Look Behind You

I remember it was one of the first warm days of the year, so I immediately grabbed my three-year-old, Judah, to go for a hike. We decided on Sleeping Giant State Park because it was just a couple minutes away and has an old tower at the top of one of the easier trails.

We parked up, grabbed water bottles and snacks, and started to hike up the trail. I remember Judah being giddy with excitement as he began a new adventure searching for the “castle on the mountaintop.” I was almost jealous of his naïve and childish perspective of the world.

But we hadn’t been climbing the steep trail longer than fifteen minutes before he began lagging. At first, I thought it was my pace; maybe his tiny legs couldn’t keep up, so I slowed down. But his enthusiasm was still draining faster than our water bottles. Then the questions began: “Papa, the trail is so windy; where are we going? You promised me a castle. Where is it?”

I tried to distract him. “Hey, look at this huge rock! Let’s climb over it. Woah, look at that fallen tree! Lucky it didn’t fall on us.” It seemed to work for a while, but then the weariness returned, except this time the tired questions had evolved into angry declarations. “Papa, I don’t think I can keep going. I don’t think we are ever going to make it to the top. I wanna go home.”

Now we were stuck. I knew we still had a long way to go if we wanted to reach the top, and Judah had no motivation to get there. I figured it was time to admit defeat, turn around, and head back. So we did. But then he spotted something.

“Papa, I see our car! Look do you see it? It’s so far away!” Through the sparse trees hundreds of yards away at the bottom of the mountain, he picked out our car sitting in the parking lot. As he looked back, he seemed to get energized with excitement.

Suddenly, I had an idea. “Hey Judah, you see how small our car is? It looks so tiny because we are so high up. Look how far we have come! Remember that huge rock we climbed earlier? Now look how small that is too. Remember that tree that was fallen over? We can’t even see it anymore.”

Now for the visionary pitch: “Judah listen closely: if you can keep climbing the trail, just imagine how tiny the whole world will look from the top of this mountain?” The concept of stopping to look back every few minutes to reflect on how far we had come struck a chord, and that became our pattern for the rest of the hike up the mountain. Sometimes when Judah couldn’t see back that far, I’d lift him on my shoulders and point out some of the key landmarks. It was so rewarding when we finally arrived and climbed the tower at the top. As we sat there enjoying our lollipops in the sun, I began to think about how sometimes my walk with God is very similar. Maybe you can relate.

In this challenging season, many of us find ourselves on a long winding path, chasing a God-given promise of peace, of hope, of provision, that seems out of reach. Perhaps you’ve spent the last few weeks asking God, “Where am I going? Where is the result you promised me?” And today, you find yourself making angry declarations: “I can’t do this anymore. I give up.” Well, you aren’t alone – the world’s leading experts are also struggling to predict the next couple days, let alone the long-term future! The path ahead is full of confusion and anxiety. You want to quit, throw in the towel, and head back down the mountain.

But the Holy Spirit, your constant hiking companion, is nudging you today. Before you give up and head back down, just take time to pause and look behind you. Remind yourself of how far you have come. And more importantly, how you didn’t do it alone.

Remember that huge obstacle you thought you couldn’t overcome? Remember how faithful God was to carry you over it? Remember that failure that almost crushed you? But God protected and navigated you around it?

See, God has a purpose and a plan for the path that you are on. He is leading you. He has even promised you a tower at the top. But it’s so easy to get discouraged when the path is long and seemingly endless. That’s why it’s important to stop and look behind you; see how far you have come. Take a moment to literally stop right now.

Psalm 77:11-12 says, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”

If you are to make it to the top of this mountain you are facing right now, you must first look behind you. As you reflect on the goodness of God in the past, I pray and believe He will stir up in your heart an excitement and anticipation for the future.

Here are a couple of ways that my family and I practically pause and look back, and I would encourage you to try one of them today:

  1. We journal God’s faithfulness. We make lists of all the miracles He has done, starting with our salvation. You should try pulling out a piece of paper and doing it right now.
  2. We build memorials. God told the Israelites to build memorials so that their children would remember his past faithfulness. What is something you and your family could do today to remember this challenging season along with God’s faithfulness for years to come?
  3. We share communion. There is nothing more powerful than the truth of the gospel, and the act of sharing communion is all about remembering His death and resurrection. Choose a mealtime today and participate in communion as a family. 

As you do these things, I am confident that you will feel within yourself a renewed faith, to believe that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion” (Philippians 1:6).