Trails or Trials?

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Trails or Trials?

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I shouldered my 40-pound backpack, and my wife, Jennifer, and I locked our car and started toward one of the trails entering the Great Smoky Mountains. Standing at the trailhead making last-minute adjustments to our packs, we looked at each other and smiled as if to ask, "Are you ready?" With a quick nod we began with intensity our journey into the great outdoors.

After 15 to 20 minutes, we went from intensity to fatigue because our trek was all uphill. Surprised at not seeing other hikers, we quickly realized we had picked one of the harder trails. But after all, that was what we wanted, solitude!

Half an hour later our legs burned and our lungs cried, "STOP, YOU IDIOT!" The trail was very misleading as I kept telling Jen, "I think I see it leveling off up ahead!" It was as if I was seeing a mirage in the desert. Approaching what appeared to be the climax of the ascent, we saw the trail leading around the bend and, yes, you guessed it, uphill again.

Our seemingly never-ending approach to the top was not all anguish because the beauty of the forest around us and the fresh air—which we were breathing four times faster than normal—was helping distract us from the flames bursting from our thigh and calf muscles.

At that point I worried that I was starting to lose credibility in Jen's mind. "Oh, Honey, I'm sure it's just up ahead." In my own mind I started to wonder if this mountain even had a summit—which led me to the question: What could I learn from this challenge?

It reminded me of the many trials and hardships the early disciples faced, yet they were delighted, even honored, that they were able to suffer those things for Jesus Christ (Acts 5:41). Climbing a mountain with burdens on our backs is a physical equivalent to the spiritual challenges around the many corners of our lives.

Moses said that God "will not leave you nor forsake you" ( Deuteronomy 31:6). God was encouraging ancient Israel when He was about to lead them across the Jordan River to the Promised Land. Yet this promise still stands for us today. He will help us climb any hill or mountain to reach the top as long as we ask for His help and obey Him.

God often provides tools and blessings along the way to give us a boost to overcome any hardship. That does not mean we will be shielded or protected from hard times or trials. But in taking on those trials, we can ask for God's hand to guide us to the end. We cannot give up, but must keep trekking forward.

If Jen and I would have given up on this incredible challenge and not finished the trail, we wouldn't have experienced the breathtaking views, wildlife and solitude when we finally attained the top. Reaching our destination on that day didn't mean that there wouldn't be other hills or mountains to climb tomorrow. Likewise, our relationship with God gets stronger and this helps us face future hills and mountains of life. It also enables us to encourage those walking similar trails we have already hiked.

When we have mountains to climb, remember, what matters most is not the ascent of one mountain, but the number of hills and mountains we climb together with God. For more insight on spiritual climbing, request or download the free booklet The Road to Eternal Life. VT

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