I am not a fan of heights. In fact, I once wrote an entire blog about that. Despite my distaste for high places, I love hiking in the mountains. I’m not a blaze-your-own trail, wander-through-the-wilderness, hike-for-days-on-end kind of hiker—but I love a good day-hike on a well-groomed, well-MARKED trail.
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit some missionaries in Romania. While there, some of the young people in their church took me on a hike up into the Southern Carpathians. It was beautiful. To this day, I regard that hike as one of the most stunning I have ever taken. It was also one of the most challenging.
It was hot that day. We ran out of water a little more than half way up, but, as we came out of the tree line, we entered a wide meadow burgeoning with wild raspberries. They were delicious and so refreshing. We sat on a boulder and enjoyed a little break before the man leading our group, who also happened to be a professional guide, indicated that we needed to go. Then he said,
“You know, every year people die on this mountain.”
I forget now the average number of deaths per year that he rattled off, but it was nothing to take lightly.
We climbed a little higher and began to follow a narrow trail that ran across the face of the grassy mountainside—toward a stone face. The closer we came to the stone face the more I felt the knots tightening in my stomach. My palms were sweating as we approached the end of the meadow, and I saw where our path was about to lead.
The rocky cliff went nearly straight up—and nearly straight down. The path, which was littered with loose stones and gravel and the occasional patch of tall grass, was about 18-20” wide. A heavy chain was bolted into the mountainside to give you something to hang onto as you made your way to the other side of the mountain’s face.
This was not my idea of an “easy” day hike.
I remember my fingers shaking as I reached for that chain. My legs trembled as I stepped out and heard the gravel crunch and shift beneath my feet.
“This,” I thought, “this is where they all died! It has to be. Who in their right mind would pick this path to send a bunch of tourists up a mountain!”
Then the cable car passed overhead, and I remembered that the smart tourists went that way.
Every step was carefully placed, and every glance toward the cliff beside us was quickly diverted back to the chain in the wall. By the time we were half way across, I had actually gotten used to it and begun to relax. Then I heard rocks sliding from the precipice and took a firmer grip on the chain. One careful, uncertain step at a time and finally we were across. The danger was past. We could walk on confidently.
* * *
Uncertainty has become a way of life over the last two months. Yes, it has been two months—eight weeks to the day as I write this. Before April 24th, life had its questions—a lot of them actually. Since April 24th, it has been full of them.
Life will never be “normal” again, but with each day comes a tiny hope that some picture of the new “normal” might begin to appear. And, with each night, comes the realization that we simply aren’t there yet.
In situations like ours, I’ve heard people say, “Don’t make any major changes for at least six months.”
My only viable response is to stare back blankly.
Really? I’m not trying to be sarcastic here, but really?
Everything has changed.
Routines? Gone. Plans? Gone. Goals? Those appear somewhere out in the distance as fading dreams. The future is as unclear as it has ever been. Nothing is certain, not work, not ministry, not projects that had been started, nothing…that is the reality of it all…
Or is it?
This week the weight of that uncertainty has made itself known often. Every day has gone differently than planned, partly because I have been sick, partly because that’s still where we are in this process. Tonight, I hit a wall of sorts. I’d tried unsuccessfully three times to have a good quiet time throughout the day, but every time it was interrupted or the device I was using froze and had to be restarted—nothing worked.
By the time I was ready for bed, my heart was heavy with the question, “Lord, what am I supposed to do?” The question pertained primarily to our big picture, but many little things make that up as well. I opened my Bible to where my Bible app had frozen earlier in the day, but found myself praying, and then crying, instead of reading.
God has promised to work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. I know that, and that is what I prayed about, asking the Lord to help me see my part in it all.
As I prayed, the Lord prompted me to look back over Psalm 91, the passage that He led me to the Sunday before Dad went to Heaven. The psalm speaks of God’s care and protection. As I read verses nine and ten, an amazing peace came over my heart:
“Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most high, thy habitation; there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.”
