Summary: Why is the narrow way the road less traveled? Because 1. It is difficult. 2. It is against the majority. 3. It includes persecution.
Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
(A spontneous skit can be done here. Have a group of 6-10 large men march in one direction, and have a small person or child try to push their way through the group going the opposite direction.)
When we read this scripture, we often think of the two roads running in different directions, perhaps as a fork in the road — the narrow way going off at an angle from the broad way. But the narrow way does not run at right angles to the broad way, the narrow way is the same road as the broad way, except it is headed in the opposite direction against the opposing crowd.
Psychiatrist M. Scott Peck wrote his classic book The Road Less Traveled, and took the title from Robert Frost’s famous poem “The Road Not Taken.” The poem ends with these familiar words…
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Peck begins the book with a simple, yet profound, sentence: “Life is difficult.” It is the whole premise of his book. He cites Carl Jung, another psychiatrist, who says: “Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” In other words, neuroses are psychological diseases like depression, anxiety, and obsessive behavior which are unhealthy attempts to avoid the hard work of facing and working at real life. Real life means accepting responsibility, facing our problems rather than avoiding them and doing the necessary hard work of life. Unhealthy people avoid these things. They take the broad way, and in the end actually experience more suffering than if they had taken the narrow way — the difficult way of the road less traveled.
Take the case of runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks, the 32-year-old medical assistant. She did not want to face the pressure of a big wedding with 600 guests and 28 attendants, so instead of scaling it back, eloping or calling it off, she made up a story that she had been abducted by two people in a van. So now, instead of facing the pressure of a wedding, she has embarrassed herself in front of the whole nation, and facing fines and possible jail time for filing a false police report. Unhealthy people try to avoid pain, and in the end create a great deal more pain than if they had faced their problems and handled them.
Scott Peck says that, “what makes life difficult is that the process of confronting and solving problems is a painful one.” And we do everything we can to avoid pain. He reminds us that, “Life is a series of problems,” and asks, “Do we want to moan about them or solve them? . . .Discipline is the basic set of tools we require to solves life’s problems. Without discipline we can solve nothing. With only some discipline we can solve only some problems.” Peck suggests four things that will, in his words, give us the “techniques of suffering, these means of experiencing the pain of problems constructively.” What he is talking about, and what Jesus is talking about, is maturity. Peck suggests we need four things in order to mature: 1. Delaying of gratification. 2. Acceptance of responsibility. 3. Dedication to truth. 4. Balancing.
These are spiritual principles as well as psychological and, essentially, this is the message of Jesus as well, since he was the original one who reminded us that life is difficult and the way to life hard. He spoke of the narrow gate, going through the eye of a needle, denying ourselves, taking up a cross. G. K. Chesterton said, “The Christian life has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and not tried.” If we are to find life; if we are to experience maturity; if we are going to become whole and healthy, we have to follow these principles. We have to stop whining that life is hard and begin the process of doing what is necessary in order for life to work. There is no easy way. Life is difficult. It is a series of problems and challenges. But God has given us the resources to become whole — if we are willing to do the hard work of facing and finding life. Moses spoke to the people saying, “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. . . . This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live” (Deuteronomy 30:15&19).