In her book The Path of Loneliness, Elisabeth Elliot tells of those early struggles to get up in the morning and go through the day without Jim at her side. Jim had been martyred for Christ in 1956 seeking to reach the Waorani people of Ecuador with the gospel. Adjusting to that loss and carrying that pain, Elisabeth had to learn simply to put one foot in front of the other in her daily walk of faith. She writes, “While I understood that in so great a loss God surely must have some great gain in mind, I was not nearly saintly enough always to see the little needling trials of the day as my ‘marching orders,’ the very process itself through which God’s great gain would be realized. I was to march, not to leap and bound. It was left, right, left, right.”
Elisabeth Elliot’s journey through pain and loss was a step-by-step process of submission, trust, and perseverance. She had to keep walking by faith. She had to keep marching forward each day, even when doubt and discouragement stood in her way. It was a matter of left, right, left. There was no leaping and bounding beyond the trial of Jim’s early death—just dogged steps of obedience through it.
The Christian life is a “left, right, left, right” proposition. God calls us in Christ to a daily walk of submission, trust, and perseverance. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul reminds them that having once walked in sin and death (Eph. 2:1–3, 11–13, 19; 4:17–22), they must now walk worthy of their calling (4:1), according to the new self (4:23–32), in love (5:1–2), as children of light (5:3–14), with wisdom (5:15–16).
Paul’s choice of the metaphor of walking for daily Christian living is a good one. The word “walk” is not merely a synonym for “life.” Rather, it highlights the decisive and deliberate, step-by-step character of our daily choices. The Christian has a distinctive walk, one that is marked by a thought-through pattern. The Christian marches through each day—left, right, left, right—believing his steps are ordered by the Lord (Psa. 37:23–24), seeking to establish his footsteps in God’s Word (Psa. 119:133), and desiring to keep in step with the Spirit so that he might enjoy the Spirit’s counsel, companionship, and comfort (Gal. 5:16). The Christian life is a daily walk made up of moment-by-moment steps that require reflection, resolution, and repetition.
While Isaiah 40:31 holds out the promise of flying and running, it also talks about walking. Sometimes that is all we can do. Warren Wiersbe notes, “Frankly, I think it is more difficult to keep on walking than it is to fly. Somehow during those crisis hours of life we turn to the Lord and find His power to help us soar above the problems. There is a special excitement and challenge about the emergencies of life; but what about the full daily routine of life? It is one thing to mount up with wings as the eagle, or to run and not be weary—but what about walking, walking, walking, day after day? . . . God has promised to give us the strength we need each day so that we can walk and not faint.”
Life can be pedestrian, but as we wait on the Lord, strength is given to keep walking—left, right, left, right!