Obstacle or Opportunity??

My favorite season is autumn, and the colors and weather we have this time of year in the South are amazing!  Today was beautiful outside, so I headed off to the mountains to hike on some trails.  As is so often the case when I am outdoors, God uses nature to parallel for me what is happening in my life.  Shortly after I got on the trail today, I sensed God speaking deeper meaning to what I was seeing with my natural eyes.  So I begin to listen intently as I walked.  The messages He spoke could not have been timelier!

The trail was by far the slowest moving of any I’ve ever hiked.  I had to be extremely cautious with each step.  God used the boulders I encountered on this trail to paint a picture for me of the obstacles or hindrances we encounter on our journeys through life.  Here are a few of the thoughts He shared with me:

I was surrounded by a breathtaking view of trees with their autumn leaves, bright blue skies, mountains, bluffs, and the Tennessee River snaking through it all.  The wind was blowing, the leaves rustling, and a nearby waterfall flowing.  Yet because the trail was so rocky, I had to keep my eyes down and intently focus on each step to be sure I didn’t trip…

“Stop.  Look.  Listen.  You are so focused on how you’re going to make it past the rocks beneath your feet, or the boulder right in front of you, that you are missing the gift I’ve provided you through your surroundings.  You do this in life as well. When you focus on the obstacles directly in front of you, you miss the bigger picture – My view of your circumstances, which is one of awe and wonder at the grand picture I have painted.  Not to mention My perspective makes your boulder look more like a pebble!”

I recall seeing a natural-made staircase, formed of massive rocks. As I walked toward it, I heard Him say…

“Boulders – or challenges – in your path are really stepping stones necessary for you to move forward on your journey.  What may appear to be an obstacle slowing you down has actually been crafted by My hands as the only way in which you can proceed forward.”

I could only walk a few steps without having to slowly work my way over or around massive stones.  I’m a person who would rather be running than walking, so the slow-moving journey could have been a bit frustrating had I not been listening for the message in the parallels…

“What you see as obstacles and hindrances to your progress, I see as stepping stones, teaching you lessons like patience, perseverance, reliance on Me…and giving you the increased ability to hear my voice should you choose to ask for My guidance in navigating your obstacles.  These stepping stones are vital for you to move forward on your journey.  You see them as a nuisance slowing down your progress; I see them as a necessity growing you in the process.”

Several times there were boulders in front of me that were at least 3-4 times my height, equally as wide, and obviously immobile.  Some were rounded; others were pointed on the top.  But all shared a similar quality: they weren’t going anywhere!!  If I wanted to move forward on the trail, I had to find a way over, under, across, or around that particular rock…

“Those bigger obstacles that tempt you to panic, be overwhelmed, annoyed, worried, angered, or distracted…those are the opportunities that most excite Me because I know what lies on the other side of them.  You have no idea how much I am rooting for you, encouraging you not to quit right before you encounter the victory that is within your reach, once you get past the obstacle.”

And when I got past those massive boulders, oh my goodness…I was shocked at the beauty.  The trees parted and from my view thousands of feet in the air, I could see mountain ranges on all sides…a massive river cutting a path through…cliffs made of rock…blue skies and nature at its best, free of any interruptions from mankind…

“I told you!!  You never know what is directly on the other side of what feels to you like the biggest obstacle you have ever faced.  Even when you are momentarily gripped by fear and uncertainty as to how you can possibly make it through this circumstance, thank Me for those obstacles, because when you get past them, you will have an even deeper appreciation for what I already know is waiting for you on the other side!  And yes, what I have prepared for you will always take your breath away!”

Some places I had to stop altogether because I could not see any way to get past the boulder in my path.  I was tempted to blaze my own trail, determined to find a way.  But instead, I chose to look off into the distance, find where the trail continued, then with my eyes follow the trail back to the boulder to discover the way around it.  What was a huge obstacle moments prior didn’t seem like a big deal after all…

“If you get frustrated and choose to go your own way instead of staying on the path I orchestrated, you put yourself at great risk.  Instead, ask for wisdom.  Seek it from me first and foremost, but also ask for counsel from those I’ve placed in your path who have journeyed ahead of you.  No doubt they have faced similar obstacles.  They will show you the way past your current challenge.  Their support, encouragement, and wisdom will give you a confidence that you too can overcome this test.” 

At one clearing I came to, there was a massive rock sitting right on the edge of a cliff thousands of feet in the air.  I observed several people walk up to the rock and lean against it so they could safely look out at the panoramic mountain view…

“Just as that boulder was actually protecting people from falling off the cliff, so at times do the seeming obstacles in your life offer protection for you.  Perhaps they slow you down in a way that annoys you at the time, but you later realize it kept you out of trouble.  Or maybe the seeming delay caused by the obstacle provided enough extra time for you to think and choose wisely, instead of making a sudden decision. What appears to you to be an insurmountable obstacle has actually been designed by Me to keep you from making a much bigger mistake in the future. That same boulder, if placed on the trail in front of you, would have caused you concern as to how to get around it.  Yet when placed on the edge of a cliff, you saw it as a place for safety.  It’s all a matter of perspective.  The very thing you believe stands in the way of your progress may have been strategically placed by Me to prevent you from slipping over the edge.”

Only once throughout the entire hike did I encounter a place where the “obstacle” had already been removed.  This was done so that we could walk through effortlessly.  It was a massive tree that had a portion sawed out of its middle…

“On rare occasions, I will supernaturally deliver you from the obstacles you face.  But more often than not, your deliverance will come only as you proceed forward through the obstacle…you won’t be delivered from it, because My desire is that you mature and be further equipped in the process.” 

In a trail that took about 45 minutes each direction, there were only 2 brief strips that were clear enough for me to run…

“In life, there are the occasional periods where no hindrances seem to be present.  You feel like nothing can stop you; you are free and cruising along.  Then, once again, the inevitable boulder crosses your path and you are forced to slow down and choose your steps wisely in order to be able to proceed forward.  Enjoy those seasons free of challenges, but learn to be even more grateful for the rocky paths – because that’s when you are growing. When you aren’t being challenged, you likely aren’t growing.”

Perhaps your current obstacle is a result of poor choices made.  Maybe it’s an ongoing health issue, relational struggle, or some other difficult circumstance.  Whatever the case, I encourage you to adjust your perspective.  Those challenges look a lot different when you view them with gratitude, knowing they are being used to grow, prepare, and progress you on your journey of life.  They are literally your stepping stones forward.

I am so thankful for a God Who is alive and always speaking.  I pray to be one who is always listening.

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