The longest way


The shortcut you think may save you time and grief may never get you to your destination. It may seem the quickest way. It promises to reroute you, past the hard incline, around the boulders, and over bogs. But it may well end in the thick of the forest, where it throws you into a tangle of briars and limbs and crevices from which you cannot extricate yourself.

The shortcut led Absalom to hang by his proud locks of hair from a low branch, dying with his kingly ambitions in shame.

Instead of giving you the advantage, the shortcut may render you helpless.

The longest way may actually be the best. The longer journey strengthens, matures, purifies.

And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
1 Peter 5.10 NET

The verse from 1 Peter reminds us to look at the larger picture, larger than today, tomorrow, and the next day. Many suffer an entire lifetime, but 70 or 80 years pales in comparison to an eternity. All of life is but “a little while.” Whatever happens here is “momentary” 2Co 4.17. To be called into “eternal glory” means to share the unspeakable joys with God, unmixed with pain, death, loss, and sorrow.

God does not cause suffering, but he uses it for his purpose to bring us to the point of eternal freedom. He demonstrated this purpose fully in Christ.

Eternity, then, reveals the secret to avoiding the shortcut. All the pep talk and motivational thoughts in the world cannot replace the eternal perspective which provides ground for endurance and persistence over the long haul. Eternity also furnishes true joy for the present time, so no one need manufacture a happiness hard to sustain.

Throughout one’s troubled walk through this life, the redeeming factor is the “God of all grace.” His supplies are more than sufficient for the need. His purpose enlarges life far beyond our smallish concerns. His project of salvation draws us into a lasting work, greater than any human endeavor. His revelation illuminates the whole of existence and infuses meaning into every work, thought, and act.

When the God of all grace occupies the forefront of our thoughts, the shortcut loses its appeal.

The “you” in the verse above is plural. The longest way is not traveled alone. While the decision is individual, and faithfulness is exercised in each one’s heart, the journey is made together with the community of the called. In the numbers of the family of God is strength. United effort brings the special presence of Christ. In the fellowship of the mission the Lord leads and equips for the task.

The suffering for the faith, regardless of the worldly address, occurs “in Christ.” Here the saints breathe a special air. More than a mental state, far beyond a physical condition, this spiritual reality surrounds the people of God and supplies them with the life-giving grace and stamina of Christ. He makes every step an adventure. He imbues each pain with meaning. His light draws out the rainbow of colors in the landscape along the way.

A key word in the verse is “after.” We think of the now. We want relief immediately. But life does not give immediate gratification. Such a pursuit quickly runs aground.

Hang on to the after. For it is the after that makes the now worth it. Reject, therefore, the shortcut, and take the longest way. It leads where you really want to go.

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J. Randal Matheny

Be pithy.

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