Remember the story of Dorothy, the young girl from Kansas, who followed the yellow brick road in search of the Emerald City and the great wizard of Oz? At one point in her quest, she and her companions wander into a field of poppies. Though Dorothy doesn’t know it, she is standing on dangerous ground because the flowers exude a scent that can lull unwary travelers into a sleep that will last forever.
Our own world can sometimes function like that gorgeous field of poppies, lulling us by its pleasures and seducing us by its comforts — a nicer house, a better job, a thinner body. We become consumed with pleasant distractions instead of focused on our spiritual journey. Like the flying monkeys Dorothy later encountered, trouble, too, can ensnare us. The stock market plunges and fear proliferates. Our children struggle and anxiety takes over. Our career disappoints and depression sets in.
Of course God can use our difficulties, as well as our desires, to advance his plans. It is sometimes true, as the saying goes, that the obstacle itself is the path. A sickness can lead to deeper prayer and greater empathy. A difficult child can lead to greater faith and patience. Nothing is wasted in the lives of those who belong to God. Even our pleasurable pursuits can help us discern his will. The mistake comes from pursuing or resisting desires and difficulties on our own, without seeking God’s help and guidance.
Think for a moment about the things that upset you most in the past week as well as the ones providing the most joy. Do any of them have the whiff of eternity about them, or do they merely carry the scent of this world? Is the power and presence of God the driving force of your life, or are you constantly buffeted by the winds of success, comfort, fear, or anxiety?
If pursued or resisted without reference to God, both our struggles and desires can obscure not only the path ahead but the fact that we are even on a path. If we want to experience lasting peace, it is vital to keep walking on the path of faith, to continue to follow the one who loves us, God our Father.