I’ve become a bit of a hiker this year. I grew up hiking every summer in Maine on family camping trips and day trips to the woods. Then continued the practice throughout high school, college and beyond, making sure to go at least a few times each summer when the weather was nice. The past few months though, I’ve been hiking at least once a week. I’m at a point where I feel pretty good on moderately rated trails, with six miles being my sweet spot.
This weekend was different though. It started off the same when Saturday morning rolled around: drove into the mountains, laced up my boots and hit the trail with a few friends. Nearly immediately though, it felt H-A-R-D. And I’m not talking the my-caffeine-hasn’t-quite-kicked-in kind of hard. I’m talking about the maybe-it-would-be-better-if-I-turned-back-here kind of hard. Every once in a while, I feel like giving up or giving in and can push through for the reward, but Saturday I was just over it. Every step felt like a chore. Every mile seemed as if it lasted an eternity. Now I would love to tell you that I just flipped some switch, started focusing on the all the positives and felt great by the end of it, but that’s just not reality. It was hard for every single step. All 6.3 miles of moderately rated trail.
Sometimes life feels a little like this. Just when we think we have a handle on something, it feels harder than ever. Some days are just hard, no matter how much we have prepared for them. Hard is a part of life, no matter what season we are in. I would venture to say that if there is not an ounce of hard in your life, you’re probably doing it wrong. Or just lying about it.
Every good hike I have ever been on has its challenges. If not, it’s just a walk. My favorite hikes are long trails with steep inclines, rock scrambles and other difficult features. Why I love those hikes though, is for their breathtaking views. I wish I could say I was hardcore and simply loved those things, but honestly I just want the view. Life is similar in that way. So often we desire the good views, but are looking to take an easy stroll to get there. The truth of the matter is that if we want the good, we are going to have to walk through some hard.
There is not a lot of good without the hard.
Today you could be in the thick of the hard. You may feel like you are ready to turn back, throw in the towel, give it all up. My challenge to you is to not let a hard day or month or year on the trail change your view of the trip. I spent Saturday, mostly miserable and in pain, hiking along a path in the woods. I can’t say that I enjoyed it, but guess what? I’m not quitting hiking, because I’ve seen where the trail can lead me. I’ve stood on the top of mountains, at the foot of waterfalls, inside canyons. There is so much that remains to be seen when we just keep pushing through the hard.
The prize, however, is not simply in the destination. Those views from the top become our Ebenezers, our reminders of the Lord’s faithfulness. It is the trail, though, where we get to experience His enduring faithfulness, when the going is hard and all we can see are the trees surrounding us. The trail has so much to teach us. Today if you are hiking a hard path, hold on. Remember God’s faithfulness in the past, but perhaps more importantly, identify how He is being faithful today in the forest.