“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”- Jeremiah 29:11-13
“It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.”- Muhammad Ali
Pikes Peak in Colorado soars to an elevation of 14, 110 feet. One way to access the summit is via a cog railway. As the train passes the tree line around 11,800 feet, the terrain becomes ragged and plant life scarce. Yet the magnificent vista of “purple mountain majesties” is breathtaking. Katharine Lee Bates’ (“America the Beautiful”) trek up Pikes Peak in 1893 was much more adventuresome- the first half by carriage, the rest by burro. After 30 minutes on the crest, the arduous trip was repeated before darkness set in.
On our trek through the valley of loneliness, brokenness, and fear, we question what possible good awaits us at the apex of our journey- or if there’s an end at all. Crushed by the avalanche of our ministry downsizing or vocation loss, anxiety and discouragement impede our progress. When life was good, we felt a sense of purpose and calling. Now that all appears to have vanished into thin air. Yes, the road is hard and there are no quick answers. But Jesus already has gone before us. We have need for nothing more than His faithful presence. Nothing can compare with what’s in front of us. As Michael Card sings: “We can’t imagine the freedom we find from the things we leave behind.”
In Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, Timothy Keller observes that if everything in life is good, we have no basis for comparison. Our love relationship with God becomes more and more genuine in suffering:
“When times are good, how do you know if you love God or just love the things he is giving you or doing for you? You don’t , really . . . . In a sense, it is only in suffering that faith and trust in God can be known to be in God . . .”