I often hear Christians lamenting the increasing secularity of the modern world – that people more and more are seeking avenues other than God for fulfillment and meaning. While it may be true that our culture is not as saturated by religion as it once was, I would argue that “looking elsewhere” has been a dominant theme of humanity since the Garden of Eden. Even in Paradise, Adam and Eve sought a shortcut to enlightenment that would leave God out of the equation.
We could trace that theme further throughout scripture – the Tower of Babel, the Hebrews in the wilderness, idolatrous kings, the rich young ruler, and on and on across human history. No matter the place, no matter the time, there have always been restless men and women who, instead of seeking God, looked to other sources for fulfillment. Some have placed their hope in philosophies or political systems. Some have pursued selfish pleasure. Some have even sought enlightenment in a chemical-induced high or a psychedelic trip. Some have tried a form of Christianity that rejects God’s commands and prioritizes happiness over holiness. None of these alternate routes will lead to the inner peace that the human soul craves.
When the Lord was warning of the coming destruction of Jerusalem, He offered this advice to the people through the prophet Jeremiah: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find a resting place for your souls’” (Jeremiah 6:16, NASB). God was giving a roadmap to His people, imploring them to seek “the ancient paths, where the good way is”. And if they traveled that way, God promised their souls would find rest. But the people, Jeremiah informs us, tragically replied, “We will not walk in it” (6:16b). Their refusal would lead to their destruction.
The prophet Isaiah, prophesying of a return to Jerusalem after exile, also called his people to travel a certain path: “A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for the one who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it. No lion will be there, nor will any vicious animal go up on it; they will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there, and the redeemed of the Lord will return and come to Zion with joyful shouting, and everlasting joy will be on their heads. They will obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isaiah 35:8-10, NASB). Isaiah promised that those who traveled that way – the way of holiness, the way of the redeemed – would “obtain gladness and joy” and that “sorrow and sighing will flee away”.
The default state of fallen humanity is restlessness and longing. Where we look to address that condition will determine whether we find peace and fulfillment or emptiness and frustration.
In Robert Frost’s most famous poem, “The Road Not Taken”, he describes a traveler who is faced with two possible paths. The traveler could not discern much difference between the two, but faced with the choice, he took the road that appeared less used. And the traveler notes that one day he will look back on this choice, as inconsequential as it seemed at the time, and realize his life was indelibly marked by that choice. When you are faced with diverging paths, follow the advice of Jeremiah: “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find a resting place for your souls.” The path you choose will make all of the difference.
Perhaps, like Thomas, we would ask, “Lord…how do we know the way?” (John 14:5, NASB). Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (14:6). He says to all of us looking for the path to fulfillment, “Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28, NASB).
~ Matt Kinnell, NHIM Board Chair