My children have never had to read a map. Oh, they’ve seen them, but they’ve looked at them like relics in a museum. These are things that have gone the way of 8-tracks, lava lamps, and backward facing bench seats in the station wagon. They are tools from a bygone day that look good when framed on a wall but aren’t much use when you have an iPhone.
They’ve got a point, of course. It’s really an exercise in stubbornness to use a paper map when you can have turn by turn navigation to anywhere in the world at your fingertips. And yet there is something nice – if a bit nostalgic – about holding a map, isn’t there? It’s nice to not just see the next turn but instead see the whole journey plotted out in front of you? I think so. And In looking at a map like that, it might also make you wish that God operated in maps.
Surely you’ve had the same moment that I have, when thinking about the future, of wishing that God would simply give us a map. In so doing, we would know all the twists and turns we will eventually have to take during life. That we could be prepared for this or that thing that was coming, to know in advance what lies before us, and to operate with a sense of certainty as we make our way through the years.
But God doesn’t do that. He does not give us a map. And there are some good reasons why He doesn’t. Here are three of them:
1. God is more interested in who you’re becoming than where you’re going.
We are destination oriented people. We move through life from place to place, person to person, job to job. One destination to another, always looking for what’s next. But God doesn’t work like that. His highest aspiration for us is not to get us to a specific job, a specific city, or a specific home, but instead for us to conformed to the image of Christ.
As such, all of these jobs, cities, and neighborhoods we live in all serve a greater purpose. Even as God uses us in these specific destinations to extend His kingdom, He is also working in us at the same time. Each of these experiences move us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to think, feel, and act more like Jesus. That’s one of the reasons God doesn’t give us a map – it’s because He is in the formation business. And often these twists and turns are precisely the things that form our character.
2. Faith is more valuable to God than absolute certainty.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (Heb. 11:6).
Faith is what God prizes the most. This is the attribute God values more than anything else. Indeed, anything we claim to do for the sake of Jesus and His kingdom must be grounded in and fueled by faith. The fact that we do not have a map means we must operate by faith because we don’t have any other option.
Now, you might argue that faith is actually certainty. In the same chapter of Hebrews, the writer says as much, that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see (Heb. 11:1). That is absolutely true. But what exactly are we sure of? What exactly are we certain of? It’s not that we know the way, as we would if we had a map. No, our certainty is not in our destination, but instead in the One leading us. Which leads us to the third reason God doesn’t operate in maps:
3. We are not following a map; we are following a Person.
Ultimately, God wants for us to follow Jesus. This was, and is, the basic call of Christianity. As Jesus simply said to the first disciples, so He still says to us: “Follow me.” This is a call that overrides any questions, hesitations, or uncertainties we have.
True, we do not know where Jesus is leading. True, we do not know all, or even most, of what we will encounter. And true, the road in following Jesus will not be an easy one. It will require discipline, difficulty, and above all, faith. But still Jesus says, “Follow Me.”
When we are confused about the way forward, we can still follow Jesus. When we don’t know what choice to make, we can still follow Jesus. When the pathway in front of us looks dark, we can still follow Jesus. The truth is that we don’t need a map because we have something better. We have someone leading us who knows the way.
No, friends, much as we might want Him to, God does not give us a map. And that, in the end, is a good thing.