Have you ever felt completely lost and off-track from where you want to be in life? Maybe you made a series of choices that led you down an unintended and unhappy path. Or perhaps challenging circumstances beyond your control derailed you from your goals and dreams.

Losing your way can happen gradually before you even realize how far you’ve drifted. Other times, it strikes you all at once with a sobering jolt that leaves you wondering “How did I end up here?” Wherever you are in that difficult journey, there is hope for righting your course and rediscovering your path.

The biblical story of Jonah offers remarkable insights about getting back on track when you’ve strayed from the path you’re meant to be on. While just a small book in the Bible, it contains a wealth of wisdom about the resistance we can feel to accepting accountability, the denial and avoidance tactics we deploy when faced with a daunting calling, and the wake-up calls we sometimes need to shake us out of complacency.

Jonah was a prophet called by God to go to the powerful city of Nineveh and deliver a warning message. But Jonah didn’t just ignore the calling – he literally ran in the opposite direction to avoid it. He boarded a ship headed thousands of miles away across the Mediterranean Sea.

Why would Jonah be so resistant to this mission from God? For one, Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, Israel’s cruelest enemy at the time. Going there would have been akin to an American being asked to travel to the heart of extremist territory. It was a terrifying prospect that he wanted no part of.

Jonah may have convinced himself that avoiding this directive was justifiable self-preservation. Or perhaps he figured that since other prophets could take the task, he was off the hook. We’ve all been there at times – making excuses and rationalizing decisions that allow us to bypass difficult callings and follow an easier path of our own making.

The book of Jonah shows that you can only run for so long before forces greater than yourself get your attention. As Jonah sailed across the open sea, God sent a violent storm that threatened to destroy the ship. The terrified sailors evenutally realized Jonah’s disobedience had caused the turmoil, and he had to be thrown overboard to save them all.

When you’ve wandered down the wrong path through your own willful choices, life has a way of sending you wake-up calls too. They may come as emotional storms of anxiety, depression, broken relationships, or inner turmoil. Or they could look like external crises in the form of job loss, financial troubles, or other painful consequences. These tempests are what finally shake you out of denial and force you to face the truth you’ve been avoiding.

For Jonah, his reckoning came literally when he went overboard and found himself plunged into the depths of the sea, certain to drown. In that dark place, alone and devoid of control, he was finally humbled enough to cry out to God for help. God mercifully allowed a great fish to swallow Jonah, which became the temporary shelter that saved his life.

When life’s storms have left you feeling as though you’re drowning with no way out, those may be the most redefining moments where you finally accept that you need rescue and redemption. In the belly of the fish, Jonah cried out in humble prayer to God, fully taking responsibility for his situation and recommitting himself to obedience:

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me…Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you…I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.'”

After being divinely preserved and given a second chance, Jonah ultimately carried out the mission he had originally tried to flee from. He went to Nineveh and delivered God’s message, allowing the people to hear truth and turn from their sinful ways.

Like Jonah, the first step to getting your life back on course after losing your way is to let go of the pride, stubbornness, and fear that led you astray. You have to reach a place of humility where you finally accept that the path you’ve been on is the wrong one and that you need help to be rescued.

Trying harder through your own efforts is often futile. You need divine intervention to overcome the forces that have led you into your current lost condition. It requires being deeply honest with yourself about where you’ve ended up, owning your part in how you got there, and crying out for the strength and guidance to change course.

The next crucial step is being willing to obediently follow the new path you’re being called to, rather than continuing to resist. For Jonah, this meant finally going to Nineveh and doing the hard thing he had originally balked at. For you, it may mean leaving behind an unhealthy relationship, getting help for an addiction, or pursuing an endeavor you’ve been putting off out of fear.

Getting back on track with your purpose and potential won’t be easy, but it will be immensely rewarding. There will likely still be storms of adversity along the way that test your newfound humility and obedience. But like Jonah, if you persist on the path you were meant to follow, you’ll discover more of your true calling and the profound difference you’re able to make in the world.

The person you’re able to become – the person you were always meant to be – is waiting for you at the end of the long journey back to where you belong. Though the way may seem impassible at times, persevering through the resistance within yourself and the obstacles without will lead you to the redemption, purpose and profound joy of finally being on your path again.

Have you found yourself off-course recently or wandering aimlessly away from where you know you’re meant to be? Look for the humbling storms and soul-saving interventions that are compelling you to change trajectories. Be willing to let go of the stubborn pride keeping you stuck in the wrong way. And listen for the new calling you’re being summoned towards – then have the courage to obediently set sail in that new direction.

Getting back on your intended path in life is possible, no matter how lost you’ve become or how long you’ve been adrift. But it requires looking inward with brutal honesty, letting go of what’s holding you back, and humbly placing your trust in the new journey you’re being invited to embark upon.

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About the Author: Misha Hulett
Misha grew up in southeast Michigan, right outside of Detroit. He went to Eastern Michigan University to be an elementary special education teacher and taught for four years. In 2011, he started attending 2|42 and quickly got involved volunteering in student ministry. He had been involved in churches his entire life, but discovered a call to ministry through volunteering with high school students. In 2013, Misha joined the staff as the high school director in Brighton. As Misha says, "I just want to walk with Jesus and help other people do the same." Misha and his wife, Brittany, love coffee and adventure. They have a 2-year-old son, Wilder, who lights up their world.

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