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 for every step. 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.
In the 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