HikersMost people I know enjoy a nice hike in the woods. There is something about trekking in the forest and getting away from all the synthetic stuff and paved roads that breathes life back into a man’s spirit.

The hiking experience is a great metaphor about life. In most remote hiking areas, it is very common to start down a trail only to find that leaves, pine needles, and/or erosion can camouflage the main trail. If you don’t really know the area well, or aren’t paying attention to your direction, you can easily get off track.

Sometimes a well-used animal trail can also lead you astray. Animals most often don’t use the same hiking trail provided for humans. They will develop their own trail network that usually leads to their food and water sources or bedding areas. A novice trail user can inadvertently follow the game trail instead of keeping to the over-grown hiking trail. Occasionally, this leads to people getting lost in the woods. The resulting frustration, confusion, and sometimes fear is rarely a fun experience.

And then there is the trail clutter we find along the way. A person needs to be attentive to the loose soil, tripping hazards, and potholes that uniquely conceal themselves on the track. Too often a nice hike turns into a turned ankle or scrapped knee because someone trips on an unexpected hazard.

Life is somewhat like taking a long hike on an unfamiliar trail. As we journey through life, there are those unexpected snares and hazards that can trip us up. The snares can be the moral traps Satan puts in our path. Maybe it’s worldly temptations that come our way and cause us to stumble. Perhaps an illness or accident can send us out of control.

The Apostle Paul reminds us of a principle that helped him during those times of temptation: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)

Then there are those trails that cross our pathway and redirect our plans. Most often our struggle is not picking a path between good and evil that causes us frustration. It is selecting from those things that are good verses God’s best. If we are not regularly communicating with God and listening to His voice, we can find ourselves following a route that consumes our energy and time but has little eternal value. This can take us away from the direction God intended and that would bring us the greatest joy. “Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.” Psalm 119:35 (NIV)

Finally, if you really want to have the best experience possible, you need a guide to show you the way. A good woodsman can help you find the most direct route to your destination. He can also alert you to possible hazards along the way.

From Eugene Peterson’s, The Message comes this thought about a guide and leader from those words spoken by the Apostle Paul. Don’t imagine us leaders to be something we aren’t. We are servants of Christ, not his masters. We are guides into God’s most sublime secrets, not security guards posted to protect them. The requirements for a good guide are reliability and accurate knowledge. It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion. I don’t even rank myself. Comparisons in these matters are pointless. I’m not aware of anything that would disqualify me from being a good guide for you, but that doesn’t mean much. The Master makes that judgment. 1 Corinthians 4:1-4

As we journey down the trail of life it is good to remember that God is with us. The Holy Spirit is our best Guide, the Bible is our unfailing GPS and topographic map, and the fellowship of a good friend can be our encourager.

Personal Application:

By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Exodus 13:21 reminds us of God’s presence. Have you sought him lately?

What are the hazards and tripping obstacles in your life? What can you do to avoid those stumbling blocks?

Jim Grassi, D. Min.