Did you know God wired our brains to freak out about being lost? To be lost is a dreadful thing. We get anxious at the threat of it. So why have we wandered from God? Why are we prone to stray rather than trust the One who gave us breath? How can we renew our faith and find our way back to Him?
Gradually Then Suddenly
If you’ve ever been lost in the woods, you know what it means to be lost. At first, everything is fine. You think you know where you are, so you keep trudging along. Gradually, you miss trail markers, turns, and landmarks. Disorientation creeps in. Things look alike in every direction. Suddenly, it’s clear you are lost. Panic sets in. Being lost is a gradually, then suddenly process. Those of us who have wandered from God know this too. Gradually, we get caught up in the world. There is work to do. Children to feed. Bills to pay. Life comes at us hard and leaves us empty, exhausted. We get disoriented, anxious, confused. Suddenly, we realize that Jesus revolves around our life, rather than our life revolving around Jesus. We’re lost and in need of revival.
Trail Markers for Wanderers
When we’ve wandered from God, we don’t need a search party to find us. God is always with us. He knows we’re prone to wander, and he’s given us special symbols (like trail markers) to renew our faith and find our way back. One of my favorite markers throughout Scripture is a vineyard. Let’s look at two vineyard markers that help us find our way. Passages in Isaiah 5 and Psalm 80 recount the remarkable lengths the Lord went to set up his vineyard (the Israelites) so it could thrive. In the Old Testament, the vineyard often symbolizes the Israelites, with God as the owner. When his vineyard wandered, the Lord lovingly set them back on track by reminding them who He was, who they were in Him, and what He called them to do. The Israelites said they believed God, and they wanted to follow him. Yet their actions didn’t line up with their words. God lavished his love and grace upon them. Yet they remained as if grace had never touched them. Lost, they grew wild grapes of sin and rebellion. “What more was there to do for my vineyard…?” God in Isaiah 5:4 ESV The Israelites show us what not to do when we’ve wandered – forget God and make our own way in the world. While their formal religious allegiance was to the Lord, their everyday actions said otherwise. Sadly, they never knew or understood God.
The Way Back to God
That’s what not to do. Now let’s focus on what we can do to find our way back to God. In John 15, Jesus makes it clear through a vineyard metaphor. Take a look:
“I am the True vine, and my Father is the vinedresser…you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him…bears much fruit, for apart from me, you can do nothing.” John 15:1,5 ESV
This word is for Believers who have wandered and are in need of spiritual renewal. Pay attention to what Jesus prescribes. First, he gives his followers something practical to do – abide in him. Next, he gives something passive to acknowledge – to let him abide in us. When we do these two things – practical and passive – in our everyday lives, we’ll bear fruit, not wild grapes of sin and rebellion like the Israelites. We’re all prone to wander from God – first gradually, then suddenly. No matter how lost you are now, here’s how to find your way back.
* Stop and notice. When were you last abiding in Jesus? What caused you to wander?
* Pray. Acknowledge your wandering. Tell Jesus you long to abide in him and allow him to abide in you. Watch how he meets you in this.
* Make a plan. Prioritize doing abiding actions like Bible study, prayer, and worship.
* Tell someone what you’re doing. Find strength and encouragement in community.
Make this the year that you practice abiding. It’s the one critical step that will help you find your way back to God. To miss this one thing is to miss him entirely. And to miss him entirely is to be lost for good.