My husband and I had arrived in Colorado a few days earlier. Eager for exercise, we drove to a campsite near Silverton and set up our tent. After eating a quick lunch we set off up a mountain trail heading to Ice Lake knowing little about the path except that it was “strenuous.” I’ve come to understand that word in a whole new way!
This hike was difficult. With an elevation gain of 2,430 feet in three and a half miles, we Iowa flat-landers felt the pain of thin air with every step. We were not mountain climbing, but rather, hiking a mountain trail, which sounds easy enough. But when breathing becomes laborious, it is tough for the body to perform. I tried to count fifty steps before stopping and gasping deeply trying to pull in something from the thin air that would keep me alive. Fifty more steps and I stopped again. I thought, “Breathe in. Breath out. You can do this!”
As I tramped along, my mind wandered to loved-ones who have been climbing their own strenuous “mountain trails.” Some are in grief or incredible physical pain. Fear, self-hatred and anger threaten to overwhelm others. Each moves forward one step at a time.
Psalm 27:11 says, “Teach me Your way, O Lord, and lead me in a plain and even path because of my enemies who lie in wait for me.”
I agree with David! This path would have been much easier if it had not climbed upward! The heights caused the problems!
But, the outstanding and awe-inspiring unique beauty would not have appeared on an easy level path! Such scenic wonders can only be observed and stepped into at high elevations. Neon orange, purple and bright scarlet red wildflowers delighted us along the way.
Encouraging myself to look around and NOT miss the natural wonders all around kept me moving forward.
The pine smell through the trees, the gurgling waterfalls, the whistle of the marmots keeping an eye on us; all gave us courage to keep going. Did I mention the mountain peaks, a gentle fog quietly drifting into the meadow and even an occasional hiker? Each encouraged us to keep walking. All were glorious distractions, as we suffered, hardly able to breathe, with bodies aching for rest.
Ah, my friends who are suffering, do you not find blessings along the way? Step by step God is your guide and companion. Although the path is not plain and even, it is all the more spectacular because it is steep and difficult. But there is surprising beauty to spur you on. He is with you.
When we finally reached the top, Ice Lake sat there quietly in all its turquoise blue glory. Mountain peaks surrounded us. Sitting on a boulder, we inhaled the glory of God while resting our bodies and feeding our souls. With thunder rolling menacingly in the distance we couldn’t stay very long. After a while we stood, revived and ready for the downward climb, again a very difficult and lengthy undertaking.
But Ice Lake provided us with an inner strength to persevere. There was more pain to endure: steady rainfall, muddy paths, tiny hailstones, and aching legs met us along the way. But we made it. Step by step we found our way back down the mountain trail and safely into our campsite seven hours after starting.
That path was very difficult but there were sights I would never have seen while hovering on the well-known path of security and “easy.” Perhaps this is the way of life, the way of faith. Some of the glories along the difficult way make life richer, deeper and more stunning than we could have ever imagined.
On whatever path we find ourselves, we can open our eyes to the beauty God sends upon the treacherous passageway. He knows. He is with us. We do not trek alone. He has the wisdom and strength to provide what we need…to BE what we need.
Psalm 28:7 “The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.”
Even on the heights of pain, grief, or fear we can get through this week, this day, this hour, this moment, because He is near. Step by step. Breathe. Step by step. Breathe. One, two, three…