God doesn’t ask us to do great and mighty things in order to earn His care—He just asks us to abide in Him. That is where we bring forth fruit. That is where we grow. It is where we have peace and shelter from the storm. That is where we find that the chain we’re holding onto is fastened—secured—in solid rock that will never move. That is where we find certainty…in God, who changes not.
But, God isn’t finished. The psalm goes on in verses fourteen and fifteen to say,
“Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble: I will deliver him, and honor him.”
God is listening for our call. And not only is He listening but He also promises to answer! When we have made Him our habitation, when we have set our love upon Him, He is “a very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1) We don’t have to walk uncertainly, instead we can run—as though we plan to win the race! (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)
* * *
That day in Romania, we made it to the top…and it was well worth those uncertain steps on the precipice. On the heights of that mountain we found a reminder of that, which has bought our certainty—We found a cross. Don’t give up. The uncertainty of life will only last for a time—the certainty of Christ, and our hope in Him, goes on for eternity.
Insights for families adjusting to loss
- Life doesn’t just seem uncertain right now, it is uncertain. Chances are, you don’t know from one minute to the next what your day will hold. That’s hard, but it’s okay so long as you know where your hope lies. God will never change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Don’t get overwhelmed by the uncertainty—don’t stare down the cliff. Keep your eyes on the solid rock—on Jesus.
- Maybe you don’t know what that means. Maybe you’ve never had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, or you haven’t sought to develop it. Let me share more with you. The Bible tells us that God is the Father of the fatherless. When Jesus came to die, He did so to pay our adoption price! He wants to be the One in whom we find peace and comfort. If you would like to know more about how to be saved, or how to grow in your walk with God, please drop me a note at gbcmissions127(at)yahoo(dot)com
- The precipice doesn’t go on for ever—even though right about now it feels like it does! Take one step at a time (don’t try to jump to the other side!). CLING to the chain, to the Rock.
Insights for Churches:
- Take note. Listen to what those who are passing through this situation are saying, whether they seem to be struggling or not. How uncertain is their situation. Why? What needs can be met? What counsel, planning, and direction can be given to help this family adjust to this new chapter of life?
- Give help as it is needed and received, don’t force it. Also be aware that if it appears to be rejected, that could be grief speaking. The person you are dealing with may simply be overwhelmed. Ask the Lord to help you be discerning.
- Check in. Don’t assume that because you haven’t heard anything from the family, everything is okay. They may be overwhelmed, tired, sick, not sure what to do next, or simply don’t want to burden others. Be proactive.
Insights for Individuals:
- Be kindly encouraging. Don’t quote advice you’ve heard from big name speakers or read on Facebook, unless it applies to the situation. Even be careful about randomly quoting Scripture. Make sure it actually applies. Remember the psalmist talks about a word “fitly spoken.” Be caring. Listen. Find out what the situation is.
- Don’t expect your friend or the family passing through this valley to be “normal.” Someday, they may be able to do the things you’ve always done together, to participate in the same activities, and work on the same projects—until then be their support. Be patient. Find ways to help. NOT because you want your friendship to go back to the way it was as soon as possible, but because you care—that is true friendship.
- Find little ways to be a blessing. A couple weeks ago, a friend sent me a bag of Hersey’s Hugs—I needed them so much the day the arrived. Today, on a very heavy day, I unexpectedly received a gift from another friend, a plaque that says, “Be assured…God is in the Details.” Both of these simple gifts were amazing blessings. They said, I’m thinking of you and praying for you—I haven’t forgotten. Another friend sends me a Bible verse nearly every day. She has walked in my shoes, and the reminder that she is praying gives so much hope. Those may seem like little things, but they mean the world.
Please, join the conversation in the comments below.
Are you from a fatherless family? How have others stepped up and helped in time of need? Or have you found yourself struggling through with little help? What are/were some of your biggest needs?
Are you a pastor or church leader? How has your church sought to meet these types of needs, or how do you plan to do it in the future?
Are you an individual? What ways have you found to help fatherless families in their time of need?