“Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.”
A woman clings to the side of a craggy mountain. There is nothing to do but climb. She looks like a speck of dust compared to the enormity of that looming peak. Bystanders wonder how she will get to the top. They shake their heads and don’t know what to say. The journey will be long and arduous. She might slip more than once. She will be cold and miserable. Many times over she will doubt herself and her ability to overcome. She will feel alone, isolated, exposed. She’ll be tempted to give up when all she can see is the cold rock in front of her.
Many friends and family rally around her at the base. They want to help and they do. They supply her with things she needs at the moment: nourishment, prayer, an encouraging word. They repeatedly tell her that they are willing to do anything to help. She just needs to say the word.
But she doesn’t know what she needs.
She has no idea what this journey will entail.
Some even begin to climb with her up the steep and rocky terrain. But as the days drag on, many turn away. Some have their own mountains to climb. Others feel there is nothing they could say or do to help her. They fear that talking about the enormity of the mountain will cause her to lose hope or remind her of the pain. They don’t want to mention the beauty of the valley she left behind, fearing it will bring her to her knees with sorrow. Some even seem to pretend that the mountain she is climbing doesn’t exist. Perhaps they are filled with good intentions but their own cares and worries consume them and there isn’t time left for climbing this mountain.
Little do they know that she thinks of nothing but the valley below where she lived for so long. She longs for it with an indescribable ache. Every day she feels the burning in her muscles as she attempts to climb one more inch up the mountain. With each sunrise she wakes to the stark realization that she has left the valley and there is no turning back.
A few faithful friends remain by her side. They aren’t afraid of the climb. They aren’t waiting for her to tell them what she needs. They know because they are right there climbing with her and they have no expectation for when the journey will end.
Many are silently in prayer.
At times, the mountain is so foggy that she can barely see what is directly in front of her. She feels directionless, dazed, and confused. She barely recognizes herself. The landscape is unfamiliar and storms often rage on the mountain.
Yet there are moments of peace amidst the storms. Sometimes she feels the warm sunshine of hope on her back. Occasionally she comes to an overlook where she can rest and basque in it’s light and beauty.
But then the darkness comes again. Fear, self-doubt, helplessness, guilt, bitterness and pain threaten to swallow her whole and she feels vulnerable and alone.
As she trudges along, she hears a still small voice call her name. Distracted for a moment from the searing pain she looks up and sees Him. This is not the first time that she’s noticed His presence. She is often so intently focused on the mountain that she forgets to look for Him. But then His Spirit whispers to her soul,
“You’re never alone.”
She recognizes His voice and knows that He’s been with her the whole time.
He is the bread that sustains her and the water that refreshes her thirst. He’s present in the companions climbing alongside her. Moments of hope and respite from the grueling climb were fashioned by Him. He hears every plea uttered by those in the valley and those who have already reached the top of the mountain. His Spirit breathes new life into her soul and strengthens her.
He is her ever-present Guide and the Light that illuminates her path.
He is the One who weeps with her. When her strength has failed, He picks her up and carries her. As she lies broken and defeated His love washes over her like a flood and reminds her that her trial is producing lasting fruit.
She looks up from the mountain and sees Him standing there. He extends His nail-pierced hands and asks her to share this journey with Him.
You see, He climbed the mountain long before she. He was ridiculed, humiliated, and beaten along the way. Men put him to death and nailed Him to a cross. He gave his life for her and for all those willing to follow Him.
But the mountain did not consume Him.
He rose from His rocky tomb to new life. He defeated the darkness.
His name is Jesus and He’s the embodiment of Hope.
He is the Hope who lives in her and reminds her that this suffering will end and that every tear will be wiped away. He is guiding her to a new home more glorious than anything she could ever imagine.
And hope does not disappoint.
He knows her sorrow, He knows her pain. He’ll lead her to glory if she will just take His hand and put her trust in Him.
“In this world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.”