Have you ever wondered why God allows you to face difficulties and trials? Sometimes we go through hard situations in life, realizing that it was because of our foolish choices. But what about the times when we haven’t done anything to “deserve” it? At one point we may think ourselves to be safe on a mountaintop, but in the next moment stuck in a dark valley. We cry to God: “Why me, why now?”. I literally found myself to be there a couple of weeks ago.
The dark is settling, and part of the group made it to the refugee shelter. The guys went out to look for wood, so that we would stay warm during the night. We are in the Pyrenees, about to hike up Peña Telera, a 2764m mountain top. The view from the cabin is magnificent! I smell the fresh air, and enjoy the great handiwork of God. We all had looked forward to this weekend, to enjoy the nature and the fellowship.
The evening worship has started. God put on my heart to share about trials and surrender, reading from John 15:1-7. “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (John 15:1-2).
It may hurt, but in order for us to grow and to be transformed into God’s image, He needs to cut off branches that bear no fruit. Some are completely cut off while others are pruned. This is one reason why God allows us to go through difficulties, disease, and even persecution.
God loves us, and the only way for us to grow is to stay connected to the vine: Christ.
How can we abide in Him? Surrender is needed – daily. “I die daily”, Paul said (1 Cor 15:31). Surrender means that we are willing to give up anything, so that the glory of God can be revealed in us. By total surrender to God, we will be prepared as we go through difficulties. I shared some personal experiences how God helped me to surrender 100%, and how big trials in my life worked out for good.
“Remember these things, next time you face a trial!”, I said as we finished the worship.
We went to bed this evening, not knowing about the very tough day that was before us.
Our Refuge and Fortress
The sun is shining, cows are walking outside the cabin, with a majestic mountain top in the background, that we soon would be up on. We read Psalms 91 as we prepared to get going:
“I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in Him I will trust…For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways…He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him, I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.”
At around 9:30 we started our hike up the top. We had a great time together! After a while it got steep and many loose stones were falling as we climbed. “The worst has to be over soon”, I thought as I climbed up a very steep and stony part of the hike.
Photo: Christian Hjortland
Eagles and vultures were flying above our heads, as we went on a path around a cliff. “Are you serious, do we have to walk on this path?”, I heard someone say, as it was very steep to the right of us. Anxiety and nervousness was now apparent in some of the guys. This is not a good route for those who have fear of heights, so some of us had a hard time.
“Just don’t look down”, I said, while minding my step. We had already spent about 2-3 hours of the hike, facing an even steeper part of the mountain.
“I am not hiking up there!, I’ve had enough”, a girl said. Three others agreed, and they stayed on a big cliff in the sun, while waiting for the rest of us. The hike leader had been here before, so we didn’t question the routes before this trip.
I was really certain that we saw the top now. It took another hour to get there. At this point I was very tired, hungry and thirsty. Now we had been hiking for about 5 hours. I thought we would be down again by this time. There was not much water left and we shared what we had, but it was still not enough. At least I made it to the top, and now we would take another route down again. As we got back to where the rest of the group stayed, that whole cliff was now in the shadow. It was cold, and many of us were freezing. I got cramp in my legs – my body had enough!
This new path looked steep, but so was the path we took on our way up, with many loose stones. So we trusted that the leader chose the best path, even though it so far had been more adventurous than we expected. You see, at this point we didn’t know what would face us. If we knew about the dangers coming, I think all of us would have stayed home. The beginning of our hike down was okay, and when I thought the worst to be over, it turned out to get more and more steep. The anxiety got more apparent in the group. It was too late to turn. I tried to encourage those behind me, even if I myself thought that this was crazy. The view was amazing, but watching 2500m down, was not only a nice experience, as we were balancing on rocks. The tiredness of our bodies, and the cold made this even more dangerous.
At the top of Peña Telera, 2764 meters
The True Rock
One of the girls went ahead of us, but the rest of the group stayed together.
“I cannot do this!!” another girl cried out, while attempting to go from one rock to another at a steep part. Panic kicked in once again, and tears were falling down her cheeks. “You have to do it!”, a girl exclaimed as she tried to help her. I totally understood her – this route is scary!
Rocks and stones were falling as we walked down, sometimes bigger ones. My foot had already been hit by a quite big stone, that passed right by my head. This was also the case for several of the others, and one of the girls was hit in the back. I looked at a guy that was shaking because of the cold and anxiety. This is not a good situation! One slip could be enough. While holding on for my life, I needed to let my arms and legs get scratched to keep going.
