Sometimes life can feel a lot like an uphill battle. We can feel like we’re struggling to gain our footing or find the strength even to take the next step. We’re cold, and we’re tired, and we’re on this mountain—this problem or situation or season—that we’re trying to overcome so we can cross to the other side. But let me encourage you that, even when it seems like God isn’t working, God is faithful.
I experienced the climb of a lifetime—Mt. Fuji in Japan. While this hike was very literal, I got to feel and experience God in new ways on Mt. Fuji. And I also learned some valuable lessons about tackling literal and figurative mountains at every stage of the process (preparing for it, facing it, and getting to the other side of it). Hopefully, what I learned can help you.
Preparing for Your Mountains
God promised us we would have trouble in this life. He never once said life would be easy or that by following Him, we would get unlimited “Get Out of Jail Free” cards for when life throws us a curveball. But sometimes, we are surprised by or feel as though we can’t handle the mountain in front of us. The problem or situation seems insurmountable.
2019 marked two years since losing my husband and five years since his stroke. I also ended up having surgery, which forced me to rest and basically sit in some unresolved feelings. So I joined a gym and started reflecting on those feelings in preparation for the mountain. There’s no way to see every hit coming, but you can brace for the blow and prepare for your mountains. Here’s what I learned about preparing for the climb.
1. Envision the mountain
There’s power in seeing yourself overcoming a challenge or even overcoming a small battle in a longer war. I knew the climb would be just as much of an emotional and spiritual climb as it would be a physical climb. In my mind, I envisioned the mountain and saw myself leaving baggage on the mountain. I saw myself reflecting on the mountain, and I saw myself pushing through the pain and trials on the mountain.
2. Worship and pray
I woke up really early the day of the climb. One of the first things I did was sit with my headphones on and the YouVersion Bible App open. I listened to my worship playlist on repeat, and I prayed through several verses. Verses that often come to mind on days I know will be challenging are Psalm 118:24, Deuteronomy 31:8, and 2 Timothy 1:7.
God spoke loud and clear to me through 2 Timothy 1:7 that morning. He reminded me that He gives me the power I need to conquer my mountain, He already goes ahead of me into my day, and He has already planned how He will show up along the way. When you face a mountain, start by praying to the One who can move it. God can speak to you through His Word or through a worship song with exactly what you need to hear.
3. Realize you have everything you need
One of the other things I did the morning before my climb was triple-check my pack. I have a terrible habit of talking myself out of things or assuming I cannot conquer a task. But I have to trust in God and the abilities, skills, and resources He has given me. I also have to trust He has given me everything I need to tackle the mountains of life.
Facing the Mountain
Even though I knew I was prepared for the trail ahead, I also knew it wouldn’t be easy. We received our safety speech from the guides joining us on our climb. Spike would go ahead of us and Abbe would bring up the rear. We were told this is a non-rescue mountain—your feet take you up, your feet bring you down. They gave examples of people not surviving and how the mountain had erupted in 2014, taking the lives of 60 people.
But I wasn’t scared. I was excited to be challenged and stretched. I knew I would be coming down a different, better person, and I knew that even if Abbe and Spike wouldn’t be rescuing me, Jesus would walk with, before, and after me, and He would always come to my rescue. Here are a few other things I learned from my trek up Mt. Fuji.
1. You need community to support you
There were lots of times when I got to more difficult sections—some were in short bursts, others for longer stretches. I began to feel as though I simply could not do it. The climbs were tougher than I expected, and I was getting winded easily. But I found the strength to push on as I received help and encouragement from others.
I was climbing with my sister-in-law, Meredith, and she encouraged me along the way, reminding me that I could do this and waiting when I needed to wait. And even strangers who were also climbing the mountain gave me support and encouragement when I allowed myself to be vulnerable with them. Who are you doing life with and getting encouragement from during the tough times? Who is reminding you that God is faithful to complete the good work in you?
2. Don’t ignore how you feel
When I made it to one of the huts, I was out of breath, in pain, and a bit broken. What I had just done was hard and taxing. I was hurting, and I was tired. I leaned against the hut, fell to the ground, and just cried. Eventually, though, I pushed on. I learned that I needed to let out my emotions and lay them at God’s feet. It’s a lot harder to stand up and push on when you’re lugging unresolved issues and feelings with you. God can handle our emotions and feelings, and He wants us to lean into Him in moments of weakness or exhaustion.
3. Enjoy the view from the top
I made it to the eighth station on the trail—one stop below the summit of the mountain—and before I headed back down, I took some great sunrise photos above the cloud line. Being at the top of your mountain, you get to experience and see God and the wonder of His work and creation in a new light. You get a new perspective on what you just went through and you have a sky-high view of what’s to come.
Overcoming the Downhill Battle
Descending a mountain is typically all downhill and should be much easier than the climb, right? Not entirely. Going downhill presents new challenges—you’re so close to getting back on even ground and so close to victory, but the very same twists and turns that you conquered on the way up can be more difficult on the descent, with your feet slipping and sliding, struggling to find footing. What did God teach me about owning the downhill battle?
1. Speak life
A couple of hours into the descent, I started to get a bit frustrated because I kept slipping and was beginning to get pretty tired. I had moments of telling myself once again that I couldn’t do this. Every time I had to move over for one of the resupply trucks using the path, I convinced myself that I would drop off the mountain—even though they had built up the sides to prevent people from sliding off. Illogical thinking, but these are the thoughts you can often find yourself having when you forget to speak God’s truth. It may seem rough, but go back to the Scriptures you read and prayed through in preparation for the mountain and just speak them over yourself. Or even repeat one of these: Philippians 4:13, Joshua 1:9, or Romans 8:37.
2. Remember that God is faithful
After I took a stop at a hut on the way down, a gust of wind came over the edge and blew my hat right off my head, around the corner and as far as I knew right off the mountain never to be seen again. My heart broke, and I sobbed and cried out to God. The hat wasn’t just a hat to me; it was my late husband’s hat. It felt like a line had been crossed. Little did I know, a few switchbacks down, a man caught my hat. And as a large truck was passing me later on, I saw the man standing there clutching the hat with both hands. We made eye contact, and he walked toward me and handed me Steven’s hat, my hat. Maybe you lost something or even a part of yourself on your mountain, but God is faithful and just. He’ll return your joy, your peace, your lifeline—just maybe farther down the mountain.
3. Appreciate the process
Once you get to the end, praise God for where He’s brought you, and also praise Him for what He’s brought you through. Each side of the mountain and each part of the journey challenged me in different ways, and for different lengths of time. But God taught and showed me something new and different on each journey, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
That day I was reminded that God is with us every step we take. He sometimes gives us more than we think we can handle, but in those moments God is faithful. He meets us there. He’s still working when we don’t feel it.
When you can’t remember that God is bigger than your weakness, when you feel like you can’t go on, ask God to give you one more step, and then another, and another, until you reach the finish line, and remember that God is climbing the mountain with you. He will teach you how to overcome your fears and learn what you really are capable of, and He will always provide a way.