“We wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:18, ESV)
It’s pothole season here in New Jersey. You need to be careful, or you may lose your car in some of these holes. But most of the time you can avoid these holes if you are cautious. You may need to slow down and go around them, but you can avoid them.
However, last week I was driving to an appointment and came upon a road that was closed. The road was closed because of repair work being done. The road had crumbled to the point it had become impassable. My way was hindered. The good news was that there was another way. I was able to take a detour and arrive at my destination. Although, it was a few minutes later than planned.
Similarly, life is filled with obstacles. You have the best-laid plans. The future is before you. You have set in your mind where you are going. You are ready to accomplish the impossible. You believe that God is on your side. You are fighting the good fight.
But then an obstacle arises. Then another obstacle! Most of the time the obstacles are minor like a pothole. You adjust your course. You adjust your timing. You easily overcome and avoid the obstacles. There are other times when the obstacles are more substantial. The road is closed off and we must consider a new route and sometimes even a new destination.
You can expect obstacles when you are working for something big. When you do something worthwhile, it is never going to be easy. If you are working on advancing the kingdom of God, the Devil is not going to be happy about it. He is going to do what he can to thwart your effort.
Potholes! Roadblocks! We press on. We push through. We go through. We go over. We go under. Or we go around. Out of determination, we make it happen. Through sheer effort, we force the issue. We do this because we are convinced it is a good thing.
But have you considered that an obstacle is not always the work of the Devil? Sometimes an obstacle is God’s way of saying no. He says, “not this way.” Or he says, “not right now.” We keep pressing, but it is not what God would have for us.
When obstacles come, consider if you are pursuing God’s plan or your plan. Are you trying to force something that God would not have you force? Maybe there is a better way.
So how do you determine if an obstacle is the work of the Devil or the grace of God? That is something we will explore in greater detail in the days to come.