Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls…Jeremiah 6:16a
I rang in the New Year with a migraine.
But I rang it in after a leisurely morning in the Word of God. I also rang it in at midnight with my husband and all three kids present, including our almost-18-year-old who went out to see some friends and came back in time to toast in the New Year with our family tradition: sparkling grape juice for them and water for this old girl.
So I managed to be awake(ish) at midnight with a heart full of joy despite any pain. Maybe even joy in defiance of pain. But not only because of my family.
I’m still nursing the same migraine today, medicated enough to keep me out of bed but make my thoughts rather difficult to string together. Still, even today I am filled with joy.
This is an abiding joy which would have been with me even if I’d rung in the New Year alone with my migraine and cut off from medication, family, friends, or any friendly face. It’s a joy I’ve been granted, which I’ve found buried in the Scripture records of ancient paths and growing in me as I’ve followed in the footsteps of those who have traveled the Good Way before me.
For this reason, perhaps, as I read in Jeremiah this morning, verse 6:16 captured my attention. However, there is a bit more to the verse:
…But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’Jeremiah 6:16b
My friends, I don’t know what you are facing on the first day of 2019. None of us know what we may be facing tomorrow. In fact, we are never guaranteed tomorrow.
But we have today. We have right now.
Today I invite you to a journey of joy. It isn’t a pain-free journey, nor it is a fool’s journey though you may be called a fool for embarking on it. I invite you nonetheless. Come, ask for the ancient paths where the good way is and find rest for your souls. Walk it, and do not refuse.
I know some of you are dealing with the slow decay of cancer. Others deal with the no less malignant cancer of anger, envy, unforgiveness, self-exaltation, or even the twisted egoism of self-loathing. Leave them by the wayside and find rest for your soul.
Others deal with pain rooted in an unhealed childhood wound. Many have addictions of one type or another, whether to food, entertainment, alcohol, drugs, sex, or something else. If you’ve lived long enough with any of these, you’ve experienced already the law of diminishing returns. The fun is gone, only the endless grind of need remains and grows like its own ruthless, devouring cancer. But you can lay those aside, too. Find the good Way, the One you were meant to be addicted to, and find rest for your soul.
Some have rejected the very idea of God so bitterly you think you can never turn to Him now. People would laugh. He would laugh and refuse to accept you now. He won’t.
You are not the first mocker to find that His way is the one you’ve been seeking after all. Peter, Jesus’s disciple, denied Him at His arrest. I once did, too. But the Lord had mercy on us both. So join me in searching the ancient paths like Peter’s and the paths of our lives today for signs of the God we once denied and like me, find rest for your soul.
The Peter who denied the Lord later received the gift of His Holy Spirit and spoke with enthusiasm to a crowd in Jerusalem. You can read about it in Acts 2. But what is remarkable to me is this: The joy I speak of, the rest for your soul that is promised along the good way, is part of what is called by Paul “fruit of the Spirit.”
…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…Galatians 5:23-24a
This fruit grows along the ancient paths and nourishes those who choose the good way, even when the way is hard and the night seems long.
But even on the darkest night in the midst of the most horrendous pain, joy can still light your way and peace be your comfort because you will never walk the good way alone.