Faith Is Not a Straight Line

Faith is not a straight line. It is following the windy road that God leads you down. On a recent trip with my wife—during which God called us to follow him into the unknown—this truth became very real to me. God took my world, turned it upside down, and turned me back around.

We Assume Too Much about Jesus

Until a few weeks ago, I considered myself to be someone who really knew Jesus. But it turns out my knowledge about Christ was much more progressed than my relationship with him. Look inside yourself for a moment and ask if the same is true for you.

I have known Jesus for nearly my whole life—in fact, I dedicated my career to knowing him. I made my living creating Bible reference resources. But to know about Jesus and to truly know him as a friend are two very different things.

For some of us, we treat Jesus as a general (Rev 19:11). We listen to his commands, but he is not our close personal mentor.

For others of us, Jesus is a savior. He redeems us from sin. He has paid the ransom (John 3:16–17; Romans 8:28). Yet we do not know him personally, as the leader of each step of our lives.

For a few people I know, Jesus is more like a judge. He is waiting to bring them justice, or to condemn them. But for these people, Jesus is not the Messiah who weeps for Lazarus who died (John 11:35).

To know Jesus as our closest friend and ally, as the Scriptures proclaim, is a great gift indeed. To see prayer as our ongoing conversation with him—as if he were closer to us than a spouse or our closest confidant—is wonderful. Jesus desires to know us and for us to know him. He does not need our love to know his worth, but we cannot know our worth until we know his love (1 John 3:16).

For God to really get through to us, he has to break down our walls. And that process is well worth the pain.

The Journey that Turned Me Around

God has asked me to do some difficult things, but one of the greatest challenges is when he asked my wife and I to sell our house, most of our stuff, and follow him on the road on behalf of the ministry we run: Jesus’ Economy. We did it. But something shocking happened: In a little over a week, it was obvious that God was telling us to turn around and go back to our hometown.

It takes just as much faith to obey God when he calls you back as it does to listen to him when he says, “Go.” I knew this deep down. So broken, hurting, and confused, my wife Kalene and I agreed to turn around.

Two nights later, and nearly 750 miles later, Kalene’s grandfather, who was suffering from cancer in our hometown, went on to be with the Lord. We arrived about 18 hours before his passing. Death had a lesson for me again, and so did God: You never know how short the time remaining is or what God is really doing with the time you have.

After processing my thoughts, I realized that if God had not called us on the road, my heart would not have been as tuned in to him. I would not have been ready to lead a bedside worship service during grandpa’s final hours or have been prepared to lead a graveside service later. But God had prepared me by forcing me to my knees in prayer through the struggles we faced on the road, and by driving me to him.

Above all, I was ready to cry out to God, weeping with others. I knew that understanding of most of life’s challenges is not ours to possess—we merely get a glimpse of God’s ways. I also knew in that moment that there is nothing more precious than holding onto Jesus, our savior, who endured the cross—especially during our time of need.

Faith is a Winding Road

While the way to Jesus represents a straight and narrow path (Matthew 7:14), the roads he takes us down after we find him can sure seem to wind, loop around, and lead us straight back where we started—in terms of how he is using us. (God would never lead us back to the lives of sin where he first found us.) But this does not mean that God does not know what he is doing on the faith journeys he leads. It means that we need to follow, be obedient, and wait.

If love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4), so should we be for God’s guidance. We never know where we’re going, after all—it could be to the bedside of a loved one. And that is a difficult but beautiful place to be, if it means comforting those whom Jesus loves.

So I encourage you: listen, follow, and wait upon the Lord in your journeys. And may the peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding be with you always.

John Barry
John Barry


CEO, President, and Founder of Jesus' Economy. John is the author/coauthor of 12 books and General Editor of Faithlife Study Bible and Lexham Bible Dictionary.