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I often remind myself of situations when God graciously helped me to endure and overcome. One of these situations occurred not long after I had turned 18 years old. I just had a new pacemaker inserted and found myself with incredible energy.
I felt like I could “conquer the world” and decided to go on a hike with some friends up Half Dome in Yosemite, California. I raced ahead at first and my three companions couldn’t keep up. I felt so strong and capable, and excited with my newfound energy.
When we reached the halfway point I had to stop. I felt an incredible pain up my spine and in my head and I sat down shaking from the pain and dizziness. Then when the others left to fill up their water bottles, one of my hiking companions told me how my need to rest was holding them back from making it down the mountain by sundown. I felt very unwelcome.
After a few minutes the pain went away, but then extreme exhaustion set in as a result of the chest pain. I was barely able to walk. Meanwhile, this particular person just kept telling me (when the others were out of earshot) how they wished I had not come and how I was a burden on them.
During the last part of the hike we had to climb down large, wet, stony steps beside a waterfall. My legs gave way from the pain and I began to cry. It was difficult to get my body to move and I needed two of the hikers to hold me up as I walked. The hiker, who lacked empathy, now no longer hid her attitude towards me and made it clear she resented me for causing so much trouble. I apologized through the sobs.
As we drove home I felt miserable and ashamed I had caused so much difficulty and basically ruined the hike for the others. It wasn’t until I went to my doctor for my pacemaker check-up that we discovered the pacemaker had recorded that I had gone into ventricular tachycardia on the hike. The doctor asked if I had felt any pain in the back of my neck and if I had felt exhausted afterwards, and I confirmed that had been the case.
She then told me I had been extremely lucky, as I could have gone into cardiac arrest. Because we were on the mountain no one would have been able to get to me in time. She added, “Wow! You are one tough woman to keep hiking after that. A tachycardia episode like that can put you in bed for days with exhaustion.”
I suddenly became aware that God had intervened and saved me that day. I wasn’t just “slow” or “burdensome,” and I had not been a failure. The pacemaker record showed just how much I had really accomplished. God had not only saved me from going into cardiac arrest, but had given me the will and energy I needed. My perspective completely changed. My thoughts were definitely not God’s thoughts (Isaiah 55:8), and I had not seen what He did for me until weeks later.
Part of helping me approach a spiritual obstacle is that I know God supported me on a mountain hike in one of the worst of physical circumstances. If He can do that then He can also walk with me when climbing spiritual mountains too.
One of the characteristics we need in order to feel a sense of mastery over life’s circumstances is resilience. But, while resilience is a fine character trait, remembering and reflecting on how God has helped us through difficult times keeps us going when new challenges arise in our lives.
In order to be able to “master life’s circumstances” we should be aware of our relationship with God and how He mercifully deals with us even when we don’t deserve it. He is a God that remembers us (Isaiah 49:15). As Paul writes in Philippians 4:13:”I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”