We all like to know where we are going, don’t we? Sure, some would consider themselves “adventuresome” by leaving some portion of the future up to chance. However, many of us like to have whatever lies ahead as planned out as possible. For us, directions are not a luxury; they are necessity. We need to be prepared for what’s coming. Unless it’s an unexpected gift from that special someone, we generally don’t like surprises.
Surprises can push us back on our heels, and we’re forced to make adjustments – to change the course we’ve set for life. All we can do is watch as the plans we’ve made fly out the window.
I imagine that Jesus’ disciples were surprised when Jesus told them that he had to leave (John 14:1-6). He would be going away soon, to a place they could not follow. By Thomas’ response, it appears Jesus’ leaving was unexpected. “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Thomas and the others thought Jesus would always be with them. They hadn’t planned for this. Without Jesus, how would they find their way?
In addition to the disciples, there are numerous examples of biblical characters struggling with doubt and fear when called by God to do something or go somewhere. Jonah ended up in the belly of a fish because he was too afraid to go to Nineveh. Moses doubted himself as God’s chosen one, who was to lead the people from their slavery in Egypt. Zechariah doubted that he and his wife Elizabeth could bear a child in their advanced age. But they bore a son, named John, who was to be the one “crying out in the wilderness” to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. God’s plans for them were beyond their own ability to see.
Why is it that we need something tangible or visible to make us feel safe? Why isn’t God’s spiritual presence in our lives enough for us to be confident with where we are headed? What if we too have received God’s promise for the exiles from Jerusalem, who were living in the strange land of Babylon during the time of the prophet Jeremiah? “I will save you from captivity. Then you will be safe and you will prosper, and you will live with hope for a better tomorrow. When you call out to me, I will listen. When you seek me with all of your heart, you will find me. I will bring you home.” What’s keeping you from living that life: a life of freedom? Isn’t that how we were created to live?
A life of freedom is what Christ was offering to his disciples when he told them not to worry about his leaving. But the disciples’ hearts were troubled at the news. Thomas thought he needed more answers. He didn’t believe Jesus when he said that they knew the place where he was going. Why do we always need more answers? It is clear though, what Jesus is saying: “I will return, and then I will bring you with me.” That is the truth we all need to hear. God will bring us back home. This is the promise on which we base all of our hopes and our future. The question for us is, do we trust God enough to move forward, even if we don’t have all the answers?