Abraham recognized that it was time for a change. “I, Abraham, saw that it was needful for me to obtain another place of residence,” he wrote (Abraham 1:1). God had promised to lead him by the hand (Abraham 1:18), and take him to “a strange land” where his descendants would become “a great nation” (Genesis 12:1-2).
The journey wasn’t a straight line. First, Abraham moved to a place which they named Haran, after his deceased brother (Abraham 2:1-4, Genesis 11:28, 31). Then, they traveled to Canaan, where God said, “Unto thy seed I will give this land” (Abraham 2:16-19, Genesis 12:6-7). Because of a famine, they subsequently relocated to Egypt (Abraham 2:21, Genesis 12:10). Even when they came back to Canaan, Abraham allowed his nephew Lot to take the more fertile area on the plain of Jordan, while Abraham settled in the less attractive plain of Mamre (Genesis 13).
That series of moves might seem chaotic, but the apostle Paul saw something deeper in the narrative—each step of the journey, Abraham was growing closer to God:
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.Hebrews 11:8-10
When God commanded Lehi to take his family out of Jerusalem into the wilderness, they were not happy. Looking backwards, they only saw what they were leaving behind. But Nephi prayed for understanding, and God helped him look forward:
Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments, ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise; yea, even a land which I have prepared for you; yea, a land which is choice above all other lands.1 Nephi 2:20
Many years earlier, when God scattered the people at the Tower of Babel, a man named Jared focused with optimism on the unknown future instead of the comfortable past: “Who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth?” (Ether 1:38). And God led them to a place which He called the land of promise (Ether 2:7-9).
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once told students that God would lead them to their own promised land:
Your own little acre flowing with milk and honey. Your future. Your dreams. Your destiny. I believe that in our own individual ways, God takes us to the grove or the mountain or the temple and there shows us the wonder of what his plan is for us. We may not see it as fully as Moses or Nephi or the brother of Jared did, but we see as much as we need to see in order to know the Lord’s will for us and to know that he loves us beyond mortal comprehension. I also believe that the adversary and his pinched, calculating little minions try to oppose such experiences and then try to darken them after the fact. But that is not the way of the gospel. That is not the way of a Latter-day Saint who claims as the fundamental fact of the Restoration the spirit of revelation.“Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence,” Brigham Young University Devotional Address, 2 March 1999
Today, I will look to the future with optimism and faith, believing that God will lead me to the experiences and opportunities which will help me grow and enable me to bless other people. However non-linear my journey may seem, I will trust that the spiritual path is more straight, and that I am growing closer to Him.