By Melissa McLaughlin
The journey was long. Much longer than anticipated. The website listed the hike as only a mile and a half. No problem. No sweat. No big deal. The final stretch was described as difficult, but overall the hike was labeled at a “medium” level with intermittent rocky areas.
This was our first visit to Colorado. On our second day there, we decided to hike the trail to “Hanging Lake,” a local Rocky Mountain treasure. We started off with a spring in our steps and a smile on our faces. Snapping pictures, pointing out wildlife, making jokes, full of joy at life and the adventure ahead.
That soon changed. After about fifteen minutes, we realized this hike was far more arduous than expected. Rocks unevenly jutted out across the entire trail which led ever upward on a viciously steep incline. It was as if we had signed up for a day at the gym on an out-of-control stair machine.
As people passed us on the return trip down, we asked how much farther. Again and again the reply was the same. They smiled tentatively and skirted the issue with, “It’s worth it when you get there.”
Slowing our pace to a crawl, we breathed heavily, stopped for water, stopped to catch our breath, stopped to rest our screaming leg muscles. What kind of vacation idea was this? As each quarter-mile marker came in view, we felt like we were awarded a trophy of high achievement. Plodding along, slower and slower, wearier and wearier, one step, then another step, then another step.
Adding to the difficulty of this journey was the fact that the farther we went, the more strenuous the trail became. We now lengthened our legs to maximum span in order to reach across each wide-spread boulder. Legs quivering with fatigue, we urged them on anyway.
When we approached the final section, the difficulty defied words. We clung to the rocks in desperation with arms and legs fully extended, heaving ourselves up one step at a time. Until at last, we caught a glimpse of the beauty we sought.
There it was. Hanging Lake. We finally arrived. Out of breath, out of strength, out of jokes, out of joy. Yet miraculously, our spirits were renewed with a vision unspeakable. Hikers young and old stood and gazed in hushed silence.
The turquoise lake sparkled in the sunlight with a backdrop of blazing blue Colorado skies. A series of waterfalls danced over the mountain cliffs in joy and wonder splashing into the lake below. There will never be enough words or camera lenses to capture the magnificence of this moment. We can only carry this snapshot of God’s grandeur deep in our hearts.
Pausing, beholding, breathing in and out, taking in the magnificent vista before us. That, and nothing more, slowly restored us. We were no longer doing anything, just being. There was no place to lay our heavy bodies. No water fountains to quench our dry throats, no concession stands for physical nourishment. Being, not doing, we were restored.
After a long and unyielding hike, with weary muscles, parched mouths and hungry stomachs, it was experiencing the pure, profound glory of God’s creation that restored us.
The Journey of Life
In much the same way, we often find the journey of life to be grueling with stretches of greater and greater difficulty waiting ahead. As the years pass, the incline grows steeper still.
When the path gets tough, when mile upon mile of jagged rocks lay before us, when the mountain looms larger than ever before, may we pause and remember this, the Lord Jesus is the one who restores our innermost being.
He is the Living Water who refreshes and replenishes our souls. May we drink deeply to quench our thirst with His peace, forgiveness, grace and love. He is the Bread of Heaven providing nourishment in His Word we cannot find elsewhere.
May we meditate upon our King, stooping down, humbling Himself. Washing the feet of His weary disciples. Handing them the cup of eternal peace, reconciliation with God, true soul restoration. While He reached for the cup of God’s wrath, drinking in the poison of our sin, then suffering the penalty required by God’s holy justice for such sin.
As we remember our suffering yet victorious Savior, may His Word, His radiance, His finished work on the cross, His triumph over the grave and His now indwelling Spirit revive the ashes of our trembling hearts and renew us again.
Envision Christ with you as you read this Psalm today. He leads with gentle, nail-scarred hands. He protects with a Champion’s heart. He loves with a Shepherd’s life laid down.
Take in this most amazing vista. The King of creation has come for you. Let Jesus restore your soul.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
Hanging Lake, Colorado
From Clay to Heaven – Be Amazed by Your God! By Melissa McLaughlin
What a great description of the way our path is sometimes as we go through life. Always reaching to that perfectness that we’ll find when we are in harmony with God. Imagining the beauty we’ll find as we reach the summit. Thank you!
Pam, thank you for reading and sharing your heart here! Our journey in this life and our journey of faith is never easy, but only in Christ will we find the beauty along the way and then ultimate beauty when we join Him in heaven. We have reason to rejoice!
Wow! Those pictures you took are phenomenal! Totally worth the hard climb. Great lessons to learn in that endeavor. (But I probably would have croaked on the way up – I am out of shape.) Glad you made it!
Thank you, Lisa! All glory to God, the painter of these magnificent scenes! It was truly much more difficult than we expected. It was almost funny, except that it was so hard! But so much like our journey of faith. Our walk in Christ is difficult and at the same time beautiful. Bless you!
Beautiful pictures. Glad you made it there and back safely 🙂
Thank you, brother! It was an unexpected adventure, that’s for sure. But like our walk with Christ, there was more beauty than we could imagine. Bless you!
Such beautiful photos! Such a beautiful sentiment!
Glory to God in the highest! The Creator of all things vast and beautiful and the One who redeems us and invites us to share in His beauty for all eternity. May your soul be restored in Him again today, Valerie!
Great post! Beautiful shots!!
Blessings to you, Jeff! Thank you for taking time to read and share in this little family adventure. I pray your soul is restored again today in the beauty of Christ!
Thank you, Melissa!!
