Pain in the Journey: Knowing Where you're Going and Why
Behold the Challenge
Behold the Stawamus Chief in all its glory; a granite monolith said to be the second largest of its kind in the world with three summits, some gullies, clothed with coastal rainforests and bare rock faces. Today we embark on the trail less travelled the more precarious and poorly marked Third Peak. It's an approximately a 700m or 2300ft ascent, crammed with steep cedar stairs, springy mulch trails, unworn paths, boulder hopping, scrambles, switchbacks, screes, a tangle of roots and bare rock faces.
This round trip can take you as little as 3 hours. For you typical tourist, this is an advanced hike: for the locals here in Squamish, however, they might call this a walk in the park.
Our Perilous Journey
Between the different terrain that we embarked, the limited time we had to accomplish this task, (before we had to go to work), I carried the weight of my camera only to come away with a single shot of the actual journey. The picture above is the only photographic memory I have of this laborious hike.
Now, this part of the hike was particularly pretty and varied compared to the less welcoming large boulders that we were made to scramble over. Some areas of the trail were reminiscent to me of various scenes out of the Lord of The Rings. I can account that most of the time I was reduced to feeling like a lesser kind of hobbit.
Motivations and Tantrums
Our motivation for torturing ourselves was varied. My primary motivations were fitness, adventure, and a desire to capture the view from the summit.
Having pushed through the tiredness, soreness, slight dehydration, shortness of breath, my nearly constant complaining and uncomfortable perspiration, we finally emerge from the forest line and begin to feel the wind and see the sky. With the final last scramble it was evident how close we were, and now here we are, beholding the view from the third summit of the Stawamus Chief.
When suffering is worth it and forgotten
Almost in an instant, as soon as I saw the landscape, I was captivated by its splendour. The journey that I could now barely remember melted away from my memory as I beheld the beauty of the mountains and the coastline that kisses its feet. The journey was worth it. The discomfort was worth it. The pain was worth it.
When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. (John 16:21-22 ESV)
He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 ESV)
Friends, if you are in Christ, remember that when you behold His beauty face to face, the memory of the suffering and pain you endured in this world will melt away, He will wipe away every tear from your eyes, death, sin, and evil will be no more. You will know that in the face of Christ, in spite of whatever evil might befall you in this life, whatever hardship, persecution, or indescribable pain or loss, from your endurance you will see that it was worth it in the light of Christ.
The worth of being with Christ, enjoying Him, receiving from Him, loving Him outweighs any manner of sorrow or suffering that may happen to us. When our pain is great, know that Jesus' goodness, beauty and love is far greater.
Know where you're going and why
The fact that I knew on my journey whereand why I was going, - even having never been before - gave me the determination, purpose and endurance to finish the hike well. Similarly, in our Christian walk, knowing where you are headed to in life, and the reason behind it is crucial to having a successful trip. No one likes pain or suffering. If anyone were to experience an intense fatiguing of my limbs, an uncomfortable perspiration and laboured breath while eating a doughnut at a drive-thru it would not be something that they would consider normal but abnormal; the pain will become senseless, cruel and intolerable. However, anyone experiencing the same symptoms on a hike, will anticipate, understand and endure the fatiguing of their limbs, the shortness of their breath and the sweat of their brow, the pain makes sense, it is to be expected, logical, and one becomes able to endure.
This is not a comparison between idleness and activity; it is a comparison of knowing where you're going and its cost to one who does not know what the goal of life is and sees no reason for a cost. Shortness of breath and fatigue are more easily endured, can be anticipated, and makes sense when we know that it is a direct result of hiking up a mountain. In the same way, pain, suffering, persecution is more easily endured, makes sense, and is to be expected as a direct result of following the path of Christ.
Unless you know where you're going and why you're going, the inevitable pain in your life will not make sense to you. Pain is senseless and intolerable for the one who knows not why it's there. Pain is not easily endured and is purposeless for the one without who does not know or understand the path of Christ.
The goal of life
The goal of life is Jesus. The direction that Jesus took was one of humility, service, and suffering to the point of death on the cross and is now ascended to heaven with His Father. Friends, if you know you are headed in the direction of Christ, know that you will inevitably have to walk in the footsteps of His cross. It's not so much that God can work in the midst of pain, suffering and persecution, but that God uses it as a vehicle for the forwarding of His Kingdom and our joy.
Remember that the suffering and pain in your life will never outweigh the weight of glory that you will enjoy in Christ.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)
Expected what ought to be expected
Pain, trials, difficulty, persecution are to be expected, anticipated, and more easy to endure in the light of Christ as we journey together on that long, laborious hike towards Him and His Kingdom. We will get hurt, tired, and discouraged along the way. When we consider the path of Christ, it would be crazy to end up where He is now completely unscathed. It won't be easy, but we won't be alone, and it will be worth it.
If you read to the end of this, thank you! I know this was a long one, and it's not a light topic, but hope you'll find encouragement. So perhaps I can leave you with these questions, what reminds you of the vast beauty, greatness and glory of God? What reminds you that God is worth it? What helps keep you going when times get tough?
And just to end on a lighter note, it was crazy wonderful to see our whole town from one little point. I could even see the speck of my house in the distance from the above view.
I was delighted that there was a quiet splash of water for Talitha to quench her thirst - I was so proud of her for climbing those boulders with us; she has so much energy.
And she gets to enjoy the view too of course!