Lost and Found
Contributed by: Jeremy Laughead
In Deuteronomy 31:8, Moses is giving Joshua a pep talk before he hands over the leadership of the Israelites, and tells him, “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.” I imagine that Joshua was feeling a great deal of pressure given that Moses had just announced to Israel that he was not going with them into the promised land and that Joshua was going to be taking over. No doubt, Moses knew what that pressure felt like, having led the Israelites out of Egypt and into the wilderness, only to wander for forty years.
I, myself, find extreme comfort in Moses’ words. There have been many points in my life where knowing the nearness of God has made all the difference. About five years ago, I went backpacking by myself. For so many reasons, I should not have gone. I had just started treatment for an upper respiratory infection and left a little later than I should have. When I arrived at the trailhead, I had a moment’s hesitation before I stubbornly began my hike. As the miles passed and I felt the leaden weight of the infection in my lungs slowing me down, there were a couple of points where I began to ponder the foolishness of my endeavor. As dusk fell and I had not yet reached my campsite, I pulled out a headlamp and continued on. How much farther could it be? Finally, faced with an apparent end of the trail in the darkness, I made camp. I couldn’t figure out where I had gone wrong, but I knew better than to try to backtrack in the darkness. As I lay beneath the stars, exhausted and confused, I prayed for God’s direction and peace. The next morning, when I woke with the sun, I found that I had not lost the trail at all. There had been a substantial amount of rainfall in the area in the weeks before, and that had caused a trickle that I had stepped across in earlier trips to become a foot and a half deep, twelve-foot-wide stream that I had to wade across. But the thing that first caught my eye when I awoke and looked around to begin the process of finding my way back was a cairn of stones placed on an old fallen tree.
Cairns are sometimes used as trailblazes, means of marking the right path. However, normally, cairns are only used in places where there are no trees to mark. In the national park where I was backpacking, the trails are blazed using signs affixed to trees or by paint. As I looked at the cairn, sitting there on that rotting tree, six feet away from where I slept, I felt as though God were saying to me that He had been there the entire time.
“Heavenly Father” is one of the ways that we refer to God. Thankfully, that image of fatherhood is not merely a statement of creation. God is constantly watching over us, as a vigilant earthly father watches over his children. As we watch our children grow, they are constantly exploring the world, oftentimes in ways that we wish they would not. So many times, we have to stop our children from putting themselves in harm’s way and guide them away from harm. Because we love our children, we watch over them, even when they are not aware of it, at the ready to snatch them from peril. In the same way, God watches over us, allowing us to venture out on our own, but always waiting to offer safety and security.
As you go about your day today, consider this: the security and safety that children feel around their loving parents is a pale comparison to the security and safety that you have as a child of God. Moses reassured Joshua, “And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”