Here Comes Trouble
I had never ever gone camping and here I was going on a 10-day backpacking trip that would cover about 100 miles. What, was I crazy or something?? It was the summer before my senior year in college and the leadership team was required (!!) to go on this trip. I was stuck. We were allowed 2 outfits, a Bible, notebook, pen, and a few very rudimentary luxuries – you know, soap and a brush. They purchased the food for the team of 50 or so of us, but we all had to carry the stuff in. But, hey, I was young and adventurous. We went to Yosemite, and to this day I cannot tell you where in that park we were because I frankly don’t remember. I was too exhausted to look around for landmarks. Not that I would know what they were. After we had on our gear we started out. We were to hike 10 miles a day, camp and do the same thing the next day. We had not gone far from the parking lot when I had to find a restroom. I quickly realized that I was not in the city anymore and I seized the opportunity. We were not allowed to pack the luxury item of toilet paper, so I found something soft. OK, let’s just say that moss is not the best way to start off a 10 day trip without a shower!!! I soon learned that “Sierra Charmin” did a much better job. I wish I knew that before. Live and learn. Up to this point in my life I had not ever taxed my body the way I did on that trip. It was grueling, but exhilarating at the same time.
I had injured my knee playing softball about a year before, and it gave me fits on the whole trip. The leaders were very good and keeping me bandaged up and they were pretty sympathetic to my plight. However, I really did not let it stop me. We hiked, did switchbacks where it was so tight all I could see were the boots of the person on the switch above me. We climbed on a shale mountain and at the very top we looked down the other side and saw the bluest lake I ever had seen. We rock climbed, but I just couldn’t bring myself to repel – I had had a fall a couple of summers before that involved repelling and sliding about 50 feet. About two thirds into the trip there was this thing called a “solo.” Each backpacker was to spend about 18 hours alone on the trail. No backpack, no food, no anything, except our Bible, journal and pen. They put the girls closest to the leaders, in a row along the trail and the guys were farthest away. We were given a whistle in case of emergencies. For whatever reason I did not freak out. Now I would freak. Back then, I took it in stride. Our instructions were pretty simple – build your bed in the daylight and don’t go to bed too early. I had a very pretty site. I scoped it out, scavenged around for my bedding. I gathered bark and pine needles and set up camp under a fallen log. It was really a great bed. I hung out in the sun and read my Bible. I spent a lot of time with God. I can’t really recall anything profound from this quiet time, but to be still before the Lord was quite a concept for this social butterfly. When it got dark I went to bed. I thought I had gone to bed late, but I was up in the middle of the night – wide awake. I had the rest of the night to listen to Yosemite and all the animals. Like I mentioned earlier, I did not freak. I just lay there and waited for the sun to rise. I can’t believe I did that solo. But I can look back with remembrance and say ‘Thank You’ to God for helping me. He gave me the strength to do that. On the last night of our trip we were to do a 10-mile midnight run. At this point I just couldn’t because my knee was twice its normal size, so I road in the poop-out truck with one of the leaders. I think I would have liked to test my body on that run, but I am glad I was wise and did not hurt myself further. The thing I remember most about this trip was our ride home. We stopped at Sizzler for steak dinner. Yum, yum. It tasted so good. Then, we had a loooong car ride back to school. For whatever reason the driver was not willing to make a pit stops after the restaurant. Let’s just say I was miserable. Out of the entire whole trip, that last hour or so was the worst. I remember that. But, my God was and is faithful. He helped me endure. It's a good story actually!
Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 2:3
One thing that I like about Paul's writings is his ability to take every day life and put it into the spiritual realm. Marrying Christianity with military terminology? It really helps to view our life in Christ as a war - and the stakes are clearly spelled out when viewed in this manner. We are at war. It may not be obvious to anyone on the outside, but it is a spiritual war, nonetheless. Using our definition of thorns - anything that is troublesome, I would like to see how the above verse can be a source of comfort in our life of thorns.
