Last week Kaila and I spent 5 days traveling around the North shore of Lake Superior. It was breathtaking. The number of rivers, waterfalls, lakes, beaches, and trees was mind-blowing. Well if you know us, then you know we love to get off the beaten path and explore the places that most folks never dream of going. Which is exactly what led us to hike through a mountain. Yes, you read that correctly. Not over. Not around. Through a mountain from top to bottom. There was a massive crack that penetrated the entire depths of the rock. In some places reaching over 1,000 feet deep and only barely wide enough to turn sideways and shimmy our way through.
It was somewhere in the middle of this mountain, watching my wife nervously push her way further down into the bowels that I started thinking about how hard it might be to get out. As I started to look around it didn't take long to realize there weren't many options. Keep pressing forward in hopes that we would find a way out of this giant slit in the earth or turn and go back. But after you've gone so far the idea of going back the way you came quickly loses its appeal. It's steep - really steep back up. The rocks are loose. There were dead animals we inadvertently climbed over on the way down. And it was a long climb down. Going back the way we came was the last resort in my mind. So we pressed on, further down, deeper, darker, tighter, fingers crossed.
[ You really have to zoom in on the middle pic to find Kaila and get a sense of the scale ]
With all of that in mind, it got me thinking about all the times I've been in situations like that in my life. Not stuck in a crack in the middle of a mountain. But the times when I've really felt stuck. In a spot where it felt like I had no options, at least not any good ones.
In my early 20's after making several bad financial decisions, I felt like bankruptcy was the only way out of the mess I was in. Then there was the time in my early 30's that I had scraped together enough money for a down payment on a minivan and against my better judgment, I stretched our family budget to take out a loan. After making one payment on it the transmission and motor both experienced catastrophic failure. It would cost far more to repair the van than the remaining $7,000 I owed at the time. That was a stuck feeling. Or later in life when I found myself 20 years into a marriage with someone who was unfaithful and didn't want to stay and work it out. That was a season of feeling like the walls were closing in and my options were few and crappy.
But hiking through this epic crack in a mountain and reflecting on the hard spots I've been in my life also got me thinking about a story I remember reading in the Bible. The Bible is full of stories about people in tough spots. But the story that came to mind was about a king who was trying to do the right things. He didn't always make the best choices and his choices certainly led him into some tough spots. In fact, the story that came to mind was about a time when he was in such a tough spot that it truly seemed like he and his countrymen would face death at the hands of a larger, more powerful enemy that was marching their way. The story shows up in the book of 2 Chronicles chapter 20. The king is Jehoshaphat. If you're not familiar with it I'd encourage you to check it out.
The thing that stood out to me was that he did what so many of us do when we get in a terrible spot. He prayed. He went to God and pled for mercy, for help, for intervention. The interesting thing is God answered him. He told a young man there in the assembly to stand up and speak for him. To tell the king and all those nearby that God said He would indeed spare them. He told him these very profound words, "This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s." 2 Chronicles 20:15.
At first, glance that sounds like such a great answer from God and I had to wonder if the people immediately felt a sense of peace. If they started to pack up and go home let God sort it all out. But the words that came just after that statement are the ones that really caught me. VS 16; "Tomorrow, march out against them. You will find them coming up through the ascent of Ziz at the end of the valley that opens into the wilderness of Jeruel. But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you!”
This is God's battle. Don't be afraid. Don't be discouraged by the size of the problem. By the immensity of your adversary. By the weight of your situation. For the battle is not yours, but God's. BUT... You still have to show up. March out. Take your position. Then, and only then do you get to stand still and watch the Lord deliver victory. To me, this story is a powerful reminder about trusting God. In my logical mind, I can see all the reasons why I'm in a mess. Why I'm stuck. Why I'm screwed. Why I can't get out of the mess I'm in. But then I remember this story and I remember that I still have to show up. And that takes heart. It takes courage. And it takes a deep abiding trust that God is for you and like a good dad He isn't going to let someone bully His kids. But showing up is tough. Showing up means letting your guts override your brain and get your feet moving.
I'm still leaning into this lesson and learning. Still looking to stories in the Bible about people who have gotten themselves in hard places - people I can relate to. And watching for how God works. What God asks of them and how they respond.
At the end of it all, I'm trying to stay faithful to the invitation from Jesus to drop my plans and follow Him. Another request to show up - something He learned from His dad no doubt.
I'd love to hear your thoughts. What is God teaching you about showing up and trusting Him when you're in tough seasons in your life? How are you doing answering the call to show up and follow Jesus?
Feel free to comment here or shoot me an email anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
PS: Want to see a cool video that documents the whole crazy hike through that mountain?