Psalm 33:18 – Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love.
Cliffs and gorges are not my kind of thing at all, or so I thought. I’m not sure why but I’ve always associated nature hikes with physical injury. Climb a mountain? No thanks. I prefer going up the Spanish steps. Follow a trail? Only if it leads to Champs Elysees. Hence this past weekend was different from all other weekends because I went with my dear husband on a nature hike! Willingly! And absolutely loved it!
Following a trail through a gorge was particularly interesting. It was my first time to appreciate walking within a narrow valley or cleft between two hills, with steep rocky cliffs on both sides. Topographically, a gorge is a low point that can make one feel trapped.
I can’t help but think that in our hearts’ journeys, we do encounter something very similar. In fact, more than a few of us may be navigating through emotional ravines of discouragement and are praying with the psalmist “Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2 Believers are not exempt from periods of emotional turmoil. I’ve known this for a long time but I learned it again within a couple of months of serving as director of women’s ministry at our church. The difference is that we who are in Christ, are never without hope.
The apostle Peter said it well. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” 1 Peter 1:3 The empty tomb is our greatest reminder of the hope that is now ours in Christ; a hope that is permanent and can never be taken from us; a gift from our merciful God. It is a hope that provides assurance not just today but for eternity. Peter continues to encourage us further “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13 I love how he describes the mind as a place of action. We know this is true in that our minds are indeed the battlegrounds where truth and lie confront each other. Even here, and especially here, we are to set our hope fully on the grace promised to us in Christ – our King who will one day return and permanently crush the father of lies.
Our walk with Jesus is not confined to grounds that are level. Our shepherd brings us to places high and low through paths that are easy and trails that are hard. As my husband was leading me through the gorge during our hike, I was stunned by the majesty of God’s artistry that surrounded me, all of which I would have missed had I remained above at the level of the parking lot. Down in the gorge is where one finds the stream. It becomes one’s companion on this trail.
Hearing the sound of the water reminded me of Psalm 42:1 “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you O God.” A place that makes me yearn for my God, is always a good place. Down in the gorge is also where the enormity and grandeur of the mountains is most evident as it is the only vantage point that allows a full view of the patterns and formations of rocks that make up the cliffs. It made me think of the countless times the Lord revealed my nothingness so that I can marvel at his greatness; and oh, those moments are always precious. This gorge is also studded with caves – like hiding places which spoke to me of his protection as in Psalm 27 “For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble, he will conceal me under the cover of his tent…” God showed me that there is beauty in the gorge just as there is hope in the lowest and deepest points of our journey….because he is there and he is enough.
Corrie Ten Boom who suffered in a Nazi concentration camp said “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.” As long as the Shepherd is with us, we don’t go praying for a different trail, which is often what we do. We desire better circumstances, easier routes, more favorable conditions. But all that is like staying at the parking lot and pitifully missing the purpose of the trip. Let us not prefer the comfort that prevents us from knowing the depths of his love. Christ went to the cross for us. Let us now go wherever he takes us.
“Give me the Love that leads the way
The Faith that nothing can dismay
The Hope no disappointments tire
The Passion that’ll burn like fire
Let me not sink to be a clod
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God”