My daughter and I did quite a bit of studying on wars - Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I and II, Vietnam Conflict and the Korean Conflict. One thing I walked away with - war is NOT pretty. People are killed, life back at camp is difficult, lots of disease, things seen and heard are not for the
fainthearted. We did not study these wars because of the glamour, we wanted to understand the sacrifice that men and women have paid for our freedom in America. We were humbled a hundred times over by their sacrifices. They endured hardship. Excruciating hardship. The red trail in the snow. Minutemen. Brother fighting against brother. Auschweitz. Trench warfare. Agent Orange. No Man's Land. Oh, it was hard to study this, but so good too, because we really got a new appreciation for the cost of American freedom.
So what makes being a soldier so hard? I'm tempted to say EVERYTHING, but that might be overstating it. First off, they have to obey a commanding officer no matter what. Even if they don't understand the command, agree with it or even like it. They have to follow through with instant obedience or risk punishment. They are on call every moment of their time in active duty unless they have been given permission to have some R & R. Their time is not their own. They are told when to eat, what to eat. When to sleep and where. I have been on a submarine and their teeny tiny bunks are shared between 3 people, 8 hours shifts, so the bed is never cold. They are told what to wear, when and how to keep it clean. Then they are trained for battle. Whether it is a gunman, mechanic, pilot, navigator, cook, medic or chaplain they are trained to be ready to face the enemy at any given moment. Then there is the ammunition and weapon training. All kinds of weapons. I have shot a gun and I might even have a bruise in my shoulder yet. Lots of kick. How can they handle that over and over again?? To top it all off - they are to do this without fear. Or, fear that is shown to the outside. I'm sure these guys are shaking in their boots when they encounter the enemy.
Paul wrote that verse with the Roman army in mind. Now, I have not studied this army, but from what little I know, it was a force to be reckoned with and human lives were dispensable. There was always another man to fill the empty place. But what set them apart was their ability to attack and destroy the enemy. And they were quite good at it. They did whatever it took.
Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Do these words mean something a little different now? If you know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour you have enlisted in God's army. He is our Commander-In-Chief. Our marching orders are written down for us in the Bible. And our enemies are - sin, the world, Satan.
Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you; whom you received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 2 Corinthians 6:19-20
In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I (Jesus) have overcome the world. John 16:33
Jesus told us that we would have trouble. There would be battles. Such as: listening to lies, ruminating the latest conversation gone south; controlling our tongue, or sharing Christ with the lost. And the hardships we encounter could be persecution, mockery, insults, shunning, etc. There are times when these battles are fierce and unrelenting and every ounce of your strength is needed just to stay engaged. Or, they could be less intense, but still a battle - battle of the bulge, anyone? I, for one, do not want to make light of any skirmish, because I am involved in my own battles. It is just as I read more and study more in the Word I realize that we are engaged in warfare whether we want it or not. I can hide my head in the sand, I can run away, I can scream all I want. But my battle is still there. There are two things that I know to do. One, cry out to Jesus and submit to Him. I need to stand behind Him because:
YAHWEH is a Warrior, YAHWEH is His Name. Exodus 15:3
And two, I need to put my armor on and leave it on. A good soldier is always ready. He or she does not walk around half dressed. Can you imagine that? Base camp with half-naked soldiers? If I were the enemy, I would attack them just to get a laugh. And not only am I to have my armor on, I need to stand. I pray and stand. I guard what I know to be true. Jesus is true. His Word is true. His love for me is true. I stand for Truth.
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:13
So, our thorns may be big. They may sting a little or hurt a lot. We can be hurt while engaged in this battle. And I have seen lots of wounded soldiers. What is pretty amazing is that a lot of times these wounded comrades want to get back in and fight. They want to be patched up so they can get back and fight side by side with their squad. I want to be a good soldier and do the same thing. I don't want to fall out and go AWOL. My brothers and sisters are still fighting out there. How can I do that when I'm in pain? Well, I can pray. A lot. I can study the Word more and more and tell others the most wonderful news ever. I can encourage others with a letter, text or email. I can call someone. Most importantly I can sit at the feet of Jesus and worship Him because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.