Trail Tips for Troublesome Days
By: Jeannie Waters, 1.cbn.com
My leg muscles screamed in protest as I gasped for breath and pulled myself upward to the next rest bench on the mountain trail. I promised myself, Girlfriend, you WILL be in better shape next year! Can you identify?
For several years, our family of four participated in a volksmarch, a German term for “people’s walk.” Beginning at the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail near Helen, Georgia, we walked only five kilometers, but with steep inclines, the distance seemed much further. At the finish line, with relief and perspiration, we accepted our medals as family tradition mementos.
Do you have days that feel like an arduous walk up a mountain and others that are more like a leisurely stroll? I do. On those troublesome days, challenges can feel like rocks in our backpack, slowing progress and discouraging us.
The verb walk in the Bible describes the daily life and behavior of one who has accepted Christ as Savior. Scripture teaches that Christians should align their actions with God’s Word.
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” Colossians 2:6 (ESV)
Paul prayed that believers would
“… walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; …” Colossians 1:10(ESV)
How can we live up to Paul’s description as we navigate the steep inclines of daily difficulties? Consider the following:
Look for markers in the Bible.
On the Appalachian Trail, arrowed signs pointed the way and prevented error when undergrowth obscured forks in the trail. The Bible is like a collection of markers, guiding us in God’s way. Bible study steadies and steers us when trials arise on those “mountain trail” days.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105 (ESV)
Lean on the Lord in prayer.
My walking stick worked like a lever to push me up the mountain when weak muscles faltered. Communication with God in prayer strengthens us when we meet roadblocks and encounter difficulties. Having an ongoing prayer conversation with God throughout the day not only helps us enjoy His presence but also yields His peace and wisdom to bolster us to the next level on the journey.
“… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 (ESV)
Listen to fellow Christ-followers.
Although I read the signs and used a walking stick, I also needed my family’s encouragement, and at some points, a literal push over the next ridge. Asking for help can be humbling, yet other Christians can remind us of biblical truth and the fact that God is always with us, even on hard days. Have you received encouragement from fellow believers?
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)
How is your walk today? Perhaps printing the verses above on cards and keeping them handy will help in troublesome times. When a day’s journey feels like a steep mountain hike, turn the day into an adventure with God by searching for His direction in the Bible and in prayer as you seek encouragement from fellow hikers.
Scripture Reading — Deuteronomy 6
Be careful that you do not forget the Lord. . . . — Deuteronomy 6:12
“He is physically OK, but I am losing him; he does not recognize me anymore.” Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and is the only one of the top 10 such diseases that cannot be prevented or cured. It is also one of the sicknesses most dreaded by a patient’s family. It is so sad to lose more of the patient each day and to watch him or her gradually lose memory and disappear into an isolated, confused world.
Memory is crucial to our daily life. It gives us a bearing on where we are and what we can do and say next. In giving the Israelites the Ten Commandments, God began with the words “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Exodus 20:2). These words gave the people a helpful reminder to follow God and to have hope for their future in the land he had promised them.
How can we remember the Lord? Like the Israelites, we can learn and talk about God’s Word each day, write it down, and use various methods to help us remember. As the psalmist says, “Blessed is the one . . . whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). In Christ, who fulfills God’s law and his promises for us, we can grow closer to God by treasuring his Word as a light for our pathway through life (Psalm 119:105).
DON’T FORGET YOUR FIRST LOVE
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lamp stands, say this: ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.'” – Revelation 2:1
Guess what? It didn’t happen overnight. A marriage falls into trouble because gradually, over time, the husband and wife stop prioritizing one another as their most important human relationship here on this earth. When that happens, their love can grow cold. One of the things that both Anne and I have learned to ask as we counsel folks struggling in their marriage is to remember what caused them to fall in love in the first place. The responses are always amazing.
It’s really quite similar in our relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s very rare that we suddenly rebel against God, wanting to have nothing to do with Him anymore. What tends to happen is over time, often subtly, we begin to drift away from God. He begins to no longer be the priority of our lives as other priorities creep in. Our hearts begin to grow cold towards the Lord. When that occurs, we find ourselves leaving the One who should be our first love – Jesus Christ.
Obviously, many of the reasons for leaving our first love, Jesus Christ, are well intended. But sometimes, good things cause us to neglect the best thing: good things like family, a job, or even our ministries. I really believe that perhaps the biggest temptation for anyone who serves in Christian ministry is to begin to confuse their ministry with their relationship with Jesus Christ. After all, what could more important than doing the work of the Lord? It’s a constant temptation.
Nothing and no one is to come before our relationship with Jesus Christ. If you feel as though you’ve wandered away from faith, the starting point is confessing it. Then ask God to help you remember the moment you first gave your life to Jesus.
I Don’t Want to Forget
“I thank my God every time I remember you.” Philippians 1:3 (NIV)
“And you are …?”
“I’m your favorite daughter-in-law, and don’t you forget it,” I say, laughing. It’s an old joke, but it’s new to him every single time.
My once strong patriarchal father-in-law has Alzheimer’s disease. It’s been a 10-year journey. Like a chalkboard that is slowly erased, his memories of us have faded away.
Recently we traveled to stay with him. As we were leaving, he pulled my husband, Richard, aside.
“Do I know you?” he asked.
“I’m your oldest son,” Richard said one more time.
His dad pulled a tattered wallet from his pocket and drew out a $20 bill. With tears he said, “Take this. You’ve been a good son.”
Richard left the money with his mom, but took something far more precious with him.
For a moment, his dad remembered.
My father-in-law’s struggle has taught us the power of remembering. Though my father-in-law’s memory has been stolen by disease, there are other things that rob us of that gift.
Sometimes I allow one painful moment to rob me of memories. A friend says something insensitive, or I argue with a loved one, and poof! All the good memories we’ve ever shared disappear, as I concentrate on that incident and build a case against her.
There are times I allow busyness to steal memories. I pile appointments on my calendar, forgetting that it’s just as valuable to play or talk with those around me.
There are seasons where I’ve wished away my memories: I can’t wait until they get older. I can’t wait until it’s spring. I can’t wait until I accomplish that goal. I can’t wait until things get easier.
In every season of life there are memories in the making. Like those of God’s faithfulness. Memories I’ll treasure as I run a finger across a photo. Memories of trusting God in every step of a new adventure.
When the book of Philippians was penned, it was a letter. As was the custom at that time, the first few lines of Paul’s letter was actually the “wrap-up.” A writer would pen the letter, finish it and then go back and write the first few lines as a summary.
This was Paul’s summary of his beautiful letter to the church of Philippi:
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you” (Philippians 1:1-3, NIV).
Many of the letters Paul wrote aimed to fix problems or remind a church to follow Jesus. This letter is different; Paul is in chains as he writes. The believers in Philippi offered support for Paul’s ministry during his imprisonment. They made a difficult time bearable, and that brought Paul joy.
The wrap-up was to simply say, “I thank God every time I remember you.”
I wonder what might happen in my own life if I focused on the wrap-up first.
Sure, we had an argument, but when I look at the big picture so many good memories are there. Let’s work through this.
Yes, life is busy, but when I look at what matters, memories will trump accomplishments. So let’s slow it down a bit and just enjoy the moment.
Yes, this season is hard, but maybe I’ll consider what God is doing in the midst of this season instead of wishing it away.
When we last saw my father-in-law, he was singing a song from his childhood. It was another rare moment. I’ll never forget his smile when we sang the last line with him.
Remembering is a valuable gift. Help us, Lord, to make, protect and treasure those sweet memories.