Can Suffering Lead to Growth

By Andrew R.

I remember the summer before I became a senior in high school. I had a very good friend who quite enjoyed hiking. He convinced me to come with his little brother and him on a backpacking trip to hike King’s Peak, a 13,528 foot tall mountain. As invincible 17-year-old “men,” we thought that this would be an easy task to undertake. The first day of the hike the three of us set out full of energy and feeling very ambitious. I remember reflecting how we were able to climb with ease and little effort. We were determined to make good time and exceed our expectations for the distance we would cover that first day. We pushed on, anticipating how good we would feel about ourselves being that much further along our path to start the next day. However, this became problematic as the day wore on and we began hiking in the dark, which proved more difficult.

Furthermore, I was informed that the next day we would encounter a series of switchbacks.

Based on the ease of the journey to the point we were at, I was not concerned too much about the next day’s ventures—that is, until the next morning. I awoke stiff and tired. We broke camp and began our trek again. However, we shortly approached the switchbacks my friend had described. I looked up with horror as I realized just how high and steep this climb would now be. As we started up the path, I was a bit slower than my friends. However, I found that if I looked only at my feet I was able to see the next step I needed to take which was followed by the next necessary step that I could manage.

I found that if I only focused on the ground and what I needed to do next I was able to keep moving. As time went on, I found that I needed to take several breaks. It felt so good to sit down and rest. However, it also made is very difficult to feel like I wanted to get back up knowing that all that lay ahead was more of what I had just experienced. There were switchbacks as far as my eyes could see, though my view was limited by the thick brush and trees.

As you can imagine, this became discouraging after some time. However, there was a moment of pure excitement and inspiration that buoyed my hopes. We eventually came to a clearing on a small plateau. Once I reached this point, I was able to look over the whole valley. I was able to see where we had traveled the day before. I was able to wonder in amazement at just how high we were from the valley floor below. It was at this moment that I was able to see the fruit of all my hard, difficult, and trying labors. This glimpse provided me with a clear picture about where I had been, how much I had accomplished and what I still needed to do to reach my overall goal.

Our journey was full of other adventures such as reaching the peak, getting lost, running low on water and eventually finding our way back home. However, it is very purposeful that my focus remains on the process or the journey, not on the end goal. We are all in this phase of our eternal journey of life.

Much of our eternal view is obstructed while we live here on the earth. At times we are not able to see through the thick brush and trees. Instead we are forced to make one faith-filled step after another uphill and in the direction we think God wants us to go. As we are faithful and diligent we are able to reach various plateaus that give us a glimpse into where we have been, the direction we are heading, and what we still need to do.

How observant are we? Are we able to look up when we should to see the good or do we only focus on the hard tasks at hand? Conversely are we looking for more direction when what we really need is to push on with hard work and faith? How willing are we to submit ourselves to God’s will? At various points in our path we may be tired of walking. Perhaps we want to force seeing something through the trees instead of trusting in and waiting for God’s timing. Perhaps we want to linger a little longer at the plateaus that show us just how much we have done, instead of pressing on and dealing with new challenges that we need to face. Regardless of where we are on the path there is one thing that we can rest assured of: God knows and loves!We are all yearning to be nearer to him. We need to have the patience, faith, and willingness to trust the growing process of this life knowing that God has our best interest in mind and we, through all our trials, will reach our goal one day.

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