In September of 2019 I embarked on a journey along with my husband. He walked 1,300 miles from Pittsburgh, PA to Orlando, Florida; I biked 310 miles from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, DC.
My husband loves doing crazy things and for some reason, I typically come alongside him!
An Unexpected Obstacle
For the first 310 miles of his “walk” I biked “with” him, although 98% of the time I was alone on the trail. He would get up each morning and begin his day on the trail while I drove 20-25 miles ahead to a trailhead, where I would park my car unload my bike and all the gear, get on my bike and ride back toward him, typically about 11 or 12 miles. Then once we met up, I would bike ahead of him his last 11 or 12 miles for the day, waiting for him every 5 miles until we reached the car. We would then set up camp and sleep until morning. We repeated this daily until we reached Washington, DC. (At this point our friend supported him with an RV and I drove to Florida to await his arrival 55 days later.)
I consider myself a “brave chicken.” I typically think of everything that could possibly go wrong with a plan, but I tell myself that if I don’t do “it” I will miss out, so I push through with my chicken heart and my brave soul! This usually consists of a lot of research, planning, and even more prayer.
But sometimes, even with all the research, planning, and prayer, the unexpected arises. And on this journey, it came about on Day Two. I was about 6 miles into my morning ride heading toward my husband, when I encountered a huge tree that had fallen on the trail. There was no way around it, over it, or under it. My only option was to go through it, carrying my gear laden bike. I had to lift it over part of the tree while ducking under a huge branch. There was also a tangled mess of vines I had to precariously walk through while I was climbing, carrying, and ducking!!
God’s Faithfulness Through Trials
Once I got through this obstacle, I took a break to reflect a bit on the scene. I was instantly reminded of my life—a life that has been filled with many unexpected tragic events that can seem overwhelming if I dwell on them too much. It made me consider the truth that in each of these events, there was no way around, over, or under, only through them. And it was through those situations that God refined me. His plans for each of these tragedies in my life drew me closer to Him in ways that on my own I could never have handled. Even in the events that occurred prior to my salvation, He used to prepare me to trust Him.
Have there been days that I wish I could have avoided these events? Absolutely! What would my life be like if my mom had not died when I was 15, or my daughter had not been stillborn when I was 24, or if my brother had not died when I was 27 and he was 40, or if I hadn’t lost my granddaughter and share in that pain with my son and his wife, or my two sisters did not die unexpectedly within 17 months of each other? What would my life be like? It sometimes scares me to think about it because I believe these events are what brought me closer to my Savior. He used the loss of my daughter to bring me to a saving faith in Him. So how could I want my life to be any different?
Today I can say with certainty that going through these events, I never walked alone. My God was faithful to take me through, to keep the entanglements of bitterness and hopelessness from tripping me up, to show me where to duck, to give me the strength to carry the load, to bring me out on the other side and reflect back on what he had done, giving Him the Glory.
I have the privilege of seeing God’s faithfulness in the “fallen trees” in my life. I know that whatever happens I will not be crushed, I will not be driven to despair, I will not be forsaken, I will not be destroyed, and that these light and momentary afflictions are preparing for me an eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4).
In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul describes a beautiful treasure that is ours: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us” (v.7). Paul knew the power of the gospel at work in him through the Holy Spirit. While we are weak creatures (jars of clay), the ministry of the gospel through the power of the Spirit shines through us. It is God’s power at work, not our own. Paul went on to describe various weaknesses and discouragements he faced and God’s faithfulness to him in them all. He knew that his sufferings united him to Christ (vv.10-11).
In our sufferings, we are called to not lose heart: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (v.16). Though our physical bodies are weak, the Spirit is transforming us from the inside out. And what awaits us is beyond anything we can imagine and beyond what our trials hold. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (v.17). Paul describes the afflictions we experience as “light,” though that is not how they feel at the time. That’s because Paul looked at the big picture; he looked to eternity. We are to look beyond what we see in the here and now and to our future glory in the presence of God.
God wastes nothing, not even the disappointments, trials, and fallen trees in our life. Instead, He calls us to fix our eyes on Him and to remember He is with us. These trials and heartaches, these “fallen trees,” will cease. It may not be this side of heaven, but they will end in a beautiful eternal Glory that is ours in Christ. Don’t let “fallen trees” block you from seeing the faithfulness of God. I believe it was Nancy Guthrie who once said, “I can trust God with this.” I echo this truth and encourage you with it.
About the Author:
Carol Agate currently serves as the Pittsburgh Presbytery Women’s Ministry Chair and is the Women’s Ministry Director at the Presbyterian Church of Pitcairn. She has led group and one on one Bible Study for the past 30 years with a heart for discipleship and mentoring younger women in the Word.
Carol graduated from The Sawyer School of Business, is a former Medical Assistant and Paralegal, as well as owning her own business. She is a mom to 7 adult children and g-ma to 22 grandchildren. In her spare time, she loves to garden, travel, visit National Parks, and spend time with her grands. She and her husband Gary have been married for 32 years and currently reside in Pitcairn, PA.