A career missionary and full-time sailboat dweller, Grace Fox is an ordinary woman who radiates love for her extraordinary God. She’s passionate about His Word and showing its relevance to everyday life. With transparency, warmth, and wisdom, she connects us by sharing life-changing lessons learned on good days and bad. Her new devotional book, Fresh Hope for Today, offers fresh hope to those walking a difficult path. We’ve all been there. No doubt some of us are walking a hard path at this very moment. It is a joy to welcome Grace to the farm’s table today…
Sunshine beckoned that summery morning, so Sailor-Man (known to most as my husband, Gene) and I took a ninety-minute jaunt downriver in our liveaboard sailboat. We moored at a public dock, strolled the boardwalk, bought a fresh-caught salmon at the fish market, and sipped cold lemonade. It seemed a picture-perfect day until suddenly it was not.
On our trip home, we didn’t see the submerged log, but we felt its three jarring thuds. The collision bent our vessel’s rudder and knocked out her steering. Sailor-Man immediately set the anchor to secure our position, and then we waited nearly three hours for a rescue tug to come and tow us back to our marina home.
We had planned to return by late afternoon, but exhaustedly limped to our dock long past dark.
The damage displaced us for three weeks while our vessel underwent repairs onshore. It canceled a vacation with Sailor-Man’s siblings, whom we’d seldom seen in the past two years. It exhausted Sailor-Man as he juggled his daily workload with overseeing the repairs at the marina, an hour’s drive from our temporary accommodation.
It kept me up late at night as I tried to fulfill writing assignments while living in someone else’s space far from my office. And, when further damage was discovered, it thrust us into a place of uncertainty. The part needed to fix our sailboat home had to be custom-built in a different country.
How long would that take? Would supply chain issues be a problem?
As we motored away from our dock that summer morning, we did not foresee our little journey taking this unexpected turn. But life’s like that.
“Circumstances can change so fast we don’t know what has hit us, but we are left with its jarring impact and the pain of its wake.”
Everything seems fine and good until suddenly it’s not.
Circumstances can change so fast we don’t know what has hit us, but we are left with its jarring impact and the pain of its wake.
Sailboat mishap aside, I’ve experienced a few other whiplash-inducing switchbacks in times past…
- In our younger years, Sailor-Man and I moved to Nepal with a faith-based nonprofit organization. We’d devoted the rest of our lives to the Nepalese, but plans changed when our daughter was born with hydrocephalus (too much fluid in the brain). We returned to North America within days so she could receive necessary medical intervention, and her ongoing needs required us to stay there.
- One Christmas morning, my elderly widowed mother woke up anticipating a special day with those she loved. But our family’s journey took a devastating detour when mom ended up in a hospital emergency room instead and was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
- I attended a wellness retreat and was inspired to pursue a healthier lifestyle. I returned home committed to exercising daily, but within the week suffered two separate leg injuries that landed me in a wheelchair for three months.
“detours are often the path to spiritual growth.”
Each of these turnabouts caused intense personal pain. No doubt you’ve had a few such twists and turns of your own. And no doubt, more await. When they come and what they’ll look like remain a mystery to us all. But here’s what we can’t miss: detours are often the path to spiritual growth.
Our human tendency is to view them as delays, disappointments, and difficulties, but Scripture gives us a more accurate perspective and guides us in how to embrace them and grow in them.
Twelve hours before I suffered my first leg injury, I had read James 1:2–4 in my quiet time:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (ESV).
I read, agreed, and journaled, “These are great verses.”
“Choosing joy when my journey has taken undesirable turns has changed my life, but I’ll be real—it hasn’t always come easy.”
That night, wearing a new knee-high cast on my left leg, I hoisted myself backward up 15 stairs to my bedroom. The morning’s Scripture reading came to mind, and I had a conversation with myself.
“I want to be steadfast, perfect, and complete. I want to lack nothing. I choose joy,” I said, one step at a time.“I choose joy.”
Choosing joy when my journey has taken undesirable turns has changed my life, but I’ll be real—it hasn’t always come easy.
There’s nothing joyful about a family relationship going sideways, watching a friend descend into the darkness of depression, losing a loved one to cancer, or facing unexpected expenses when the car (and boat-home) needs immediate care.
My natural response is to spew something like, “You’ve got to be kidding!” and succumb to frustration or fear. But thanks to the Holy Spirit’s help, choosing joy is possible even when emotions say otherwise.
Choosing joy in the hard places of life changes and refines us and that’s a good thing. But the reason we can choose joy even when our journey takes us in a difficult direction is because Jesus walks with us.
Before He ascended into heaven, Jesus promised to never leave us.
“No matter where our path leads, Jesus is already there.”
No matter where our path leads, Jesus is already there. The new road might be steep or scarred with potholes, but He steadies our feet as we walk (Psalm 40:2). When we grow weary, He carries us in His arms, close to His heart (Isaiah 40:11).
There’s no way for us to know what unforeseen challenges our journeys may hold, but we don’t have to be afraid. With the help of the Spirit, we can meet each moment with a grace that paves the way for growth. We can face the unexpected with confidence because Jesus is with us all the way.
Grace Fox has written 13 books and is a member of the First 5 writing team for Proverbs 31 Ministries. She also cohosts the podcast Your Daily Bible Verse and codirects International Messengers Canada, a missionary-sending agency with staff in 31 countries. Her passion is to connect the dots between faith and real life by helping others learn to love, understand, and apply God’s Word.
Sometimes the road we travel feels lonely or steep. It winds through dark valleys, follows unfamiliar ways, and leaves us weary from the inside out. In times like these, we need the hope God’s Word offers, in snippets our minds can absorb. Fresh Hope for Today delivers. Its 90 daily meditations offer nuggets of encouragement, a sentence prayer, a point to ponder, and a thoughtful quote by someone who walked a difficult journey and discovered joy along the way.
[ Our humble thanks to Tyndale for their partnership in today’s devotion ]
Scripture quotation marked ESV is from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.