The Path of Life (1)
Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI
Psalm 119:105: “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
Last summer, my family and I went on a long camping trip out West. Although not all members of the family would agree, one highlight of the experience was hiking in Grand Teton and Rocky Mountain National Parks. The scenery was beautiful and the weather was pleasant enough to allow us to do what we wanted to do.
If you are going hiking, there are some things which you had better bring with you. This is especially true when hiking with children. You had better bring ample food and you had better have plenty of water. It also helps to have a good map and a compass. The more popular trails are marked with signs but, if you wish to hike in areas of the park which are more remote and away from the crowds, you should have a map and compass.
Years ago my wife and I lived in Loveland, Colorado, so we could hike in the mountains. There used to be a sign in the Visitor Center at Rocky Mountain National Park which said, “The mountains don’t care.” The rangers were giving a warning with that sign. What the rangers meant was that if a hiker found himself in trouble, the mountains would not help. Did you not dress warmly enough? Don’t expect the mountains to give you a sweater or make the clouds go away so the sunshine can warm you. Did you not plan for the daily afternoon rain? Don’t expect the mountains to keep you dry. Did you not bring enough food or water? The mountains will not provide a convenience store for you.
Hiking and camping are good reminders about our place as pilgrims on earth. When we camp, we are only passing through for a short time. A permanent home awaits us at the end of the trip. When the weather is unpleasant, chilly or rainy (perhaps even snowy, if you are in the mountains) hikers and campers can look forward to the comforts of home. As Christians, we are to look forward to the promise of our lasting homes in heaven.
There is one hiking trail from this recent expedition which stands out in my memory. The trail began at a lake in the Grand Tetons. The trail went up the side of a ridge. The ridge was rather steep, so the trail had many switchbacks in it. Although the switchbacks make the trail longer, the fact that the trail goes up hill more gradually makes the hike less difficult. A hiking trail which goes straight up the ridge, though shorter in distance, would not only be harder, it would also cause erosion when rain water runs down it.
God can do this to us in life sometimes. We may believe we have a better, simpler or more pleasant way planned for our lives. The Israelites thought this when they left Egypt under the leadership of Moses. The promised land was only a short hike away along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea! Yet God led them by way of the Red Sea! God’s path for them did make sense. The Israelites had to learn to trust God and confess that His ways were always best, even in times when they could not see how that was true.
The trail in the Grand Tetons had some hazards along the way. There were many pine and aspen trees along the trail. The roots of these trees would often reach across the trail. If I did not watch my step, I could easily trip over the roots. The path also had many rocks in it. I had to keep my eyes open so I would not stumble over them.
We can trip or stumble on our path of life, too. Satan places temptations along our way. He would love to see us fall into sin. He especially enjoys it when our sins can cause us not to trust each other or even dislike each other. We have to be alert, constantly, for the many ways Satan tempts us in life, even here in our Christian school. We stumble when we call someone a name. We stub our toes when we make some one feel unwelcome. We fall when we spread or repeat nasty stories, whether they are true or false, about one another. As we grow older, and Satan gets to know us better, life’s temptations become more serious. We have more opportunities to experience what the world as to offer and we gain more independence from parents.
The weather during our hike was typical for the mountains. It was a partly cloudy afternoon with scattered showers. When the sun shone, it was pleasantly warm. I even took my sweatshirt off and tied it around my waist because I was becoming a little warm. Then the clouds would return and sometimes bring rain. The temperature would drop and I would put my sweatshirt on again. We hoped the rain would not settle in for the rest of the day.
Our lives are similar. There are times when God gives us the sunny days of prosperity. We enjoy what God gives us to do and the fellowship of those around us. We have the health we need to do the work God gives us to do. We have the ability to perform our responsibilities. These are the times for which we give thanks to God. However, there are also times when God sends cold rain into our lives. I can promise you, if God has not yet brought great sorrow to your life, the day comes when He will. We will all have to deal with the death of loved ones. There will be times when we struggle physically and spiritually. We may experience sickness. We may feel inadequate to do the tasks God lays before us. We begin to wonder if there is any point to doing our work anyway. These are the times when God instructs us to be patient in adversity.
We continued along the trail. We really could not see much of what was ahead of us because the trees were tall and thick. We could see some mountain tops through the trees from time to time and knew there must be some beautiful views ahead. The trail was beginning to feel a little long. As we continued up the trail, we met a man coming back. He stopped to talk with us. He told us, “You only have about 15 more minutes to walk. Then the trail opens into a beautiful valley. The view is spectacular!” That news gave a little more energy to our steps. I felt encouraged! This long hike would have a rewarding destination after all!
We have a rewarding destination too. No one has come back to earth from heaven to tell us what it is like. No one can even tell us how much longer we will have to continue on our pathway until God brings to heaven. However, we do have the Word of God. He has told us enough about His heavenly kingdom to know that it is beautiful and that we will love it there in perfect fellowship with Him in Jesus Christ. ... to be continued