“The trail was hard, but it was wonderful…”
So writes Ruth Stull in her book, Sand and Stars as she describes the trek that she, her husband Ross and their five month old boy made through the jungles of Peru in the 1930’s as they journeyed to reach the “red-skinned forest people to whom we felt called to carry the gospel”
In the 1930’s their travel was a combination of train, mule and canoe. They crossed swaying bridges made of tree trunks, cable and vine; up steep mountain sides of the Andes on sure footed mules before they reached the river highway that would take them to their new home in the forest.
“I would watch the foot of that mule ahead, the mule that carried the two most precious to me in all the world, my husband and our small son, slip over the edge of the cliff, breaking away a piece of the ledge that would go down and down, and my heart down and down with it. It was what could happen to that mule ahead that put a tightness around my heart and drew the muscles of my throat and face until they hurt. I would voluntarily relax only to find in a little while the same tension…”
She described one Sunday morning when the way seemed to hard, “the heights too high and the depths too deep…” Just then, with tears in her eyes she saw a cloud of brilliantly colored songbirds flying out of the canyon beneath them and she was reminded that the Lord declared that each of us is worth more than many of such creatures. Her heart was at rest with this confidence.
Perhaps this is a morning like that to many of us. The way before us seems too hard, the depths are too deep. Although we don’t face the obstacles of a treacherous mountain trail and comparatively, there is no poverty of convenience with us, we nevertheless may face a trail that is very intimidating. Our trails are trials. Faith is tested at every turn and by every prospect of the unknown that lay before us.
From where can we draw the confidence to keep going? Is it not from the same Lord, the same promises that Ruth Stull and her husband drew theirs?
Midst the darkness, toil and sorrow,
One bright gleam I see
Well I know the blessed morrow
Christ will come for me…
Ruth writes of their inability to make the government post that they were trying to reach before nightfall. They continued on in darkness, unable to see the trail, unable to converse, relying only on these creatures guided by familiarity with the trail and their God.
“Attempting to direct the mules was useless. They knew better than we where the edge of the trail was. We made no attempt to guide them. Conversation was impossible, but my husband, riding ahead, called back to me through the blackness over his shoulder a long chain of precious promises, Scripture verses, inspired statements from Holy Writ. It was so dark I could not see the great white ears of the mule I was riding, but I could see the perfect safety of the one who trusts in God.”
What was it that made this hard trail so wonderful? They began to see things that they would otherwise never see or even imagine. She writes of what they observed in their daylight hours:
“…Huge, clear blue butterflies darted before us in the sunshine; Lavish beauty; creation unspoiled by the trample of the race. Rounding the cliff we saw the mountain wall beyond the river like a huge tapestry hung from heaven’s balcony, patterned with scarlet, orange and purple against green.
We worshiped the Artist who alone could make such design.
In silent wonder we adored the God of creation.”
Most of us are familiar with the following age old philosophical question: “If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to witness it, does it make a sound?” Such a question encourages us to think of man as the center of creation. It is intended to lead us to consider that we are the creator of our reality.
Yet, God’s Word reveals to us that creation was made by and for another…
“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”
Col 1:16 NKJV
We are an important part of that creation to be sure, but we are only a part of His beautiful tapestry. Still, our merciful Creator delights to reveal to us who are created in His image, the bountiful beauties of what He has done.
The trail may be hard, but the things of God that we would otherwise never see are too wonderful to miss.
Psalm 91 is a Messianic Psalm describing deliverance of God’s Holy One who has set His love upon His Father. In v. 15 we read:
“He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I [will be] with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him.”
This is not describing a deliverance from the trial, but a deliverance through the trial. As it is true of Christ, it is true of all who are ‘in Christ’. We can claim this same promise of deliverance.
Years later, Mr and Mrs. Stull would experience God’s miraculous preservation out of the jungle after her appendix burst. Through many prayer filled trials she was finally flown out to a hospital for treatment. Viewing that same rugged trail from 6000 feet, she remembered its awful height and depth:
“…When it seemed to me that I couldn’t live out another hour of it. But Now…we looked at it from the clouds and that trail looked like a silver ribbon in a sea of green treetops, so smooth, so short, so quickly and so easily passed over…”
One of these days we are going to be caught up in the clouds with the Lord and I’m sure as we look back from that glorified cloud, earth’s trail won’t look so hard. We’re going to be glad if we were true to the trail…
Let us be true to the Lord of the trail.”