How to Respond when God or Life Gives us Detours

When we’re faced with detours, it can be quite frustrating. How we respond to new directions says much about who we are as people and Christians.
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You’re driving along, heading to your destination, when suddenly you see a big orange sign saying, “Detour.”

It can be annoying, especially if it significantly impacts our plans or agenda.

Life is no different.  We are going along, following the path we’ve chosen, when something suddenly happens, causing a detour.  Sometimes it’s a life event.  Sometimes, though, it’s God intervening, telling us to take another path in life.

How do we respond?  How should we respond?

In Luke 1, we see God giving Mary a detour in her life.  This wasn’t just any detour, though.  This was a forever-changing-your-life-in-ways-nobody-could-imagine detour.  Her response should be our response when God gives us detours.

Here’s the passage:

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

– Luke 1:34-38 (ESV)

In these four verses we see God’s detour for Mary and her response.

God Told Mary to Take a Detour

In verses 34-37, the angel is explaining God’s plan to a confused Mary.  He tells her that she’s going to have a baby despite being a virgin, and that the baby will be the Son of God, the promised Messiah.

This may not seem like a big deal to us.  In fact, many of us breeze right over the implications.  But look at it from Mary’s perspective.

Here she was, a young Jewish girl, going about her daily business.  She was engaged to a man, and the two likely had plans to settle down and be a good, faithful, Jewish family.

Suddenly, God tells her that she’s going to become pregnant out of wedlock, and that this child will be the savior of the world.

Now, Mary knew the Law.  She knew that, by being pregnant before marriage, she could be stoned as an adulteress, ending both her life and her new child’s life (Lev 20:10, 13; Deut 22:22-24).  She also knew that her fiancé could be in danger, and that her whole family could be dishonored.

Things were serious.  Very serious.

God didn’t merely adjust Mary’s life path.  He gave her a detour that would radically change her life and the life of countless others.

How did Mary respond?

Mary Gladly Followed God’s Detour

In one singular verse we see Mary’s answer: she gladly accepted it (v. 38).  She submitted to God and joyfully chose to take God’s detour for her life.

This type of submission is not something we are inclined to do on our own.  Rather, we tend to fight for the right to control our own life (or to party).  Mary, though, totally surrendered and submitted to God’s will: “let it be to me according to your word,” she said.

Maybe she followed God because she knew the ultimate result: her son was the promised Messiah who would lay down his life for many, pay for sin, rise from the dead, and who is God the Son.  What a magnificent result!

Part of me, though, suspects that the larger magnitude was beyond anything she could fathom.

Regardless of her level of understanding, we do know one thing: she was faithful to her God.  She trusted God.  The fact that she so willingly and gladly accepted God’s new direction in her life shows a deep faith and love.

This is how we should respond to God’s detours in our life.

Bringing it Home

When we’re faced with detours, it can be quite frustrating.  We have plans for our lives.  We have things we want to do, even if that thing is merely to stay put.

God, though, still puts up road signs telling us to take a detour.  And when he does, it’s always for his glory and our good, even if we don’t fully understand it.

How will we respond?  Will we rebel against God and reject his new path?  Or will we be like Mary and gladly follow God wherever he leads us.  Will we be faithful and trust our Lord or fools and trust ourselves?

I pray I’m more like Mary. I pray you’re more like Mary.  We need more Marys in the world and in the church.

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