How Do We Find the Right Path?

By Marjorie Foerster Eddington

How do we know if we’re doing the right thing, if we’re walking on the best path in life?

“Go in through the narrow gate,” Jesus explains in the Sermon on the Mount. “The gate to destruction is wide, and the road that leads there is easy to follow. A lot of people go through that gate. But the gate to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it” (Matt 7:13-14 CEV).

Jesus doesn’t say that the road to life is easy. He doesn’t say that doing the right thing is popular. In fact, he says it’s hard and only a few find it. That’s not the best advertisement. It’s not funny, catchy, or witty; but it also doesn’t have the side-effect of destruction.

The road to life—to a life in sync with God, rather than with others’ opinions—is full of blessing. It’s so much better, more rewarding than the easy path where lots of people travel. In fact, this can be one way for us to see if we’re making the right choices: are tons of people doing it; is it popular? If so, it just might be the wrong choice to make. Are we really willing to self-destruct?

For instance: almost everyone uses smart phones. Teens admit they are addicted. So why is it that the tech gurus who design and work on all the paraphernalia don’t want or let their children (and sometimes themselves) have smart phones? Is it because they want to keep their children safe, that they want their lives private? Is it because they know the dangers of such phones—the addictions, the scary content, the blatant sensuality that can ruin relationships, the fact that we’re being watched and listened to when we use smart phones and other devices?

So what are we to do? It’s a really tough question to answer in today’s climate. But it needs to be addressed. Are we willing to unplug, to disconnect? Is a smart phone making us more Godlike, helping us love each other better, helping us communicate in positive and healthy ways? Are we making more lasting connections? Do we really want to give up our privacy?

Then, there are other roads which include parties, easy access to drugs, sex, popularity, name-calling, cheating, dishonesty. We know that these are detours along the wide road. But people still travel this road. Sometimes the temptations just seem too much to avoid.

So what happens if we have walked down the wide road and want to get on the right road? Can we? Of course we can! We just have to find the narrower path that looks more difficult, the one that fewer people are traveling, the one where we walk with God. How do we do that? Don’t we first have to value God and value ourselves? Don’t we also have to be willing to work? It’s hard to climb up a mountain, but the view is worth it! There simply are no shortcuts to happiness, to real joy, to true success. And maybe that’s one thing to which we surrender: Yep, it’s going to take work, but it’s all good, and I can do it with God.

Eugene Peterson paraphrases Jesus’ words this way:

“Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention. (The Message, Matt 7:13-14).

We put all of our attention on God, rather than fall for scams and shortcuts. We take a stand for who we are. We are willing to be different, to walk against the crowd, to take a stand for morality, ethics, for church, community, for truly loving each other, for God in our lives. When we take that stand, we find the path. And we feel God’s love, and we know we’re home.

While we may not be walking with lots of people, we still have incredible support and guidance—the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the rest of Jesus’ instruction in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ life example. We’re really not alone. And while the path may be difficult, we’re actually much safer, assured of victory, more powerful. Why? Because God’s leading us. God’s angels are guiding us. We are walking with the power of God. So we can handle anything—because God can handle everything.