Do you remember road trips before iPhones or Google maps? It’s amazing how much easier technology has made traveling and it’s hard to remember how we survived before. If you want to go on a road trip now you can just type where you’re going into your phone and you’ll get directions, traffic updates, where to eat along the way, and just about any other useful information you’d need. Back in the day, you had to have a big paper map in your car and it would never fold back the right way when you were done with it. Whoever rode shotgun would have to be the navigator. Hopefully they knew where you were going so you wouldn’t get lost, but if not you had to stop and ask for directions or find a pay phone and call somebody.

When my kids were younger, we took a lot of family road trips up to Atlanta to visit family. We always knew traffic would be bad on the way there, we just never knew the severity. One time we were driving on the highway and traffic had slowed to a crawl. We were way behind schedule and the only thing I could think of to do was pray to God to show us a way out. Luckily, I was in the right lane and I was able to get off on the next exit. I had no map or any idea where I was, but I somehow found the right way to go. I cut through a mall parking lot, down a road and found a ramp back on to the freeway. As we got on the ramp I looked to the south of us and it was wall to wall cars leading up to a wreck that was being cleared from the highway. I looked ahead of us and the ramp lead to an open highway. Somehow through all the chaos I was able to avoid the awful traffic.

Do you ever wish that there was an app that let you navigate life the way we navigate the road? Something that would help you in those difficult crossroads that determine the course of the rest of your life? What you really don’t want is to get years into a career or a relationship and realize you’ve spent most of the time going the wrong way. You probably have a good idea about where you are in life and what your dreams are for the future. You know where your “here” and your “there” is, but what about the in-between?

If you're feeling stuck about what path to take next, try to answer this question first: In light of my past experiences and my future dreams, what is the wise thing to do?

Solomon in Proverbs 27:12 said it this way:

“The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”

The prudent see danger and take a detour. They change course. They reroute. Even though this principle sounds simple, there’s something profound in it. It’s that wise people make choices about where they’re going before they get to danger, that way they aren’t faced with much tougher choices down the road. When we get to a place in life where we don’t like our choices that we’re left with, we are usually suffering the consequences of other past choices.

Life is short so we don’t want to be wasting precious time pursuing the wrong things, but there’s another downside to getting lost: the options to get back on course are often much worse than they would have been earlier on the journey. It’s hard to break-up with a boyfriend or girlfriend when you start to see red flags, but it’s a lot harder and costlier to weather a divorce. It’s hard when you decide stick to a budget and live within your means, but it’s a lot harder to try to fix your finances after you’ve taken on unsustainable debt.

It’s direction, not intention, that determines our destination. It takes action to live a life that’s fulfilling, so if you see your life going in the wrong direction, there is no better time than now to do something about it. The primary difference between the prudent and the simple is not what they see, but how they respond to what they see.

Pastor Eric Partin is the lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Destin and can be reached at ericpartin@shorelinechurch.net.