We are all pilgrims on life’s journey. The journey may be bewildering or breathtaking, delightful or distressing, but we keep on, knowing we are not in complete control. Life’s journey does have its bumps, detours, dangerous turns and smooth highways. Sometimes we seem to be lost or to be getting nowhere, sometimes the road signs appear confusing, sometimes we are lonely and afraid—yet we must move on. Think of the journeys of slaves, immigrants, refugees, those exiled and banished from their homeland. What great songs, poems and stories exist to remind us of their hardship, their hope and freedom. Several Bible characters are well-known for their journeys. Abram was told by the Lord to leave his country and kindred and move to a new land for great blessings awaited him. Jacob was told, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” (Gen. 31: 3 ) Later on he was told to go with his family to Egypt, “for there I will make you into a great nation.” (Gen 46: 3)
Moses was ordered by the Lord, “So, now you go. I am sending you to Pharoah to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt” and was assured, “I will be with you.” ( Ex. 3: l0, 12 ) Jesus was born in Bethlehem, not his hometown Nazareth, for his parents had to leave home for an official census. Before he began his ministry he was led by the Spirit in the wilderness where he was tempted for 40 days and nights. (Luke 4 :1, 2) Some of Jesus’ parables involved journeys. A man travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho was robbed and beaten. A priest and Levite were journeying along the same road but when they saw the half-dead man they passed by on the other side. It was a Samaritan who rescued the man. (Luke 10: 30-35) In another parable, a younger son set off for a distant country and squandered his wealth. He decided to return home, “when he came to his senses.” ( Luke l5:11-32) It was while on the road to Damascus to search for followers of Jesus that Saul was converted. (Acts 9: 1-4) Each of us can think about the particular journey we are on. We cannot return to starting points but we can learn a great deal from our experiences. The people of Israel were repeatedly warned not to forget their bondage and their deliverance, not to forget the Lord, His providence and His commandments, as they journeyed to the place of “milk and honey.”
On our journey there is always the danger of forgetting where we once were and of being ungrateful for and unmindful of the blessings that accompanied us. At times we can become so discouraged and weary that the journey seems bereft of any hope or happiness. If we remember the promise, “Fear not, I am with you,” our frustration can turn into faith. John Henry Newman (1821- 1890) was on a return trip to England on a cargo ship when the ship anchored because of a heavy fog and lack of wind. At that time Newman was going through an inward journey of spiritual struggle and despair. He penned a poem while aboard the ship. He called it The Pillar of the Cloud, a reference to God’s guidance of the Israelites. (Ex.l3 : 21-22 ) That poem became more famously known as the hymn, Lead Kindly Light. Newman knew what it was to be “amidst the encircling gloom.” He prayed for that light and power as he journeyed “O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till the night is gone.” That kindly light can also shine on our own journey.