I had never hiked a 14er before. It was something that I had wanted to do for a while, but was hesitant because of the almost guaranteed altitude sickness that I get every time I visit Colorado.
Simply driving through Rocky Mountain National Park requires a lot of endurance for me, much less hiking up one of those rocky mountains.
There were several times that I was convinced I might not make it; that the challenge was simply too much for me to handle; and the fear of suddenly getting lightheaded or sick always being a nearby probability.
Yet, in the weeks following our hike (yes, I did make it to the summit!), there have been so many lessons that I have gleaned from that experience that have encouraged me greatly in the faith. As I’ve unpacked those lessons and worked through the truths about God’s character and promises that somehow seemed more clear at 14,000 feet, my desire to share what God has been teaching me continues to grow.
three lessons on endurance
How do we press on when the path we’re on is rocky, steep, and difficult, with no end in sight?
LISTEN TO THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE YOU.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV
In climbing a mountain, as it is with faith, one of the many graces that the Lord gives us is the wisdom and experiences of others, which is intended to both encourage us to keep going and turn us towards repentance when necessary.
In the early stages of our hike, the excitement must have gotten to my head, as I sped along the trail and took to it at a rather brisk pace. It was a moderate trail at this point, which made it even more tantalizing to move quickly.
However, my husband, who had experience with hiking 14ers, told me that I needed to slow down and follow his pace. I didn’t really want to, and I didn’t for quite a while, until regret that I could feel in my lungs and legs caused me to humbly change my approach.
Several hours later, as I labored up the steepest part of the mountain, barely able to keep up with my husband’s steady pace, I let out a groan as the false summit ahead revealed more steep, rocky trail. “Oh my gosh, it’s never ending,” I said to no one in particular.
But just as I made my discouragement known, a stranger on his way back down the mountain graciously encouraged me to keep going. “It’s so close,” he said. “Keep going, you won’t regret it!”
God intentionally and mercifully surrounds us with people who are intended to aid in our sanctification process. We see this in relationships like marriage, our families, church communities, and work environments. All are on purpose and all are put in our lives as sources of encouragement, conviction, wisdom, and strength.
As we faithfully listen to those whom God has granted much wisdom through trial and experience, we are encouraged to endure in one of two ways: 1) by throwing off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles (like my pride and ignorance); and 2) by fixing our eyes on Jesus (the summit) and running with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.Romans 12:12, NIV
One thing that my husband encouraged me to do as we prepared for this hike was to talk. He told me that especially when the hike becomes difficult and when the aches and pains of the body consume our thoughts, the best thing to do is to talk; to get the mind to focus on something else.
What the mind focuses on either aids in or quickly deteriorates our ability to endure. If you think about how heavy and sluggish your legs feel, they will only feel that way that much more because you’re focused on it. The same thing is true in life and faith.
With so many internal and external circumstances that vie for our attention and demand our focus, we can quickly feel overwhelmed by and consumed with feelings of fear, anxiety, depression, and doubt if we allow ourselves to focus on them. The only way to get our thoughts off of how we feel is to talk about what we know.
God has granted us the most beautiful form of communication and union with Him through prayer. We have direct access to the God of Creation; to our Savior and Redeemer, who promises to be close to the brokenhearted and save those who are crushed in spirit (Psalm 34:18, NIV).
When the difficult circumstances of life tempt us to put our heads down and go into survival mode, we must remember that Jesus Christ, His saving grace and promises are our greatest means of survival. When we remain faithful in prayer, the roots of endurance grow deep as our hearts and minds focus on what is true rather than on what we feel.
KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING.
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly…you have come to God…to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant…Hebrews 12:22-24
From the trail head 3.5 miles away and 2,719 feet below, the summit stood in plain sight. And if you looked close enough, you could see the trail going up the side of the mountain, giving the illusion that this hike wouldn’t be too difficult.
A couple hours later, I discovered that the closer I got to the summit, the less obvious the designated path to the top was, the more switchbacks there were, and the less visible the final destination became.
Disrupted by several false summits, my ability to see where I was going was limited. And with no end in sight (literally!), even the simplest parts of the trail became difficult with discouragement and aimlessness.
There are so many times that we go through seasons like this in life and faith; when our plans don’t work out as we wanted and we’re back to square one; when it feels like we’re turning back to repeated lessons and old temptations; when our vision becomes presently preoccupied with the difficult trail under foot and less focused on eternity.
If I have learned anything from this hike, it is the importance of knowing where you are going. This doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t focus on the mile markers along the way and celebrate and rest when we get to them. It doesn’t even mean we can’t pause, look back, and enjoy the view from which we came.
These mile markers and breathtaking views are placed in our life by the loving hand of God to be indicators of His blessing; of His guidance, delight, and protection over our lives. However, even as we enjoy the beauty of His blessings along the way, we must never forget the true summit for which we are enduring.
Eternity with God, the glory of Jesus Christ our Lord, is the heavenly summit that we press on towards. Bearing in mind the coming glory of Mount Zion; the city of the living God where thousands upon thousands of angels assemble; where the spirits of our brothers and sisters are made perfect; and the place where Jesus our mediator dwells in victory is the greatest source of endurance we have.
When we know where we are going and how glorious the view will be, we’ll endure many hardships, trials, and sufferings to get there, because we know that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed…(Romans 8:18, NIV).