God’s Love Isn’t Complicated

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace…” (1 Corinthians 14:33).

Hibernating Forest, Thomas Canyon

Hibernating Forest, Thomas Canyon

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Change Embraced

Wouldn’t it be great if everything in life was always smooth, predictable, and devoid of unwanted lifestyle alterations? Sure, the fleeting geographic and mindset changes that signify free time or a relaxing vacation are enjoyable, but when it comes to a new job or a novel living environment, do you ever feel a nostalgic longing for the days of yore? I know I do. A recent hike left me with plenty of time to ponder the conspicuous disadvantages and lurking benefits that go hand in hand with time’s passing.

Autumn, the quintessential season of nostalgic thoughts and melancholy feelings

If my previous posting didn’t tip you off, I’m a mountain lover. I grew up in the mountains, played in the mountains, matured in the mountains, and hope to die in the mountains. But right now I find myself living nowhere near the mountains, or at least not as close to them as I’d like. For a brief while, this left me remorseful and depressed. (A humorous measure of self pity, I know.) How did I snap out of it? I turned to God and sought an applicable portion of Biblical truth. I was directed to the utilitarian story of King David.

Before David gained notoriety as a warrior or king, he led a simple life as a shepherd. He didn’t have to deal with any power hungry subordinates, jealous royals, or pesky Philistines. It was just him, his sheep, and God. However, the key to David’s future success was forged during the course of his comparatively laid back upbringing. What was the key? An intimate relationship with the Creator that eventually led God to call David “… a man after my [God’s] heart, who will do all my will” (Acts 13:22 ESV, see also 1 Samuel 13:14). Out of this relationship came a man fully capable of leading Israel into the Father’s abundance. Yet what if David had been unwilling to embrace the great changes destined for his future? How would history be different if the anointed king had contented himself with the life of a shepherd all his days? It’s impossible to say, but I for one am glad that David didn’t get cold feet. I’m glad he embraced the changes in store for his life.

Now, let’s move on with the story. After developing the requisite spiritual and physical skills during his time with the sheep—intimacy with God and a penchant for fighting off lions and other beasts—David was anointed as the next king of Israel by Samuel (see 1 Samuel 16). I don’t want to take the time to delve deeply into each aspect of David’s life, so here’s a brief overview of what came next:

He killed goliath; developed a reputation as an elite warrior, thereby causing king Saul to become jealous; spent the next several years of his life fleeing the murderous intentions of Saul; spared Saul’s life several times; became king after Saul committed suicide; had an adulterous affair leading God to allow calamity to befall his family; was redeemed for his wrongdoing by God; fathered Samuel, the next king and one of the wisest individuals in history; and left a genetic legacy leading to Joseph, the earthly—though not biological—father of Jesus (see 1 Samuel 15-1 Kings 11).

Whew, that was quite a mouthful. To be more blunt, David embraced the changes God had in store for his future, resulting in a more fortunate future for all of us. This encouraged me as I contemplated the continually changing circumstances prevalent in my life. Even if the current situation I find myself in doesn’t yield well to happy-go-lucky notions of prosperity, I know that embracing my current lifestyle and exploiting it to the greatness and glory of Christ will bring me a more idealistic future in eternity. This is all that should really matter.

You might wonder why I’m complaining about not having access to mountains when the following account of an apparently mountainous hike took place in close proximity to my newfound residence. Well, these aren’t my type of mountains. Don’t get me wrong, they are great in their own right, but I prefer taller, more rugged peaks marked predominately by coniferous vegetation and deep snow cover. These feelings no doubt stem from a place of nostalgic idealism, an idealism that I’m quite certain will be associated with these mountains (hills, maybe?) by the time I graduate from university in several years time. Regardless, this area is a testament to the greatness of the omnipotent Creator and the great diversity of His Creation. In fact, I’ve actually found that one of the benefits of moving to a new environment is a greater fervor for discovering God’s greatness as expressed through nature. I was complacent in familiarity with my previous surroundings and am finding myself amazed by learning about plants and animals to which I am unaccustomed.

The Homestead-Blue Ridge trail as it travels south up Cold Canyon. Ironically, temperatures can frequently top 100 degrees.

To the west of Winters, California there is a series of trails in an area known as Cold Canyon. One of the trails heads directly up a hillside to the east and terminates at the top of Pleasants Ridge. I’m still unfamiliar with the area and have yet to explore this trail. Where did I go? I decided to hike an approximately five mile trail known as the Homestead-Blue Ridge loop, so called thanks to the presence of an old homestead a short distance up the trail. The hike has a total of around 1200 feet of elevation gain.

Bigleaf Maple are a highlight among the canyon’s rich and varied vegetation

If you take the trail to the west, you’ll find yourself rapidly ascending through a series of switchbacks. Though I’m ordinarily a glutton for punishment, I decided to take the more leisurely ascent up the canyon and descend, rather than ascend, the steep set of switchbacks. This was a good decision since it was hot and the trailside vegetation is more lush (read, more shady) in the canyon than on the hillsides.

Steeper portions of trail are made more pleasant thanks to the assistance of stairs… lots of stairs.

Mile markers assist in the completion of the approximately five mile long trail

Most of the trail is fairly high quality and if you ascend up the canyon (heading south) the ascent is marked predominately by numerous stairs. Once the trail reaches the top of Blue ridge, though, it becomes slightly more difficult to maneuver.

Certain portions of trail are made difficult by rough terrain

The trail as it meanders atop Blue Ridge

While it was very hazy during the course of my hike, the views from the ridge are quite good, and I look forward to observing seasonal changes in Creation throughout this area.

The surrounding hillsides are in plain view from atop Blue Ridge

Aside from being uncomfortably warm, the descent was uneventful, giving me plenty of time to pray for the surrounding areas and contemplate God’s glory. Additionally, since mountain prayer is an integral part of my spiritual being, I couldn’t help myself from pleading to God for revival in the surrounding areas.

The trail descends through a series of moderately steep switchbacks

My eternal commission is not to enjoy stagnancy or remain fixated on nostalgia, but to revel in the great changes that God brings into my life. As such, I ended up greatly enjoying my time in a personally novel area even though it wasn’t a location I would conventionally choose to venture in to.

Do you find your current situation less than ideal?  Are you dreading an upcoming alteration in lifestyle that doesn’t suit your tastes? If you answered yes to either one of these questions, make a decision to embrace change as David did and take heart in the Word of God: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV).