It's 3 A.M. and you're awake. The sun isn't up yet, but you can already tell this is going to be another difficult day. If you could fall asleep for a few hours it would help, but that isn't likely. Your body is exhausted, but your mind is running a marathon -- mulling over the events of yesterday and worrying about tomorrow.
Have you known nights like this? Maybe you're all too familiar with the restless hours, from dusk till dawn, that seem to accompany trial. Sometimes life can become so bitter that it almost feels as if you can't go on. Pain can become so unbearable that living feels more like death. But, there is hope! Whether you've got a case of the blues or are walking through a deep trial, there is hope in the midst of your hurt.
Several years ago, while living in the Florida Everglades, I heard a news report detailing the disappearance of a deer hunter. The man had only lived in Florida a short time before he met a group of hunters who owned a camp deep in the swampy wilderness. After striking up a friendship, he was invited to join this group on their next hunting expedition. A long-time hunter, the man was confident he could navigate the Everglades on his own. So, he eagerly split off from the rest of the group to find a suitable hunting spot. That evening, as darkness began to fall, the group slowly assembled back at the camp. They grew worried when the man they invited to join them still had not returned well after dark.
The next morning, a search crew began combing the area where the man was last seen. The difficult terrain made it almost impossible to track him. As hours turned to days, friends and family lost hope that the man would make it out alive. Until one afternoon, to everyone's amazement, the man was found weak, covered in mud and mosquito bites, but alive! When asked about the ordeal, the man shared that he had gotten disoriented and began walking in the direction he though would lead him back to the camp. He didn't realize he was walking in the opposite direction; moving further away from shelter with each desperate step.
How to Survive
When life gets difficult, it is easy to get disoriented. At times, we find ourselves walking in desperation, hoping for rescue. So, what can we do to increase our chance of survival? Here are three Biblical considerations:
1. Proper Orientation
One of the most helpful tools to carry into the wilderness is a compass. No matter how black the darkness, how intense the storm, or how unfamiliar the terrain, a compass will always point you in the right direction. The same is true in life. When circumstances become difficult to navigate, you need a tool you can trust to point you to safety. In His grace, God has given us His Word to orient our hearts toward Him. No matter the trial, God's Word has the power to lead you from a position of need to the place of rescue. As you rely upon His Word, you can trust that your journey through darkness, through the storm, and through unfamiliar terrain will result in rescue. Resist the temptation to listen to your heart or to go in the direction you think is best. You will only find that your best efforts lead you deeper into the wilderness. Remember the words of Proverbs 14:12 -- There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Are you in the midst of trial? Turn to the Word of God!
2. Find Nourishment
Humans cannot live long without food and fresh water. You need a steady supply of each if you're going to survive in the wilderness. Food and water nourish the body, and in their absence, the body withers and starves. During His time on Earth, Jesus made a startling statement regarding nourishment. In John 6, He explained to His followers that true life is found in eating Christ's flesh and drinking His blood. What could this mean? Jesus went on to explain that true life is found in total dependence upon Him. Instead of trusting in food and water to nourish us, we are meant to trust in Christ alone! Are you trusting in the things of this life to provide the comfort, stability, and sustenance that only Jesus can? Have you placed your hope in others? In things? In yourself? You were created to depend upon Christ, and by His grace, He'll continue to lead you back to Himself. Cling to Him. He has promised to sustain you!
3. Never Go Alone
The wilderness is a dangerous place. The ground is uneven, the obstacles are numerous, and predators are a constant threat. It is not wise to venture into the wilderness alone. A companion can help you through difficult situations and provide encouragement along the way. Before ascending into Heaven, Christ spoke to the Apostle Peter and gave him a mighty task. His instructions, found in Matthew 16, 18, and 28, lay the foundation for what would become one of the greatest sources of strength and encouragement for every believer -- the church. The church is not simply a religious institution, but the living and active body of Christ! It is the place where true professors of the Faith assemble to grow in the Word, encourage one another, serve one another, and teach others to obey all that Christ commanded. In Ephesians 2-3, we discover that the church is a marvelous display of God's glory, and the blood of Christ has made it possible for all believers to share richly in this blessing. Too many Christians are convinced that they can navigate through life on their own. If you are not an active member of a local church, consider finding one that you can join. If you are a member of a local church, immerse yourself deeply in the activity of the body and enjoy the richness and blessing that accompanies obedience in this area.
Trial and temptation will be a constant companion throughout your time on Earth. Thanks be to God that He has overcome all of it on your behalf! You can take great comfort in knowing that the work of Christ on the Cross has made it possible for you to enjoy an eternity of bliss. Paul provides a proper perspective in 2 Corinthians 14:17 -18 with these words -- For this light momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Friend, you may spend that majority of your life in trial. Rest assured, the pain you experience is light and momentary. In due time, Christ will spare you by calling you home to be with Him. While you wait, give Him the honor He is due by living for Him, with a heart of gratitude, no matter the circumstance. He is worthy!