At one point I asked myself if we really would make it down. Some of us started to talk about calling for help. This is too dangerous! But how could even a helicopter land here? We were on a big cliff, steep to the left, the right and too steep in front of us. We were stressed about the situation.
“Why me? Why now?”. We prayed to God for protection and guidance. Will we make it? I was certain that God would lead us through somehow, even if it looked very bad. Because it doesn’t matter if we feel insecure on these big rocks. As long as we have our feet firmly set upon the true Rock, Jesus Christ, nothing can move us.
On the way down…
Delivered in the Dark
The phone is calling. The girl that went before us had fallen off a rock and was on her way to the hospital. The blood was flowing from her wrist. What will happen next?
Now another problem arose. We got closer to sunset, and the steep parts kept coming our way. Some really struggled to make it. Panic and tears were still present in the group. I tried to stay calm, and show the others what to do, even if I didn’t always have much clue where to put my feet. “We need to hurry up before the sun is setting.”, I said. With the dark coming, it would be nearly impossible to continue, as it was already hard to see where to put our hands and feet, with the limited options.
Several of us almost lost the grip, and I am sure that angels sustained us. I got weaker and weaker without water and food, and started to get dizzy. In such a condition it is certainly not good to hike in this already very challenging route, without any climbing equipment. I started to think about my worship I had the day before. We need to be prepared for trials. But we had no idea that such a great trial would come upon all of us so soon. But again Lord? I just went through another big trial! The morning devotion from Psalms 91 was also very fitting for the moment.
Two of us went a little ahead to seek for the way. As we came to the end of this big kilometer long cliff, I looked down the edge. How in the world are we going to get down from this? That is just pure madness! The dark came upon us, and somehow we managed to get down from the rock on another side, and waited for the others and pointed them in the right direction with flashlights.
“I didn’t see how steep it was because of the dark, so that made it easier”, a guy said, that have a fear of heights.
A girl had injured her knee, which made things even harder. Another guy had his short ripped up. We were still not in safety. And now that the dark settled, we did not know where the way down was. There were still some hard passages to go through. We were fumbling in the dark for around 2 hours, until we made it to the cabin about 20:30. About one and a half hours later we made it to the cars, and could go home. Praise God! “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31)
Disappointment turned into Appointment
As I was walking there in the dark, before we actually were safe, I realized that satan is really angry with me. He hates that I am working for the Lord, and is continuously trying to distract and destroy me. This has become more apparent the last years of my life as I have been more active in ministry. I decided already in the midst of this trial, that I will let God use this experience for good, and thus also conquering the enemy.
Afterwards, some people told me: “You need to start thinking. Risking your lives all the time is nothing God would accept.” Really? Maybe this is what people tell you as well when you have been in unexpected trouble. Humans often seek to find human explanations of problems that arise – someone has to get the blame. But there is more to the reality. None of us thought that this hike would be dangerous neither that we had to risk our lives. I think even the hike leader got a surprise.
Friends, the Bible tells us that we are living in the midst of a great controversy, and there are things in this world that we cannot control. We all thought this would be a peaceful and nice hike – and it was for a while, but suddenly it turned into a nightmare, and it was too late to go back!
Satan is angry with His church, God’s people, which is now the target of his fiery darts. Because he knows that this will harm God as well.
The Israelites of old asked: If God is leading us, why do all these things come upon us? “Why me, why now?”
“It is because God is leading them that these things come upon them. Trials and obstacles are the Lord’s chosen methods of discipline and His appointed conditions of success. He who reads the hearts of men knows their characters better than they themselves know them…Often He permits the fires of affliction to assail them that they may be purified.” (Ellen White, Ministry of Healing p. 471)
God has everything under control, and He let us face trials to shape our characters into His, so that both we and others may not only live better lives, but getting saved.
On this day – October 31st, the devil wanted to kill us. Halloween is a day where people are using “humor and ridicule to confront the power of death.” (Sam Portaro, (25 January 1998). A Companion to the Lesser Feasts and Fasts). While satan wanted to see us all dead, God chose to redeem us after sunset, on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is to remind us that God created us, and also that He redeems us.
Look at the life of Christ. He chose to accept the hardest trials on this earth, to save you and me – and He won victory. As He entered into the great struggle right before He was arrested, He prayed: “…not My will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42). Are you willing to pray like this even in the midst of a big trial?
Your disappointment is God’s appointment, and with His help you too can be victorious. Will you allow God to use trials and difficulties in your life to strengthen your faith and character, so you can reveal God’s glory to the world?
Be prepared, and God will take you on an amazing journey!
A taste of the climbing (not the hardest part):