Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you; surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.Isaiah 41:10 NASB
For all those who have tried to push against the current and make a difference in the world, they know the road can be a lonely one. Indeed, that loneliness may be the reason why many people choose to stay in the crowd and do as the world does—just to be safe.
Yet, in the history of our faith, so many have travelled down lonely roads. From the pioneering missionaries who dared venture to Hong Kong and Asia, to the likes of Mother Teresa who reached her hand out to the poorest of the poor in India, and William Wilberforce who began the campaign to end human slavery. Pushing against the conventions of culture is always hard because the path ahead is yet uncharted and there is no guarantee of safe passage. So why do it?
The origins of the hymn “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus” brings into focus how lonely the journey could feel, but there are so many insights to draw from knowing it. Many today know the hymn’s words as the bridge portion of Hillsong’s popular song, “Christ is Enough.” However, the song originally came from India and its lyrics were based on the last words of a man named Nokseng, whose family had found faith in Christ.
As the story is told: upon learning of what happened to Nokseng’s family, the village chief called for an assembly where his family would renounce their newfound beliefs at the threat of execution. Imagine that. Imagine how lonely his family must have felt as the entire village—all the people they had ever known and grown up with—watched as they chose: deny Christ and live… or deny their own tribe and die.
Despite how forsaken they must have felt, Nokseng already knew his family’s answer and declared, “I have decided to follow Jesus… Though none go with me, still I will follow.” Those words sealed his family’s fate and as the executioner loomed over Nokseng himself, he is said to have uttered: “The cross before me, the world behind me.”
From that selfless act of faith, the tribe began to investigate its own beliefs after the execution and the chief himself eventually came to faith. Today, the once-headhunting Garo tribe where Nokseng’s family were from is predominantly Christian; but the tribe got there because one family decided to walk the lonely road to Calvary.
Our stories may not be as dramatic, but it highlights for us that, in the end, all roads to stand up for what is right and make a difference are almost always lonely because they demand from us the things we cherish: our reputation, job security, lucrative opportunities, and relationships, to name a few.
Yet, as Christians, we are called to walk those lonely paths. In this, my encouragement to keep taking the lonely road is to remember this: it’s a lonely road but I am not alone. On these empty roads, I see more clearly how He goes before me and walks with me because those faint footprints of His presence are ever more apparent. On these quiet roads, I hear more clearly His tender and affirming whispers. On these lonely roads, I lean harder and more often into Him, and see His glory more consistently.
Let us consider the roads we have travelled and the roads ahead of us by:
- Thanking God in meeting us where we are in life and calling us deeper into His presence through the paths we choose to take in our lives
- Asking God to help us learn His ways as we grow more sensitive to His voice on the different paths that we choose to take.