So why is it that the part of the landscape that stands out to me the most are the stark barren mountains of wind-washed stone. They were in every state we went through, every color imaginable. Some the red of the clay, some variegated white and tan and brown, some gray and tan and blue. These are the views that draw me.
As we look at our lives, we seem to dream of those pastoral times. The green fields, the clouds flitting through an azure sky, tree covered mountains. Times of prosperity of soul and spirit, times of regeneration and life. But we were not just promised those times. We were also told that we would go through hardships and trials, testing and drought. Times where all seems dusty and arid, soul withering winds ripping through us. The harsh light of grief and calamity bleaching our spirit bone white. I have gone through those times. I am watching friends go through those times right now. We want to ask "Why", yet know there is no answer at the moment. We just shake our heads and shrug our shoulders. Nope, no answer, no clue.
Yet we know that there is One who is with us through it all. Through the glorious mountain passes and on the dry desert floor. One who will never leave us. One who is on the journey with us and never makes us travel alone. The One who promised us "I will never leave you nor forsake you." The One who promised in Isaiah 41:13, "For I the LORD your God will hold your right hand, saying unto you, Fear not; I will help you." And again in Isaiah 49:2, "in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me".
You see, our life is like that trip we took. The scenery constantly changing. Farmland and city, mountains and desert, cloudless skies and churning storms. We see what we are going through at the moment. One increment at a time. One minute, one mile at a time. One ecstatic moment, one heart wrenching juncture at a time. We see the scale model of the page, God sees not just the whole atlas, He sees everything. We go through one valley just to come upon a magnificent peak. One tribulation on the way to a moment of joy. He carries us through it all, and He not only holds us in His hand, He delivers us in due time.
We just read in Isaiah 49:2 that He hides us in the shadow of His hand. As we go on to read in that chapter, in verse 8 it says, "Thus saith the LORD, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee". In an acceptable time. What is an acceptable time? Well, when I am going through darkest times, that time for me is right NOW! When I am suffering pain and hurt and heartache I want out of it immediately. But in hindsight, just like looking over that page of the map, I got through that part of the journey. Maybe scarred and a bit worn, but I got through it. And those were the time of the greatest learning, the times of the richest awareness of who God is in my life. Looking back I would not change anything. The destruction of my marriage for the regeneration of a love that grows to this day. The agony of cancer with my dad, caring for him in his last days to see him take his last breath, raise his arms to heaven and then enter into his Father's presence. Going through a stroke with my mom, then lung cancer and other crises. Caring for her for almost three years, feeding her and changing her diaper, never knowing just how much she understood of what was happening. All that to learn a new compassion for her, a new realization of unconditional love. Becoming a stronger woman, more aware of life's frailties, but also life's joy.
Our life's journey will take us through many things. Joy and sorrow. Love and loss. Birth and death. All part of the excursion, but all navigated by Him. And God has our trek plotted out, unlike our trip where we had a few unexpected detours, thinking uh-oh, are we lost? In Him we are never lost. We are never forgotten or forsaken. Through it all we can rejoice. Peaks and valleys, sun and rain, destitution and plenty, all in His hands.
Isaiah 49:13-16, "Heavens, raise the roof! Earth, wake the dead! Mountains, send up cheers! God has comforted his people. He has tenderly nursed his beaten-up, beaten-down people. But Zion said, “I don’t get it. God has left me. My Master has forgotten I even exist." “Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore? But even if mothers forget, I’d never forget you—never. Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands."
I will never look at those harsh wind- and water-eroded mountains the same again. No they are not green and covered with life and plenty. They are cracked and craggy, bleak and jagged. But read that scripture above again...'the mountains send up cheers'. All the mountains! What we think of as good and bad, life-giving or on the edge of destruction, all in His hands. It is all on His radar, we are traveling according to His compass and we will come through this journey having gained in experience and having gained in the knowledge of His love and care for us. The barren becomes beautiful.
All scripture King James Version unless otherwise noted.
Photos taken near Grand Junction, Co by author