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“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” (Psalm 23:3-4)
I was on my second solo backpacking trip at Cradle Mountain National Park, Tasmania, Australia. It was April, and the beautiful fagus leaves (Nothofagus gunnii, or Deciduous Beech) were in their peak color. Fagus is only found in Tasmania, and it is Australia’s only cold climate deciduous tree. In autumn it paints the flanks of Tassie’s iconic Cradle Mountain, in brilliant patches of yellow.
I had four days completely to myself, something nearly incomprehensible to a mother of a young child. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had had this much time alone. But in between the last time and this time I had gone through some really difficult trials that deeply affected me. However, motherhood never allowed me a space of time long enough to process them, for motherhood’s constant demands necessitated virtually all of my time, attention and energies….which, I suppose, in a way, was a blessing in disguise.
Within the very first hour of leaving my doorstep the emotional aftermath of these events consumed my thoughts, for I had no external demands with which to deflect them. I had never triaged, let alone, plumbed the depths of the damage caused by these events. However, I had my God and his Word (the Bible), which have always been all I ever needed in times of great difficulty.
Many fears and worries assaulted me on my trip due to the spiritual, emotional and psychological stress I was under at that time. As I climbed Hanson’s Peak I cried out again and again, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me” (Psalm 69:1-2). It felt like too much for me, and I considered giving up and turning around.
But I knew to give in to all my fears and unbelief and to not trust God and believe his Word would be a failure and a battle lost. Not that this was in any way a personal “performance” or “achievement” issue, but something deep down in my spirit believed and knew that God’s grace would be wholly sufficient for me and that God’s Word would truly sustain me (for I clearly felt it was God’s will for me to go on this trip).
As I quoted the Word of God to myself and pressed on in faith the size of a mustard seed (Matthew 17:20), I earnestly prayed that God would provide a Christian to encourage me at the camp I was headed for. When by God’s grace I finally made it, a friendly couple was sitting outside the hut and greeted me. It just so happened they were the direct answer to my prayer, for they were Christians and they even knew of and enjoyed my artwork!
The love of God expressed to me through this answered prayer as well as through the kindness and love shown to me by this Christian couple, ministered very deeply to me in my time of deep distress. Thank you, God, with all my heart, for your great kindness and love to me. The following morning I had an exceptionally great time of fellowship with the woman. I was greatly uplifted and bolstered in my faith through this remarkable time of God’s personal love and faithfulness shown to me.
As I was returning I had to pass through a dark grove of fagus, yet ahead I could see the sunlight brilliantly illuminating my path and the fagus leaves ahead. The lighting was just perfect, and the scene seemed to metaphorically capture my experience perfectly.
Though I was walking in great darkness which seemed, at times, like the valley of the shadow of death, the light of God’s Word illumined my path ahead. I knew I could fully trust every word.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (Psalm 119:105)
The light of God’s presence with me was apparent, even in my place of darkness. And even in the midst of trauma, pain and grief, the glorious gold of God’s love for me and his blessing upon my trip not only penetrated but permeated my dark surroundings.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long: we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39)
Yes, Lord, your Holy Spirit and your Word are our counsellors. They have always been wholly sufficient to meet our every need, to heal our every wound, to deal with every dark and difficult issue in our lives, to counsel us through every seemingly impossible problem, to support us through every trial, to comfort us in every sorrow and to grant us victory in every battle.
There is nothing that your Holy Spirit and your Word cannot do, my God!
“And I [Jesus] will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever–the Spirit of truth.” (John 14:16-17)
“Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.” (Psalm 119:24)