There’s a Rich Mullins song, “Sometimes by Step”, that I often get running in my head on my journey with God. Part of the chorus says, “Step by step You’ll lead me, and I will follow You all of my days.” This describes much of our life. We don’t know too many steps ahead, sometimes just one next step at a time.
In June, I went for a hike with my kids on the Rainbow Trail in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. In the past, a six mile hike along the Rainbow wouldn’t be difficult for me or my dog, Ginger. If you’ve followed my blogs for a while, you’ve read about many of our adventures hiking in the Colorado mountains (here’s one).
But this day was different. For the prior seven months, we had been at much lower elevations. Much of the time was down around sea level. While I’ve lived in Colorado for 23 years, a short 7 months away definitely had an impact on my altitude acclimation. On top of that, Ginger is coming up on 14 years old and starting to slow down.
This isn’t as fun as I remember
About a mile and half or so into the hike, I began to think, “What’s wrong with me?” Obviously, we haven’t been at altitude, and on top of that, we haven’t been out hiking enough in the past year. I have to admit, I’m out of shape. And Ginger is, too.
The company was good (time with my kids is precious), the views were amazing (God makes incredible scenery), and we were doing something we typically enjoy. Yet, I wasn’t having as much fun as I should have been. I was focusing too much on the discomfort and not enough on who I was with or where we were going.
This happens a lot when we are journeying through life with God. There are hardships and uncomfortable things to deal with on the way. We may not be prepared for the thinner air. Our faith may be getting stretched as we walk along. So, we focus on the difficulty instead of who we are with and where we are going.
Hard does not equal bad
There seems to be an expectation that when we are living right, in accordance with God’s Word and directions, that life will be easy. I don’t find Scripture supports this idea. In fact, as I read the Bible, I see a lot of hardship is expected for followers of Christ.
Jesus doesn’t call us to an easy life. He calls us to obedience, no matter how hard it may be. But there are amazing promises in the life of obedience. He promises to always be with us (Joshua 1:9, Isaiah 43:2, Romans 8:35), to provide all of our needs (Matthew 6:25-33, Philippians 4:19), to give us His peace no matter the circumstances (Isaiah 26:3, John 16:33, Philippians 4:7), and that we can have joy (Psalm 16:11, Romans 15:13).
There is a lot that we can learn in the hard times. Several years ago we were homeless. That was one of the hardest years of my life and yet, at the end of it, I looked back and could honestly say it was good. God did a lot of work inside of me, and I was closer to Him after the hard. You see, hard does not equal bad. But hard is still hard.
Walking at the Father’s heel
The last couple of miles of our hike were the hardest. The sun was hot, the trees were sparse, we had already enjoyed the waterfalls, and there was nothing to look forward to but to get to the car and go home. Ginger was worn out and ready to quit. Each time we would come to the shade of a tree, she would want to lie down and just rest.
I understand that feeling. There are parts of our faith journey where I’m just worn out and ready to quit. In fact, I’ve turned in my resignation more times than I can count. Each time, the Father puts His hand on my shoulder, says, “I know son,” and encourages me to keep going. There doesn’t seem to ever be a consideration to accept my resignation.
Each time that Ginger would want to quit, I would speak words of encouragement to keep going. There were stops for water and brief rest. But the only way to get to our destination was to keep walking. So, she would obediently keep going.
One of the things I noticed was that in the early parts of the hike, Ginger would be walking a little bit ahead of me. By the end, she stayed right at my heel, mere inches from my foot. There wasn’t energy to look around or run off to the various smells. It was as if my foot kept her going forward through some unseen attachment.
I have my days, sometimes weeks or months, where all I can do is keep my eyes on the Father’s heel. Because He is still moving forward, I’m able to keep going. With His encouragement, momentary pauses for water or shade, we keep walking. One next step at a time.
Sometimes by Step
The second part of verse 2 of Rich Mullin’s song says, “On this road to righteousness, sometimes the climb can be so steep. I may falter in my steps, but never beyond Your reach.”
I have plenty of days that I falter in my steps on the journey. Fortunately, I am never beyond the Father’s reach. He is always walking there with me, when I’m walking in obedience, learning to walk in His ways. The journey may be long, it may be hard, but there is no place I would rather be than walking at the Father’s side.
“And step by step You’ll lead me, And I will follow You all of my days.” Listen here
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