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Thankful for Painful Detours?

construction worker holding detour sign


Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will travel to such and such a city 
and spend a year there and do business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring — what your life will be! (James 4:13-14 CSB)

My life had taken a painful detour and I kept asking dark what-if questions. What if my husband had not begun to struggle with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts? What if he had not retired from pastoring? What if his medication stopped working and suicidal thoughts came back? What if I couldn’t take this anymore? What if I just quit? Stopping my dark what-if questions was impossible. I was stuck and needed help.

My friend Kelly was in training to become a life coach. She reached out asking if she could work with me and I agreed thinking I was helping her. God had a plan to use her to help me stop seeing my journey as a detour and stop asking my what-ifs questions.

A few sessions in, she asked me to identify my goals and dreams.

I quickly answered, “I want to figure out my new identity as a retired pastor’s wife who’s now living on the other side of a pew. My dream is to stop asking what-if questions and understand the detour my life has taken.”

She followed up by asking, “If you could change anything about your life today, what would it be?”

Without hesitating, I said, “My husband would never have suffered anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts. We would not have retired or gotten so far into debt because of the medical bills. I wouldn’t live with the fear that the suicidal thoughts would come back. I wouldn’t have lost my identity as a wife or a pastor’s wife.” I fired my answers off, one after another.

Her next question caught me off guard. “What do you love about your life today?”

As I thought about my answer. I knew I was in trouble. My response to the second question was going to change my answers to the first one. I started to list all of the things I loved about my life:

  • my church
  • circle of friends
  • the two life groups and Bible study I led each week
  •  my cute apartment
  • my garden full of flowers and fruit trees
  • the hummingbirds in my yard
  • living so close to my children and grandchildren

All these things were in my life because of my husband’s breakdown.

I couldn’t change my painful experiences without losing the things I had come to love. My focus shifted from the painful journey to all the beautiful things I now had in my life. My response helped me move from living in the what-ifs to becoming thankful for what I have. What-if living is a mindset of dwelling on the loss. Living with a focus on what I am thankful for means I am right where God wants me.

Instead, you should say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4:15 CSB)

As I read this verse, I hear God say, “Be thankful and live in this moment, for it is all You are guaranteed. Stop asking what-if and ask me for direction.

I had been sharing about my life taking a detour because of my husband’s struggles with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Now I understood it wasn’t a detour at all. God knew this would happen and had a plan. He is using me in the middle of my mess. I am finding joy and serving Him in ways I never would have had the opportunity to otherwise. I am not missing out on life because of the struggles I’m facing; I am living a richer, fuller life because of them.

Today’s Devotions


November 22

Song of Songs 2:14-15 14My dove in the clefts of the rock, in the hiding places on the mountainside, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely. 15Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.

The Song of Songs is about a love relationship between Solomon and a young woman. In a type or shadow it is about Jesus (the Son of David) and His bride, the church. The church is a made up of many members, and this speaks to us all. But it also speaks to us individually. The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 5 that marriage is a mystery that represents Christ and the church. As you read the Song of Songs, place yourself in the role of the beloved. Let the words of the Lover speak to your heart. We consider the love of Christ expressed on the cross, but we should also consider that relational love that made Him willing to go there.

In this passage He calls you His dove. He wants to see your face. Your face is lovely to Him. He longs to hear your voice, for He considers it to be sweet. Our flesh and blood body will pass away, and we will have new bodies that are a clearer expression of our spirit. (1Corinthians 15:51,52; 1John 3:2) He sees that in you now. He sees past what is passing and to the eternal. Take time to come out of hiding in all your busyness, and come and talk with Him face to face.

In this song the Lover and his beloved both have vineyards. It represents the fruit of their lives. Little foxes come in to spoil the fruit. They are going to see that whatever keeps their lives from being fruitful is eliminated. What is it that keeps your life from being fruitful? Are you planning to catch it?

Prayer: Lord, help me to be completely Yours. Help me see and catch whatever keeps our relationship from being fruitful.

Direction in dilemma

‘Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord.’ Exodus 14:13

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 37:1–9

In what way are we to stand still, dear friends? Surely it means among other things, that we are to wait awhile. Time is precious, but there are occasions when the best use we can make of it, is to let it run on. If time flies, that is no reason why I am always to fly. Every experienced man knows that by being wrongly busy for one hour, he may make mischief which a lifetime would hardly rectify. If I run without waiting to enquire the way, I may run upon my ruin. Many who have been very busy in helping themselves, would have done better waiting upon their Lord. Prayer is never a waste of time. A man who would ride post-haste, had better wait till he is perfectly mounted, or he may slip from the saddle. He who glorifies God by standing still, is better employed than he who diligently serves his own self-will. Wait awhile then. Wait in prayer, however. Call upon God, and spread the case before him; tell him your difficulty, and plead his promise of aid. Express your unstaggering confidence in him; wait in faith, for unfaithful, untrusting waiting, is but an insult to the Lord. Believe that if he shall keep you tarrying even till midnight, yet he will come at the right time; the vision shall come and shall not tarry. Wait in quiet patience, not murmuring because you are under the affliction, but blessing God for it; never murmuring against the second cause, as the children of Israel did against Moses; never wish you could go back to the world again, but accept the case as it stands, and put it as it stands simply and with your whole heart, without any self-will, into the hand of your covenant God.

Undeserved Grace

Scripture Reading — 2 Samuel 6:1-11

The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months. . . . — 2 Samuel 6:11

Have you seen some of the Publishers Clearing House com­mercials on TV or the internet? A happy group of people jumps out of a van with flowers, balloons, smiles on their faces, and a huge fake check. They approach the home of an unsuspecting person with the news of winning large amounts of money for the rest of their lives. And the person responds with shock, surprise, and excitement.

Obed-Edom had no idea that the ark of the covenant would show up at his door. And the circumstances were sad and shocking. Uzzah had tried to make sure the ark would not fall from the cart when the oxen stumbled. But that vio­lated the holiness of the ark, and Uzzah paid with his life.

This puzzling event brought fear into the hearts of David and all the people. David halted the procession and took the ark to the house of Obed-Edom, where it stayed for three months. It must have taken Obed-Edom by surprise to have the ark of the presence of the Lord at his house.

As Obed-Edom and his family saw the blessings of God pour out on them like manna from heaven, his heart must have swelled with gratitude for the opportunity to be God’s servant. It was all by undeserved grace that he and his household were blessed.


Dear Lord, I am surprised by your gifts of undeserved grace. Help me not to take for granted the abundance of relationships and material blessings you have brought into my life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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