Sigh…wow…what a amazing parallell to the conditions that we face on this journey of life that you have so beautifully layed out and painted a vivid picture of. How encouraging it is to be reminded that those who have already climbed up the rough side of this life’s mountain, trusting and believing in the promises of God through Christ Jesus are seeing unimaginable glorious beauty! I so look forward to seeing this indescribable, perfect and exquisite glory of God as we stand in his presence and cast our crowns at his feet because of the finished work of Christ our Lord and Savior on the cross.
Dear Val, my heart longs and sings with yours for that day! You make such an important point, when we see other believers who have gone before us, clinging to Christ despite the roughest terrain of life, we are reminded we can take one more step with Jesus again today. May we remind each other, one day we will rejoice with all the angels in heaven and enjoy His beautiful presence forever. What a day of rejoicing that will be! Blessings and love to you, dear sister.
Beautiful post! ‘Being, not doing’, how right you are! “Be still and know that I am God.”: Psalm 46:10. What a wonderful post to read this evening…thank you!
Dear Linda, that is one of my favorite verses! It’s all about God. When we rest in God’s presence and anchor ourselves in the truth of who He is, the sting of sorrow in this life fades into the background. May you rest, being not doing, in His presence afresh today!
God gives us such glorious beauty to enjoy. His creations are amazing. Thank you for sharing the beautiful photos.
I agree, Melissa! I saw a quote this week that went something like this, “I could never be an atheist because I step outside and see God everywhere.” He calls to us daily through the beauty and design of His creation. What a joy when we stop to take it all in! I pray your soul is restored in His beautiful presence again today.
Astounding photos! Great analogies about life’s journey!
And what unimaginable, glorious beauty awaits us at the very end of our journey on this earth! Wow!🙌
Photo credits go to God, the ever-painting Artist! Though we trudge through some difficult seasons in this life, we get glimpses here on earth of the glory of heaven. But one day, how glorious it will be! May we be found faithful when Christ returns.
Oh, Melissa, these words and images are so beautiful tonight. As I paused and reflected on your beautiful photos, I was reminded of an old Matthew Ward song from the 90s, “Drink Deep from the fountain of life.” Today I had a delayed allergic reaction to some of the medications/cleanser given at my nerve block on Monday, with hives all over my face and neck & back. This was just so restful, to sit with our Great Shepherd here. He gives us such precious living water! Thank you so much for sharing this today, it was such a gift from God. Blessings and love to you dear friend.
Dear Bettie, as soon as I read your words, I began praying for you. My heart hurts to know that you had an adverse reaction to your nerve block medications. Lord have mercy! I thank God if my words and photos brought you a little comfort along the way. Please know, you are a great witness to me and to many others, as your faith shines so brightly through the darkness of pain you endure day after day. May He restore your innermost being anew today. Blessings and love to you, dear friend.
Melissa, this is so beautiful. Really touched my heart and made the tears flow. Thank you my friend
Dear Lisa, thank you for joining me here and sharing your heart. You are a great blessing. I thank God if these words ministered to you, as I prayed so hard for the Holy Spirit to have His way, word by word, sentence by sentence. Glory to our precious Savior, for all His grace. May He restore your soul again today, dear friend.
You tell beautiful stories and I can so relate. We love to hike easy trails in the mountains but it is so easy to try something above our skill level. When we succeed, it is usually worth the effort. Following Christ in ministry is much the same. The struggle is real but so worth it when we see God succeed in His plans. Thanks
Oh Yvonne, I am definitely an easy trail hiking fan! If we had known what this trail really looked like, we probably would not have gone, but it wasn’t until we were part-way up the mountain that we realized what we had gotten ourselves into.
I love your ministry connection! How true! When we start off to follow the Lord, how can we ever realize all we are taking on? But God leads us step by step up the mountainside to the beauty He has already prepared. Blessings to you!
Beautiful description, the hike paralleled to life!
Great pictures too❤️ we make at least one trip a year to Colorado for some mountain time🙂
Thanks for a great reminder to continue on in difficulty. And the images are beautiful!
Beautiful words and pictures! Such a gorgeous place. He restores our soul. Wow! Only God can do that. Thank you Melissa for this lovely reminder.
Melissa, I’ve never been to Colorado or heard of Hanging Lake. But, I felt as though I traveled with you through your vivid imagery to reach your destination…just minus the hard physical work. 🙂 The photos are stunning . It is so hard when life’s inclines and path becomes so laboring to climb and get past. Psalm 23 is a favorite. Because of it’s familiarity (read at funerals, etc.) we often miss the great and comforting truths it contains. Thank you for this comforting message.
Dear Karen, it truly was a stunning view, following a long and ridiculously difficult hike. You are right, we know Psalm 23 so well, we sometimes gloss over the simple, profound beauty of it. May we receive all the peace, comfort and beauty Christ has for us this day. Blessings to you!
I guess they call it the Rocky Mountains for a reason! That trail doesn’t look fun. But I imagine that lake was like a banquet table set by God amidst difficulty. Psalm 23 is refreshing. It doesn’t describe a walk in the park, but it certainly describes rest and restoration, protection, and much more benefits we enjoy as God’s beloved children.
Stephen, your words are such a deep reminder to me. So often when I read through Psalm 23, I forget the fact that God is not describing a walk in the a park. “Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death” is definitely not describing an easy journey. But look at the peace, comfort, protective leading and final destination. You gave me fresh look at this Psalm today. Bless you!
We, too, took such a hike. While my husband fared well, I struggled. Your post brings back memories of the journey and the encouragement needed and received that day. God is great and gracious, and Psalm 23 is definitely the psalm of life. Thank you.
It can be funny to look back on adventures and hikes that were more than we bargained for, but they are not fun in that moment! How much we can learn about our spiritual growth from our daily joys and trials. May we cling to God’s comfort, truth and love through it all. God bless you, sister! Thank you for stopping by!