Hiking in the mountains brings a spectrum of spiritual, gospel-grabbing lessons. Thigh-burning ascents make the view at the end worthwhile. Valleys, pastures of rocky paths and bum-busting descents usher in humility and careful attention. There are rocks on the mountainside that lay right on the surface, shifting and changing from constant erosion, turning seasons and the tread of life. And there are the rocks that are secured deep to the mountain, anchored to the larger rock itself.
When hiking with my daughters, I am vigilant to go before them to test the path. I am emphatic that they stay close when we are on a particularly difficult section. I make sure to tell them, repeatedly, to avoid the loose rocks that will surely result in a fall and to instead put their weight on the rocks that offer a firm foundation.
The Lord as our Good Shepherd does this and so much more. He goes before us, making our paths straight even when they seem sinewy and steep. He places our feet on firm ground (Psalm 26:12, Psalm 40:2).
God prepares, protects and provides for us in ways we can’t imagine. The Good Shepherd doesn't lead us down the wrong paths, but the right ones. The best ones. Even detours are part of His divine leading.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake" (Psalm 23:1-3).
Life is full of figurative mountains that will come in many different forms. We are either climbing up a mountain, descending one or at the base preparing to begin another one. There’s really no flat ground in following God. But Jesus will guide us through them all if we abide in Him.
Perhaps the peak you’re currently ascending is the mountain of the mundane. Day after day, you plod through the same worn pathways with the same view and the same end result. You keep treading along, up and down the same schedule with seemingly little progress. You feel your life being sucked away by this ordinary routine. Is this all there is, you think? A lack of change can be excruciating for those of us who crave dynamic and multi-dimensional living. Joy in the journey seems like a joke.
Maybe your mountain is a medical condition; whether temporary, chronic or terminal, a medical mountain can seem like Everest. It takes its toll on your body, mind, soul, spirit, and pocketbook. It often requires someone else, or many others, to help carry you to the top. This mountain packs on more weight than most. It’s like nothing you could have ever trained or prepared for, with its constant switchbacks and sudden elevation changes, bringing you high with hope and then dipping you low with setbacks and conflicting reports. This is a humbling and frightening foot hill that stretches you to your very limits. The only reliable map for this rocky mountain is the faith-inducing words of Scripture and the constant character of God.
Maybe your mountain is relational. Whether it’s singlehood, which can feel like grasping at branches winter-worn from the chill of rejection, or a difficult marriage, which can feel like the kind of climb where you can’t catch your breath and the very air you breathe burns your lungs, or a lost friendship or family fracture, relational mountains bruise and scrape the soul.
Grief is a mountain range, with its many stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, the ascent to acceptance. It’s hard to know how to navigate the way forward, or if you even want to, with the absence of that loved one or even a lost opportunity. Yet, Jesus as our Shepherd promises to lead you beside quiet waters. He promises to be near to your broken heart (Psalm 34:18). He promises to comfort you. He promises that goodness and faithful love will pursue you all the days of your life, even when the life of the one you love has ended here on earth (Psalm 23:6).
Moves and careers, infertility and miscarriage, parenting and school, and a million other things can present themselves as mountains that wear down an already world-weary soul.
Mountains come in all shapes and sizes, and they all require God's guidance and strength.
Life's mountains aren't meant to mar our relationship with God but to redeem and transform it.
They are meant to conform us to the image of Christ and to aid in bringing about the completed work of God in us (Philippians 1:6).
All of our paths are a pilgrimage with holy purpose that the Lord Himself has destined.
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8).
God has gone before you. He is with you now. He is in the daily grind, the doctor's office, the death and divorce and the devastation of loss. He will never leave you or abandon you. He will carry the weight of your worries and woes. He carried it all on the cross and will carry it even now, right at this very moment. Do not be afraid or discouraged.
Abide in Jesus on whatever mountain you are facing today. Call out His name. Know His voice. Be led by His Word. The Good Shepherd is guarding you every step of the way.