(Today's post by Jacob Moore)
“Between morning and evening they are beaten to pieces;
they perish forever without anyone regarding it.
Is not their tent-cord plucked up within them,
do they not die, and that without wisdom?”
You could hear the wind coming from miles away. It was angry and it was full of hate. The trees standing in its way didn’t slow it down; the mountains planted in its path didn’t stop it. The wind came roaring into the camp, it hit us with gallons of freezing rain, it tried to pull our tent stakes from the ground, it threatened to throw us off the mountain, and then it left, seeking another to endure its wrath. And then it returned–sometimes from the direction it originally came from, sometimes from the opposite.
Sleep felt as though it would never come, but it must’ve, because you can’t wake up without falling asleep, and we both woke up freezing and in pain. We stumbled out of our tents to find a fog so thick we could barely see twenty feet. After breakfast was readied and water was retrieved for the coffee, my dad and I both got in the same tent to boil the water and eat, hoping that we’d feel some form of heat, however light. We ate in silence, we packed up camp in silence. It was time to hike away another day.
For the non-hiker, the hardest part of hiking is often thought to be going up the mountains. For the hiker, his damaged knees proclaim going down the mountains is perhaps the closest thing to hell than hell itself. Each step down your knee nearly buckles under your bodyweight plus your pack weight as it tries to prevent you from rolling down the mountain. Each step down the endurance of the knee decreases and the pain of the knee increases. Eventually the knee can become so swollen that it stops bending, and when that happens every single step brings immense pain to the hiker. My dad’s knees were swollen, and each step was a little harder to take than the previous. But he wasn’t anywhere near ready to quit. And then God let it storm.
The wind hit us like waves of solid walls. And it always brought cold water; even when rain wasn’t falling from the clouds, the wind would just borrow some from the collection on the leaves of trees and send it through our waterproof clothes to our shivering skin. Swollen knees and soaked rocks, freezing rains and frigid winds — this is early May on the Appalachian Trail.
The pain on my dad’s face hurt my heart, and like an insecure child I turned my pain into anger. I often tried to stay with my dad, but when I couldn’t stand it anymore I’d hike until he was out of sight and I’d try to drown out the roar of the wind with my screams at the Creator. What could He possibly be thinking? It was almost as though God was unaware that my dad and I were really looking forward to this trip. We had planned extensively for it, and we were looking forward to a nice, relaxing week. We even prayed for a good week! With less than a snap of His fingers, God could give us perfect weather and heal my dad’s knees. This was not what my dad and I wanted; this was punishment.
In my Bible, right before the book of Job, there’s an introduction to the book. In the introduction it states that “the book does not name its author. Job is an unlikely candidate because the book’s message rests on Job’s ignorance of the events that occurred in heaven as they related to his ordeal.” My dad and I were ignorant to the events that occurred in heaven as they related to our ordeal. I’m not sure how Dad saw it, but I saw it much like Eliphaz in chapters four and five of Job: This pain is punishment, God doesn’t punish the innocent — my dad is innocent, I do alright. What the heck, God?
Unlike the way Eliphaz was thinking, and how I often think, God thinks in much bigger ways. The pain, wind, and rain slowed us down a considerable amount and we ended up camping in a spot we never planned on camping. And camping with us was an unexpected guest named Flipper. Flipper was a lost forty year old man who was desperately aware of the fact that he was alone and needed a father. My dad and I never would have met him if we had the knees of Superman and the weather of paradise. That night with Flipper reminded us of why we hike. He told us stories that broke our hearts, but we tried our best to repair his. In the morning we prayed with Flipper and gave him our contact information. And like a predictable movie, the weather lessened until we were off the trail.
Reading chapters four and five reminded me of our trip in the woods. It reminded me that God doesn’t always work in ways we’re so used to thinking. It reminded me that no matter how bad it gets, God’s got a tight hold on the situation.
I’m not at all sure what’s become of Flipper, but I am absolutely sure that meeting him was no accident; and, though there was “pain and suffering”, God’s plan came through exactly like He knew it would.
Can you name a time where you experienced pain, only later to see the Divine significance of it?