Red rocks at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Trusting God enough to accept His help

Do you ever get to that point in life where you just feel stuck? You’ve waited and waited for God to give you permission to move on to something else, and He isn’t saying anything. Or you feel trapped on a ledge that’s too steep to climb down and too treacherous to climb up?

Red rocks at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Red rocks at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verse is Isaiah 33:2.

But Lord, be merciful to us,
    for we have waited for you.
Be our strong arm each day
    and our salvation in times of trouble.

I don’t do much mountain climbing. I have asthma, and I’m generally uncoordinated. Combine both of those qualities, and hiking up a mountain trail is probably not a wise place for me to be. But while I and my friends were at Glen Eyrie over Memorial Day, I had planned to do a little mountain hike. Nothing big or scary. Just enough to get some more photos and see some beautiful things.

Well, that morning I started feeling pretty bad, so I bowed out. I was really disappointed, but I made the most of it and got some writing done. And my friends (who are more athletic than I am) were able to go on a little bit more challenging mountain hike. I wouldn’t have gone had I been with them … because I would have died. End of story.

They came back with some pretty amazing stories, though, including some fairly spectacular feats of agility. But there was one part of their climb where they were missing some much-needed upper body strength. My best friend told me later that the last time they’d gone on the hike, they’d had their brother with them, who was able to haul them up over cliff ledges and such when they weren’t strong enough. But on this climb, it was just the three girls.

Fortunately, there was a guy at the place where they needed help, and he pulled them up when they weren’t strong enough to climb up on their own.

When the Bible talks about God being our strong arm, that’s what I think about. He’s the man waiting on the mountain ledge, holding out a hand to help us climb over an obstacle that’s too much for us. The only trouble is, we have to trust Him enough to take His hand when He offers it.

I met this Good Samaritan mountain climbing gentleman before we left Glen Eyrie, and he looked pretty slight. Not that any of my friends are big, it’s just I would have doubted that he had the strength to hoist them up over a mountain ledge.

I think we do that to God sometimes. He’s right there, offering His help, and we hesitate because we don’t trust that He can support our weight. We don’t trust that He’ll catch us if we fall. We don’t trust that He’s stronger than He seems. So we stay on the cliff, frightened and discouraged because we can’t make any forward progress. And we ask God why He put us in such a helpless position. When the whole time, He’s standing right in front of us, trying to help us.

I am constantly trying to find the balance between waiting for God to work and taking the initiative to move ahead. Sometimes we’re supposed to wait. Sometimes we need to stay put and let God do what only He can do. But other times, we need to start climbing and stop waiting. But the one thing we should never do is move forward without holding on to Him.

So if you’re stuck on a proverbial mountain cliff this morning, even though it’s difficult, try not to feel sorry for yourself and start looking for God. Because I guarantee that He’s close at hand offering a way to climb higher. You just have to trust Him enough to take His hand.

And if you’re focused on Him completely and He’s not offering help yet, wait. That just means you have a few more moments to enjoy the view.

The Asthmatic Mountain Climber’s Guide to Life

I’ve never been mountain climbing. Not really. Considering that I have a hard time breathing when I even cross the state line into Colorado, climbing up on top of a mountain is probably not the smartest thing for me to do. I’d probably be so oxygen deprived that I’d make a stupid mistake and fall off the edge.

I have, however, been on a mountain hike before. And I hated it. Not that I didn’t love the scenery; it was beautiful. And not that I didn’t love the company; they were my best friends and the youth group I grew up with. I just couldn’t breathe. And breathing is kind of essential, no matter what you’re doing.

We were at a camp in Colorado, and yes it was beautiful, but the camp up there was psycho. I’m going to avoid names because probably some people have been to this camp, and they probably adored it. I didn’t think much of it, mainly because no one at the camp seemed to even believe that I had a respiratory problem and they took my inhaler away from me and I spent most of the week there unable to breathe. (They even made me play one of the games that entailed running around in the woods, and even when I actually did pass out and skin my knees all up, they still wouldn’t give me my inhaler to use.)

I mean, I was glad that I went to camp. I had never been before (and I never went again, to be honest), but I know I probably learned some valuable lessons about life (kind of the same lessons I learned from my first year in college). I will say, though, that I think back on that mountain hike a lot. The counselors pretty much rounded us all up and herded us up the mountain like a pack of sheep or cows or something. We didn’t have a choice. We had to go.

And I didn’t want to. But the counselors were my authorities, and I always tried to submit to my authorities even when I was a kid. And I knew I would be in trouble about halfway through the hike because they had taken my inhaler away and wouldn’t let me have it. But I went without a fuss because it was the right thing to do (this would be a good post about how authorities need to be responsible for the lives of the people they lead, but that’s totally a topic for another time).

I remember hiking up that mountain. It started out okay, but the higher we got, the harder the hike became. The rocks got looser, and the path disappeared. My lungs stopped working, pretty much, and I was having to take breaks after a couple of feet (remember that, Carrie?). I remember being dizzy and lightheaded, and I couldn’t enjoy the scenery around me because I was so focused on staying upright. But I took it slow (and my wonderful friends all kept coming back to check on me because they all just rock like that) and I eventually made it up to the top of the mountain. And, yes, the view was beautiful, but the journey back down was just as much trouble as the journey to the top. Actually more. Because going down, you are threatened to let yourself run, and my legs were already shaking so badly that running would have been a really awful idea. But we did it. We made it down to the bottom of the mountain and got water to drink, and I sat still and forced my lungs to work as best they could.

I’ve been thinking about that mountain hike a lot in the last month.

I am so overloaded with work, I can’t even express how much there is to do. And it keeps coming. And I can’t help feeling like I’m in the middle of that mountain hike with no inhaler, the path stretching onward and upward out of sight and I have no strength to keep following it, but I have to keep going because it’s the right thing to do.

It’s discouraging. It’s beyond discouraging. It’s the darkest, saddest feeling in the world, knowing that you’ve done your very best to achieve something and that you can’t make any progress either because you’re too weak or the task that’s been given to you is too big.

That’s why I love this verse.

Joshua 1:9

9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

 Joshua had a huge task in front of him. Much larger than a mountain hike. Much larger than a pile of work at a job. He had to lead the people of Israel in war. How overwhelming would that have been? And to have to fill the shoes of Moses? And the people of Israel had already prove to be the most difficult people in the world to lead. But God told him to be strong and courageous. God told him not to be afraid or to get discouraged, because God would be with him wherever he went.

I have to relearn this every morning, it feels like.

I have too much to accomplish on my own. I think that’s the point. I think that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We all have things in our lives that overwhelm us, things that are too big for us to handle on our own, but we have to realize that God is with us wherever we go. Whether it’s at the bottom of a mountain, at the top of it, or struggling on the way up (or the way down). He’s there. And there’s nothing that He can’t handle.

I’m not saying that the hike won’t still be hard. And it will probably intensify in difficulty before you get to the top or the bottom. But you won’t fail. Not if you let Him help.

Do your best. Keep working as hard as you can. Keep breathing. Keep climbing. And don’t worry about the rest. I honestly think that’s what God means when He says to let Him help.  Do your best. Do the best you can. And trust that He can work out the details of what you can’t do.

Even if God has you climb a mountain without your inhaler, He’ll always give you the strength to succeed . . . even if you have to take baby steps and a lot of rest breaks. And when you get back down to the bottom of the mountain, you’ll be able to look back and you’ll be able to see that He kept His promise. That He never left you. Not once. And the next time a mountain comes along your path, it will be much easier to climb.