Backpacking To Zion

group of person walking in mountain

The Struggle

On a recent backpacking trip with my two oldest boys, our hike was challenging, with a steep ascent for the first six miles. As we climbed the initial 4,000 ft, my boys began to exclaim how great it would be to have a teleport machine that could take them to the end quickly, which led to more conversation about other apparatus that would make the trip easier. After listening for a while, I asked them if the trip would be as valuable if it was easy. Would they enjoy the views if it didn’t take effort to get there? After some deliberation, we decided that the struggle heightened the experience.

The Spiritual Reality

Photo by Trace Hudson on

As I reflect on the spiritual nature of our conversation, I am reminded of our tendency in our faith walks to seek easier ways. We want the panorama of God’s redemptive glory without the trials and afflictions. We want a deep, abiding faith without clinging to the cross in tears. We want the still waters without the valley of the shadow of death. Paul shows us the value of hardship in this Christian walk in Corinthians 1:7–10 (CSB): We don’t want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, of our affliction that took place in Asia. We were completely overwhelmed—beyond our strength —so that we even despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death so that we would not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a terrible death, and he will deliver us. We have put our hope in him that he will deliver us again

Paul recognizes the purpose of suffering, to make us not trust ourselves but in God. Which in turn provides hope. Not hope in our strength, but hope in God! Our trials and suffering are producing in us a greater experience than could be had from mere observation. Our trials and sufferings are building a mature faith. James puts it this way. James 1:2–4 (CSB): Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
What Scripture teaches and experience confirms is that trials, hardships, and suffering creates a level of maturity we would not have in any other way. Even more, we should rejoice in it.

Sweet Sleep

When the wind was beating down our tent at night, and we were unable to sleep, little did we know that our sleep would be sweet the following night. How often do we find ourselves sleepless and restless at home in our comfortable beds longing for rest? But after two days of backpacking, sleep was sweeter. Out trials should be our great joy! Because we know that God is producing in us something more incredible.
There was a point in our hike where we had to traverse some rugged terrain to get water. Disappointingly the spring on the map was dry. We had risked much and received nothing. Our spirits were down, our energy depleting. Sitting by the dry spring, we wondered if we would make it. It was hard to pick up our packs and continue the strenuous trek back up the trail to find another water spot.
Maybe you feel that way now; perhaps your energy is depleted from experiencing the winds of life buffeting and tearing at you. Maybe the sorrows like sea billows roll? It could be that you expended time, energy, and money in the walk of faith, and all that is left is an empty spring. There is good news for you. Jesus calls out to us!
John 7:37–39 (CSB): On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me , and drink. The one who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.”
He said this about the Spirit. Those who believed in Jesus were going to receive the Spirit, for the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Jesus promises us His Spirit in which we will be rejuvenated. You and I can step forward in faith, taking one step after another, receiving by faith the gift of the streams of living water that flow from deep within. Then you can say with Peter,
1 Peter 1:3–7 (CSB): Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.
You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith —more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire —may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

This Christian walk can seem to be all uphill. It can feel as if we keep taking useless detours. It may even seem hopeless. But if you can grasp the reality that these trials are producing maturity in you, you can keep moving forward end even enjoy the view and the company!

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Published by Matthew.Statler

I joyfully pastor Sierra Vista Baptist Church in Arizona. I'm certified in Biblical Counseling from the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). I graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with an MDIV with a concentration in Biblical Counseling. I also am an Iraq war veteran. Matthew Statler SFC, US Army(Ret)