Jim and I are taking a road trip along the coast of Maine. We’ve spent much of this past week hiking and enjoying the breathtaking scenery of Acadia National Park. On Tuesday we decided to rent bikes. The young woman at the shop in Bar Harbor pointed to a trail map and assured us that we would be riding on level ground.

It took about five minutes for me to realize that there had been a misunderstanding— a failure to communicate. Although we spoke the same language, the bike shop chick and I had a different understanding of the word “level.”

1There were moments I felt like giving up and heading back to town, but throughout the morning, I persevered and was rewarded with beautiful views and exhilarating downhill rides.

In addition to exploring Acadia, I’ve been reading and reflecting on the topic of faith. When I look back at challenging circumstances in my life, I realize that the tough decisions and difficult situations were the times where my faith was built— gradually, one experience with God at a time.

James, the brother of Jesus, says life’s challenges are a gift in disguise.

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.   James 1:2-4

My problem is that I spend much of my energy trying to escape my pain, failing to realize that God is always present with me and working in me, sometimes using the very events or relationships I am attempting to manage or avoid.

The process of growth becomes more joyful when I cooperate with God’s good plan. I’m not sure I will ever learn to eagerly welcome the tests and challenges James writes about, but my own experience has taught me there’s a beautiful view — a new perspective, at the top of every uphill climb.


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