For our third wedding anniversary, I went quad biking with my husband. (I don’t know what happened to traditional anniversary gifts…. but hey, that’s what we did). We’d gone quad biking lots before, and I thought that we were ready for a bit of a challenge! The website showed pictures of previous trekkers driving through tunnels, splashing through a river and rolling over fun wooden bridges. It seemed like a step up from anything we’d done before. Turns out it was a huge step!
We arrived at the farm in Cheshire on a gorgeous day, all kitted out with old clothes and waterproofs. I felt much better prepared than the other couple who turned up wearing nice trousers and new shoes! After a test drive around a bumpy circuit, we headed into the countryside.
It was scary! Every verge and riverbank we ventured up was littered with stones. Not beachy little bits of shingle: big rocks with murderous jagged edges. I dreaded catching my wheels on them and could see myself toppling off, several hundred pounds of quad bike coming crushingly to rest on my battered body. Despite the fear factor, the times where we actually drove (knee deep) through a river were awesome.
After our last stint in the river, we made to drive up the steep bank. This will be ok, I thought. No huge rocks, just a nice smooth slope. Revving the bike, I rushed at the bank full of confidence. And stopped halfway up, the ruts too deep.
Over came the instructor. “Yeah, this is a hard slope,” he said. “What you need are some rocks to push the back wheels up and get some friction going.”
In other words, I actually needed the things that I thought were going to be the death of me. Without any friction, I literally got stuck in a rut. (Annoyingly enough, my husband did later manage the slope without any help at all!)
When you climb, you get a hold of each obstacle and use it to propel yourself upwards. You’re getting higher! And the higher you get, the more incredible the view. Awful as they can be, our obstacles ultimately give us something to stand on. Just don’t look down….
My NIV Bible tells me to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6). However, there is another possible version. Instead of “He will make your paths straight,” some scholars translate this as “He will direct your paths.” That second version sounds more like advice I can relate to as I steer through life. There might be obstacles on a winding road, but God is more than capable of directing me around, through, underneath and over them.
Who knows: if life was too smooth and too easy, would we actually end up going backwards?
What if obstacles are essential for growth?
I’m not sure I’m quite ready to “rejoice” in my sufferings, like Paul exhorts in Romans 5. However, I do take courage from his following statement that suffering produces perseverance, character and hope. Especially hope.
I struggle a lot with hoping. Sometimes all I can see are the obstacles. Work. Money. Tiredness. A long to-do list. No time. Etc! But if I looked at life with fresh eyes, I might find that my obstacles are my hope. I might even look back on them one day and think that the obstacles drove me up a steeper slope than I ever dreamed of attempting.
I hope and pray that this can be true for every one of us.