What is the hardest thing you have ever done, and how did you get through to the other side?
The older I get, the longer my list of “hardest things I’ve ever done.” With each new trial, I experienced more of God’s grace. And the longer my list, the more I know that His grace is all I need.
Recently, His grace saved me when I felt my weakest. His strength helped get to the top of a mountain. A mountain 6,593 feet high.
My family spends one week every other summer in the Great Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, TN. If you have ever visited the Smokies, you know the beauty you can experience on the hiking trails and mountains. This year the park and trails were beautiful as always, and this time my sister arranged for us to stay at LeConte Lodge atop LeConte Mountain, the highest point in the Smokies. The only way to get to the lodge and atop the mountain is to hike unless you are a llama, which is how food and supplies get to the lodge.
Several trails lead to the top of the mountain. The eight of us agreed on a route, and off we hiked early in the morning. I felt pretty confident about getting to the top during the first few hundred yards, but not too long into the trail, I realized the “training” I did before our trip was utterly useless. I think I reached the extent of my hiking strength about two hours into our seven-hour hike.
I underestimated my ability and the incline of the trail. I was way off with the calculations of my ability and the reality of the topography. And now that I was well into the hike, I couldn’t turn back. I had to keep moving.
There was a point where I was trying to picture the rescue helicopter lowering the rescue teams from the sky.
I saw in my mind the rescue team carrying me down the mountain in a stretcher, past the fresh hikers just hitting the trail. How was I going to spin this failure with humor and self-deprecation? I couldn’t. And I did not want to be “that” person, “that” weak link that marred our once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
Gratefully, the slower hikers in my family had mercy on me and allowed me to stop and rest whenever I needed, which was about every 100 steps. And there were so many steps! The trail seemed to be on a steady 45-degree angle straight up, and the end of the trail was allusive. Would this hike ever end?
I’m not exaggerating when I say that I thought I was going to lie down on a tree stump and die.
My clothes were soaked with sweat and added another five pounds to my weary body. Fortunately, gratefully–can you hear the praise–my twenty-year-old much stronger son carried my backpack most of the hike. Taking that load off helped, but, eventually, my sweat-filled clothes were weighing me down–and I couldn’t let him carry those. For his saving sacrifice of carrying two backpacks, I promised to buy him a car. That might have been the lack of oxygen.
Seven hours later, we hit the flat, level ground leading to the cabins. My brother says you can’t cry when you cross the finish line of a marathon, and that also applies to marathon hikes. So I held back my tears of relief that I did not die.
There is no other reason for me reaching the top of Mount LeConte except for the grace of my faithful God. None.
I was completely physically, mentally, and emotionally depleted. There were so many times I wanted to give up. I was at the end of myself.
There is no other reason for reaching the top, but for His grace poured out in my weakness.
And what is so perfect about God’s grace being poured out on my hike is that I asked for it.
My prayer lately has been that God would teach me more about grace. I had so many questions.
What does it mean? How do I know it is grace that gets me through? What does grace look like in my weakness?
Grace is not something easy to explain or define. I have heard many say that grace is called “unmerited favor.” Grace is the blessings we can’t earn and don’t deserve, and it is most apparent when we are our weakest.
The apostle Paul addresses grace and weakness in 2 Corinthians 12:9. The first half of the verse is God’s answer to Pauls’ prayers.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Paul also suffered a kind of physical weakness that he must have felt hindered him from being strong. He prayed three times for God to remove the weakness.
Instead, God helped Paul understand that in his weakness, God is the strength.
When you can’t take another step up the mountain, God is the strength.
Grace is the thing you need the most when there is no other way. Don’t try to dig deep to find it; it only comes from God. If you can’t see the end of your trial, he provides the grace you need to see clearly. If you are suffering the pain of disappointment and discouragement, He gives the grace to endure and find joy. If you are anxious, He provides the grace you need to know peace.
Whatever you need when you are at your weakest is the perfect place to see the power of Christ.
The next day the trip down the mountain and back to our waiting car was every bit as challenging as going up.
Once again, I dreamed of a rescue team coming to my rescue and hauling me down the mountain.
Once again, I prayed God would help me find the strength to endure.
And He did. God is faithful.
When I got home, I wanted to tell everyone the story of my near-death hike and how God saved me.
This story is not about how difficult the hike to the top and down the other side proved to be. The point is not to train more before you go on a ten-mile hike or the beauty of mountains.
The story is God’s grace in weakness. At the end of myself, with nothing left, God’s strength carried me across the finish line. (And no, I did not cry!)
That’s what Paul says in the second half of the verse:
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Our weakness is an opportunity to boast about the power of Christ.
Are you at the end of yourself? Are you completely depleted? Do you feel like you don’t have another ounce of energy, another prayer to pray, another tear to cry? Then you are right where God can show His strength. Right where you will be able to boast, “I didn’t do it, God did.”
It was not my strength and ability that made it to the top of the mountain and back down again. It was God’s grace working in my weakness.
- What is the hardest thing you have ever done? Can you see how God’s grace helped you through?
- Read and meditate on Ephesians 2:8-9: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.
- What does it mean to you that grace is a gift? What does it mean that you do not have to earn grace? Where do you need grace?
Thank you for stopping by today. I do hope you found encouragement.
And a thank you to BibleGateway.com for scripture sources.
I would love to hear from you. Please take a moment to leave a comment.
If this article blessed or helped you today — would you please share it with your friends and family?