When Life Has You Stuck In The Trees

Psalm 124

What if the Lord had not been on our side?
    Let all Israel repeat:
What if the Lord had not been on our side
    when people attacked us?
They would have swallowed us alive
    in their burning anger.
The waters would have engulfed us;
    a torrent would have overwhelmed us.
Yes, the raging waters of their fury
    would have overwhelmed our very lives.

 Praise the Lord,
    who did not let their teeth tear us apart!
We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap.
    The trap is broken, and we are free!
Our help is from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

It had been 3 hours of hiking. We had been on the same, thin trail, for hours. The trail that went straight up the side of the mountain. The pines trees dense on either side and the air stale under the thick thatch of branches above. The only view for hour after hour were the hiking boots of the person in front of you and the path stretching straight up ahead. Backs sweaty and blisters starting to form from hot spots in our boots. It had been a long 3 hours.

I had grown somewhat discouraged as we carried on through this scenery-less hike. What was all this for anyway? Why had I come on this stupid hike? I was hot, sweaty, sore, and had no way to get my bearings and see if we had been making any progress.

And then it happened.

After 3 hours of hiking the viewless path - we broke through the tree line.

One moment I was stuck in the stagnant heat of the forest and the next, I was out in the world high above the tree tops with a cloudless sky and the fresh crisp air.

I turned around for the first time in hours, unbuckled the burden of my pack, sat down on a rock, and marvelled at the view.

Up here I could see where I had come from. I was able to see all that had transpired while I was stuck in the trees, how far we had come, how our hard work had paid off. It gave me a renewed energy for the future, for the hike that still remained.

When reading Psalm 124 a few weeks ago, I couldn’t help think about that hike. About how much hope I drew from looking to where I had come from rather than where I was going.

The Psalmist writes a powerful question. A question about looking back:

What if the Lord had not been on our side?

What a question!

Take a moment and just chew on that question. When was the last time you asked yourself that question? Asked how your life would have been different had God not helped you, watched over you, or guided you?

The answer is somewhat terrifying: swallowed alive, engulfed, overwhelmed by torrents. Life would have looked much different.

Throughout the Old and New Testament God reminds his people to remember. Festivals and celebrations, fasts and rememberance, even the clothing they wore. They had remembrance laid into their yearly calendar and into their daily practises.

Never forget.

Never forget that “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” Exodus 20:2

Jesus did the same with his disciples - reminding them to break bread and drink wine in remembrance of him.

Why is God so intent on us remembering?

Because sometimes it is so hard to be thankful when we are in the thick of the forest. When the difficulties press in around us and we can’t decipher God’s voice. We remember because it helps us in the now, it reminds us that God was with us then and he is with us now. We might not have known it in the past either but we can look and see the marks of his presence, his help, and his comfort. And this, my friends, is where thankfulness can grow, even in difficult times.

Things could have been a lot worse. And sometimes we can only see that in retrospect, in remembrance.

Remember. Remember how God came through, provided for you, brought goodness out of difficulty, gave you strength when you had none, gave manna every day.

Our help is from the Lord.

Our ability to trust God in the present is a reflection on his faithfulness in the past. The way we continue on in our life and enduring difficulty is knowing that God has always given us what we need to do all we needed to do.

The view back down into the valley is just as stunning as the view of the summit, the destination. Even when you peak the mountain, you turn around and gaze at all that has been traversed, all that that was accomplished.

What if God had not been on our side?

Take a few moments to write down your answer to that question. You could have been alone. You could have been abandoned. You could have been engulfed but God was there and he helped you. And he is helping you now, whether you are stuck in the trees or not.

May you be blessed in reflecting on all the ways God has been on your side throughout your walk with him. May you be comforted in knowing that the God who has watched over and rescued you in the past is the same God who is walking with you now, that the pair of hiking boots ahead of you belong to Him. He is good and trustworthy.

And may this knowledge build the foundation for a deeper trust in Him and a renewed strength to continue on.

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