When the Detour Becomes Your New Road

Article by

Regular Contributor

This isn’t the ticket I bought.

That’s what I thought when my health took a detour, and I found myself on a road I hadn’t anticipated. A road I wasn’t prepared for. A road I didn’t want to travel.

Laura Story understands how that feels. Everything radically changed after her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Watching him struggle to breathe and withstand significant memory loss, Laura begged God to heal her husband and restore their lives to the way they were.

Life hadn’t been perfect, but it had been good.

Laura told her sister of her desire to return to the normal trial-free life she had before. And her sister insightfully responded, “You know, Laura, I think the detour you are on is actually the road.”

The detour you are on is actually the road.

What a horrifying thought.

When my plans go awry, I always want to believe that I have taken a temporary detour. Maybe it’s a long one, but I hope that the real road, the road where I can return to being happy and fulfilled, is just ahead. Maybe it’s only around the corner, if I can simply hang on.

Aching for Normalcy

I was talking to a friend recently about that desire to return to normalcy. She doesn’t know how to handle her newly developed health problems. Should she pray for healing and expect God to answer? Or should she come to terms with chronic pain and disability?

I understand her questions. I have asked them myself.

Should I earnestly ask God to change my circumstances? Should I draw near to him in prayer, write down my requests, and regularly seek him for the things in my life that I want to see changed? Godly things. Restoration. Healing. Return to active ministry.

“What if the detour you are on is actually your new way of life?”

Or do I recognize that I am on a different road? One that may not bring the healing and restoration that I would like, but rather a closeness to Jesus that I could not get any other way. Do I hold loosely to the expectation of changed circumstances and cling tighter to the hope that will never disappoint — the hope that is rooted in Jesus?

Yes.

God invites me to ask him to change the things that I long to be different. To persevere. To trust that my prayers make a difference.

But at the same time, God bids me to accept where I am. To let him meet me in the darkness. To find comfort in his presence. To see him as more important than any change in my circumstances.

God calls me to do both. Every day. On every road.

Adjusting to the New Normal

The old road often seems like it was more relaxing and easy to drive. The new road can be bumpy and twisty, narrow with sharp curves. And I find myself longing for the ease of what I used to have.

But the new road has benefits too, perhaps not in ease but in seeing life differently. More reflectively. Really noticing reality rather than rushing forward, oblivious to my surroundings.

But regardless of what I gain, it’s a challenge to accept that the detour is now the new road.

I struggle with that reality daily as I experience new weakness and pain with post-polio. Sometimes it’s temporary, but often it’s permanent. The loss becomes the new normal. And I must adjust.

“God bids us to meet him in the darkness, and see him as more important than our circumstances.”

Last month, I was going into a familiar building when I realized I couldn’t climb the curb without assistance. Without other options, I reluctantly asked a passerby for help. She was warm and gracious as she helped me and we had an encouraging conversation walking in together.

Since then I have been unable to get up sidewalks without assistance. This limitation will change where I can go by myself and will require me to plan ahead.

To be honest, I don’t want to plan ahead. I don’t like limitations. And yet, like my sweet conversation with a stranger, I’m sure the Lord has unexpected blessings along this path.

I realize that I cannot cling to the past. I cannot get back on the old road and put everything back the way it was. Some things will get better over time. Some prayers will be miraculously answered. Some dreams will come true.

But the old road is gone.

And in my mind, it will often be remembered as better than it actually was. The Israelites did that when they complained after they were delivered from slavery saying, “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and garlic. But now our strength is dried up and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at” (Numbers 11:4–6).

Not Looking Back

The Israelites neglected to mention that even though they had food, they were slaves. Their lives in Egypt were not perfect. They had continually cried out to God to deliver them from slavery.

So don’t look back on the past and assume it was perfect. It wasn’t. Mine wasn’t perfect either.

This new road that I am on, bumpy and twisty as it may be, is the path that God has chosen for me. It is the best road. The only one worth taking.

“Don’t look back on the past and assume it was perfect. It wasn’t.”

If I keep looking back on the old way longingly, focusing on what I’ve lost rather than on what I have, I will miss the rewards of the new path.

I need to open my eyes. Notice what’s around me. Remember that God goes before me. I need not fear for he knows what is up ahead.

As he has promised, “I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them” (Isaiah 42:16).

God is guiding me on this new path.

I am on the right road.

And so are you.


More from Desiring God

is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to Desiring God. She blogs at danceintherain.com, although she doesn’t like rain and has no sense of rhythm. Vaneetha is married to Joel and has two daughters, Katie and Kristi. She and Joel live in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is the author of the forthcoming The Scars That Have Shaped Me: How God Meets Us in Suffering.