Dean Kuest – Glendale Campus Pastor
In the classic 1939 film, “The Wizard of Oz”, the good witch, Glinda, instructs the newest residents of Oz, Dorothy and her dog, Toto, that to get to the Wizard of Oz, she must follow the yellow brick road. She is also instructed that as long as she keeps her ruby red slippers on her feet, the wicked witch has no power over her. At this point, the song ensues. (Is it mean of me to hope that many of you get this one stuck in your head for the rest of the day?)
The implication of the “Yellow Brick Road” and the “Ruby Slippers” is that as long as you stick with the plan and stay on the road, the journey is easy. Divert from the plan and there is no telling the trouble that awaits you. Have we bought into a Yellow Brick Road version of Christianity?
“Pastor, ever since I was baptized, things in my life have not gotten any better. My marriage is still rough. My job is stressful. Finances are not coming together. My daughter is sick. Why isn’t God helping me since I am trying to follow Him?” Translation: I thought that once I got on the Yellow Brick Road, things would get easier for me.
I have found that the best way to answer these types of questions is to point to people in Scripture whose stories seem to beg the same questions. The past two chapters of The Story have given us amazing glimpses into the lives of Joseph and Moses – two men who God used in great ways, but with whom most would not trade their life struggles.
Joseph was a guy who stayed on the Yellow Brick Road. He never veered to the right or to the left of his faith in God, but it seemed that trouble found him at every turn. Sold by his brothers, taken as a slave, falsely accused, imprisoned and forgotten, Joseph had every excuse to shake his fist at God and ask, “Why?” Instead of running away from God, he leaned into Him and kept trusting. Eventually, years and years later, he saw purpose in his struggles.
Moses spent most of his life as far away from the Yellow Brick Road as he could get. I’ll quote loosely a Facebook post that I saw this week that summed up the life of Moses. It simply said, “Moses spent 40 years in Egypt believing he was somebody. He spent 40 years in the desert discovering that he was nobody. Finally, Moses spent 40 years learning what God could do with somebody who knew that he was nobody as he led God’s people into the Promised Land.”
Would Joseph have had the same strength of character when he was in power in Egypt had he not endured struggle that he had not brought on himself? Would Moses have been the leader God needed him to be had he not spent 40 years in the desert feeling abandoned? Neither of these stories tell us that God caused the struggle, but one thing is extremely clear. God uses struggle to shape His people and then God uses His people to accomplish His purposes.
I don’t know what struggle you are enduring right now – if it is something that you brought upon yourself with poor decisions or if it was brought upon you by other people’s poor decisions. Perhaps there was no decision, the struggle simply appeared. No matter what it is, this is what I know…God’s love for you is not defined by this struggle. There is difficulty for all who walk the Yellow Brick Road of following Jesus. He is with you and if you lean into Him, the struggle may or may not go away, but He will shape your heart, use you to accomplish His purposes, and give meaning to the pain. Like Joseph, may we all be able to say, “(Insert your struggle here) intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”