My brother-in-law has driven Cadillacs for as long as I can remember. No words I could put together would describe the Cadillac experience for those who have never ridden in one. As a teenager, bumps and potholes that shook my insides while driving my 1982 S-10 would seemingly disappear in his Sedan DeVille. Sometimes when I rode in that Cadillac with him, I found myself wondering if familiarly rough roads had been repaved. There was that much difference.
Not much has changed over the years, at least regarding transportation. My brother-in-law still drives Cadillacs, and I still drive a small pickup truck, a 1993 Toyota, with 155,050 miles on it. At least that’s what the odometer read when it stopped working at some point many years ago. The rides are equally as different as they were in the late 1980s. What has changed over the years, however, is my faith. The Cadillac/pickup truck analogy is the best one I can use to describe the difference in the faith of my teenage years and that of my middle-aged years.
As youth became young adulthood, I continued to believe that God smoothed the path of the Christian. Through Divine Intervention, I believed blessings were essentially a resurfacing job on the Road of Life. Saying my prayers and reading my Bible, I believed, were reasons enough for Him to keep my pathways free of bumps and obstacles. My reasoning established a perception that Christians traveled a much smoother Road of Life. Imagine how shocked I was to learn otherwise. Personal experiences and those of much more mature Christians around me forced me to rethink my faith. Reading my Bible and praying were not enough; my road was pretty bumpy at times, and I watched as men and women of deep faith received diagnoses, buried loved ones, and lost businesses. My solution? Praying specifically for God to remove problems had to be the only answer. And so I did—for my family and for my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Over the years, those kinds of prayers seemingly went unanswered more often than not. “Removal prayers” sometimes still do. I continue to pray for smooth sailing and no obstacles. “Lord, go before me and…” is the habitual line. “Order my steps, Lord, and protect me from…” is another favorite. But why would God remove the very challenges he uses to mold me? Why would He direct me around a crisis that deepens my faith? Why would he take away friends’ problems that detour them closer to Him? Did he ever remove the thorn from Paul’s side?
Reality is evidence that believers and non-believers travel the same roads, literally and figuratively. Crises and challenges are not reserved for pagans. The only difference is in our spiritual suspension. Isaiah tells us that the Upright One makes the way of the righteous smooth (Chapter 26, Verse 7), but “way” should not be mistaken for the road or the path. The smooth ride of the Cadillac was never a result of road condition. The secret was in the shocks. Lord, equip me with shocks of faith and struts of trust. Road hazards are everywhere.