This summer I lived in Colorado Springs, where I did something I never thought I’d do. I climbed a mountain. Not a wimpy East Tennessee mountain, but a 14,060-foot mountain called Mount Bierstadt.
Before moving to Colorado for three months, I assumed any person who attempted to climb a mountain was clinically insane. When I imagined mountain climbing, I imagined suicide—jagged rock faces, 90-degree drop-offs, ice picks, helmets and harnesses and blistering cold. I couldn’t imagine that an average person could actually conquer a mountain. So when my friends first suggested the adventure to me, I said, “No way, Jose.” But with some prodding, convincing and a whole lot of peer pressure, I finally gave in. I’d do it, but I was terrified out of my mind.
When I arrived at the trailhead early that Saturday morning, my stomach was lurching and my heart was leaping out of my chest. “What have I gotten myself into?” I thought as I looked at the three-and-a-half mile trail leading up to a bare, rocky summit.
Despite the fear and doubt, I hiked on. With each hour, I grew more confident. With my backpack strapped tightly around my waste and my hiking boots snug on my feet, I felt like a pro. And for the first time, I realized what a godsend trail mix truly is.
When I was far above the tree line, just a few hundred feet from the summit, dark clouds appeared out of nowhere and the sound of thunder reverberated off the mountains that surrounded me. This was what all the experts had warned us about—getting caught on a mountain in a storm and being the tallest lightening target for miles. As the sky darkened and hail began to assail us, the panic set in and my friends and I literally ran down the mountain as fellow hikers’ hair began to stand on end from the static electricity charging the air.
After slipping and sliding down the wet rocky mountainside, we finally made it safely to the car with only a few bruises and blisters from our soaked shoes. While we never made it to the summit, I still felt like I conquered the world. Not only did I climb a mountain, I climbed one in a hail storm. That seemed pretty adventurous to me. And it was the adventure of a lifetime, one I will never forgot.
When I began to seriously reflect on this excursion and the fear that had almost stopped me from experiencing it, I realized how much this resembled my reaction to the real mountains in my life. I realized that so often I face challenges and hardships as if they are impossible to overcome, as if reaching the summit is not even worth the difficult hike. Rather than facing challenges, I shy away from them, terrified of what could happen if I fail.
The more I considered these truths, the more I realized how ridiculous it is for me allow fear to paralyze me in the face of adversity. As a follower of Christ, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Christ has conquered death and darkness and his power is at work within me, within you if you believe. We have no need to fear, even though the earth gives way and the mountains crumble. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. He will sustain us and give us strength to face whatever challenges or adversity the world throws our way. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are all able to face any challenge head on, secure in the knowledge that one day, we will all reach the summit where our fear will melt like snow and our tears will forever be wiped away.