the reality of the world we live in. So the tears came with fresh grief not over my dad, but the mourning that takes place when we remember the death of the life we expected our children to live. Jesus was every present there in that time. I was even more keenly aware that dad was now perfect, not bent and suffering, but new. It began to dawn on me why creation groans the waiting of His return. To make all things new-perfect! We will all stand someday and be perfect how He made us to be, but not as we are now. The dreams we thought had died will now be a reality!!
    So as the burden of grief comes afresh, I read this morning in scripture,: “Surely He hath borne our sorrows and carried our grief” He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” we are in pretty good company, and that, has made the grief more bearable. Aren’t you glad it isn’t a one time thing that HE over and over picks up our sorrows and grief and carries them for us if we let him. Thank you over and over for walking through this valley out loud so we who walk behind you can find our way in the dark.

    • Dear L Allen,
      I am so grieved to hear you lost your dad! I believe there is a ‘mom’ spot and a ‘dad’ spot in our hearts and when that spot is vacant, the pain is so very hard. In your writing, your are grieving…reviewing what vacancies will be encountered. And it sounds like you are familiar with grief already in mentioning your daughter. Letting go of dreams we have held on to for our children is not a one time ordeal because life is not a one time deal. It is day by day, hour by hour. Yes, I agree…how nature groans in waiting. I have said many times, I live with one foot on earth and one foot in heaven. In heaven, we will be released from the broken and terminal things of this earth. I can’t imagine how much rejoicing there will be. Even as I write these words, there are some tears flowing as I understand the passage so well…thankfully we have a Heavenly Father who does help with our sorrows because of his own sorrow…He understands our grief because He too grieved. There is comfort in those truths. Like you said, grief does show up at such unexpected (and usually unwanted) moments. I’ve left many a shopping cart in the middle of a store, found myself lost on roads that are usually familiar, and filled with tears at events which are supposed to be celebrations. I think that is part of being what I call earthly…so we ask for grace, are thankful for His mercy, and depend on Him to carry on. Remember, it is okay to cry…grief changes us…softens us; causing us to understand and walk with more peace. I pray that is where you find yourself today. In His care and comfort, Colleen

      • who knew your Dads sermon series on the broadcast would so fit what I need and was giving the same verse about “creation ” that is the way God works with me. He says it over and over in different ways through different forms.
        I know its a lot to ask for prayer but I am a pastor’s wife and you just have to put your grieving aside most of the time. Last evening someone had a loved one pass away in the church so now there is no time to think or contemplate your own grieving process, you have to close the door for a while and move on.
        The other is that all my friends are so excited to be dropping off kids at college and school, posting pictures on FB etc. and they should be. But again to relive the reality that will never be my daughter just is crushing a fresh and new. I know this sounds so self centered and focused on me, don’t mean to do that. It just helps sometimes to get it out on paper. It releases something in me. Thank you for this venue to be able to be real.