This past August, my two older boys and I decided to join another family to backpack in the Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming. For my ten- and twelve-year-old boys, this would be the first time that they did real backpack camping—we would be carrying all our gear and food for several days.
We had an ambitious itinerary that would test us all in different ways.
For my ten-year-old, the main test came in the first couple of hours on the trail. He was struggling with the fact that we would be hiking and carrying our backpacks for most of that day. Needless to say, he was not thrilled with the idea, and I struggled to patiently encourage him to enjoy the work and adventure. We stopped for lunch by the side of a beautiful mountain lake, and with a full stomach, his attitude completely changed for the remainder of the trip.
As my younger son began to enjoy the journey, my older son’s attitude steadily declined. By mid-afternoon, he was struggling to carry his pack, and he was ready to be done with the whole trip. Late in the afternoon, we decided that we had all pushed ourselves about as far as we could, and we set up camp a couple miles short of our initial goal. As we finished setting up the tent, my older son became ill due to the altitude and the physical exertion from the day. He spent the evening resting and hydrating, and thankfully by nightfall he was feeling much better.
The next couple of days brought clear skies and wonderful adventures. The remainder of the trip was challenging, but enjoyable aside from minor sunburns. At our first meal after the hike, we talked about the challenges and the boys’ favorite parts of the trip. Despite all the hardships, both boys readily stated that they would be excited to do it all again!
As I reflect on this trip, I would summarize it as many difficult moments that, when added together, made for a wonderful time. As we struggled up or down the trail, we were able to laugh and talk and sometimes cry. We enjoyed seeing beautiful waterfalls, lakes, scenic overlooks, and stars. We were hot and then cold, tired and sweaty, but in the end we had a lot fun, and I will remember this trip fondly.
Pleasure in the Difficulties
All of this reminds me of our Christian walk. We often struggle through the ins and outs of day-to-day life. We work and toil at the things we must do. Our journey can be arduous, filled with trials and difficulties. But there is also great joy along the way! As we labor together, we share bonds and connections. We see the beautiful work of God’s Spirit in people’s lives and the world around us. We remember difficulties of the past, and we are grateful for God’s providence in each situation as He shapes us more fully into Christlikeness.
The Apostle Paul experienced all this at a level that most of us never will. In 2 Corinthians 11:24-29, he recounts the sufferings that he had endured for the sake of the gospel. He was flogged, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, constantly in danger, hungry and thirsty. He went through pain and hardships unimaginable, and yet he recognizes how even these hardships were for the gospel and for his good. In the next chapter, he writes, “So I take pleasure in weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and in difficulties, for the sake of Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Paul writes that he took pleasure in the difficulties—he found joy in the trials because they drew him nearer to the Savior. When he experienced these difficulties, they reminded him of his limitations and dependence on God. His weakness gave him all the more reason to boast about Christ! The same can be said in our own lives in Christ. The trials and the difficulties we face can produce pleasure and joy as they draw us nearer to Christ. In the moment, they are certainly painful, difficult, and challenging, but when we consider what has been gained, we can be grateful for it all, just as my boys and I look back fondly on our challenges in the Bighorns. Paul, reflecting on his unimaginable trials, was still able to rejoice. As believers today, we can find joy in the struggles and pleasure in the difficulties, knowing that they will lead us to Christ.
Dr. Rocky Coleman
Director of the Rochester Extension Site
- Pray for the Rochester campus as we continue in our first semester. We are grateful for the solid start and excited for what the future might hold.
- Praise God for the 7 students who are currently studying at our campus, and pray for those whom God is preparing to join us next semester or next year.
- Pray that we can continue to make good connections with additional churches in our city and the surrounding areas.