Visualize strolling through a peaceful forest with the Lord Jesus at your side. You are on a journey to the land where hopes and dreams are fulfilled. As the sunlight filters through the trees you think to yourself, Life couldn't be more perfect! Surely this is what the Lord meant when he said he had come to give us more abundant life! You are sharing with him your hope of becoming a mother soon and thanking him for creating you a woman and giving you the privilege of conceiving and bearing new life.
But suddenly, you begin to hear the rush of water and, as you come to a clearing in the trees, you see a wide and roaring river. Your heart stops! You need to get to the other side. That's where your hopes and dreams will become reality. You feel panic and frustration rising within you. You begin running frantically up and down the shoreline looking for a way to get across to the other side. You see your future waiting for you over there, but there's no way to reach it. You long to call for help, hoping someone in a boat will hear you and take you across. You feel so alone. Where are your friends and family when you need them the most?
You begin to stomp your foot and beat your fists against the nearest tree. You shout, "What's happening? Five minutes ago I was so happy - now this!" You throw yourself down on the bank. You feel as though your heart has been torn out and thrown into the murky water, to be washed away downstream in the foam.
The tears continue to fall for days, weeks, years it seems. But, finally, out of total brokenness you begin to look for the friend you abandoned at first sight of that horrible river. You don't take many steps before you see him sitting there. As your eyes meet his, your very soul suddenly overflows with feelings of love, peace, and acceptance.
"I've been waiting for you," he says. "I know the way across the river. Will you trust me to deliver you safely to the other side?" Words cannot form in your mouth, so you silently slip your hand into his, assuring him that yes, you are ready.
He begins to lead you along the shoreline and it isn't long before you see a path across the water leading to the other side. Stones! A path of stepping stones! Why hadn't you seen those before? Finally, there is a bridge across the troubled waters. There, just waiting for you, are the hopes and dreams of a lifetime.
He steps out first. How comforting it is to know that he goes before you. Time passes slowly. It seems you've been stepping from stone to stone for a very long time, so you strain to see around your leader, wanting to know how much farther you have to go. In doing so, you lose your balance and slip off the rock into the churning water. He quickly turns, reaches down, and draws you out of danger. You're thankful he doesn't rebuke you for your impatience and lack of trust in his ability and promise to get you safely to the other side. He just smiles and says, "Follow me!"
As time drags on you again begin to wonder when you'll ever reach your destination. You think to yourself, If I look back to see how far we have come, maybe that will encourage me to keep the faith. So you stop and look behind you.
You can't believe your eyes! You look to the left and then to the right! There are people behind you - men and women all plodding along on paths to get to the other side. Where did they all come from?, your heart cries. Where were they when I felt so alone?
You position yourself on the stone beneath you so you can see these fellow travelers more clearly. You begin to realize that not all pathways are the same. Some paths seem shorter than others. Some are straight and others crooked. Just to your left you see a woman practically running across her stones, not taking the careful, slow steps you must take in order not to slip or fall. Why, her stones are much closer together than yours - no wonder! How unfair! She will reach the other side long before you will and you started out before she did!
You decide you must speak to the Lord about this. You carefully turn forward again and there he stands, on the stone right in front of yours - patiently waiting for you to continue your journey. You are surprised at the bitter and selfish words that flow out of your mouth but, after all, "This isn't fair!" He listens and, when you are finished, gently says, "The stones I have chosen for your brothers and sisters are not your concern. You follow me!" He stretches out his hand and once again you relinquish your hand into his care and allow him to guide you across.
It seems forever, but you finally reach the other side. As you wearily step onto the bank you look behind you. Your heart is filled with compassion for those still stepping from stone to stone. You hear the Lord say, "My child, if you could share with them how to make their journey easier, their burden lighter, what would you tell them?"
Thinking for a moment you reply, "Lord, I'd tell them that even though the stones you have chosen for them seem too many in number or too far apart for their stride, if they will only keep their hand in your hand, neither looking to the left nor to the right, but gazing steadfastly in front of them, then you will guide them safely over each stone until they reach the desires of their hearts."