This year would have to go on record as the toughest and best year I’ve ever had. It’s hard to understand how a year could have been so challenging and phenomenal, all at the same time. After stumbling upon a fantastic picture of a man having climbed a mountain, I realised how much life can be just like climbing a mountain.
At the outset of a year, we are excited about the possibilities. It’s a chance for hope and a fresh start. Thank God for this time of year, and that we aren’t locked into the monotony of unending time without milestones to signify a new season!
From the base of the mountain, I can see the victory, the achievement and bliss of what is to come. I assume there will be hard times, but I am not feeling any of that hardship just yet. As I start walking up that mountain, I have energy, enthusiasm and resolve. My goal is clear and I am easily focused and ready for it.
But resistance comes, just like an incline of a jagged mountain edge. My mental energy is wavering, and I must be deliberate to stay focused. Then it becomes really hard as my body wars against the elements. I’m tired…I consider returning to the start…I want to give up. And there have been times when I have given up. I’ve checked out of the challenge prematurely, and missed the opportunity to learn and grow. But other times I’ve just kept moving, one step at a time, acutely aware of the pain.
Then just when its really feeling impossible, I reach halfway! The end is visible and I can see the destination ahead. Resolve rises in me. I can make it! The cooling breeze even starts to persuade me onwards. I keep my head down and go. Now that I am so close to my destination, I walk with purpose again.
And then I arrive. And it’s at that point of arriving that I experience the undulating glee of having endured.
Have you ever seen a rock climber at the end of their journey? As they stand, refreshing their thirst..sweat beads the evidence of their hard work. There is this look in their eyes as they contemplate the terrain behind them and the view before them. I could only describe it as calm delight. A satisfaction, a pleasing contentment. I recognise that calm delight, at the closing of this year. It goes by another name: JOY.
The word for Joy in the Greek (used in scripture), describes just that….a calm delight. This year, and the mountain it was, put a totally different spin on the words written in James 1:2, where He says “Consider it pure JOY, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds”. Yes, trials that are conquered and tribulations that renew and refine me, are pure JOY. James continues “let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature..”(James 1:4)
We are conquerors, because we beat the mountain. We are victorious, because we win the battle that could be lost. In the living we find abundance, and we seek not the abundance to find life. And as I wash off the sweat from this year, I do consider it pure joy. Being at the top of the mountain is such a good vantage point and it makes the climb all the richer. Now I understand how I can have PURE JOY in the midst of the trial, because I know every trial is going to lead me to the top of the mountain….if I keep walking….and let perseverance finish its work.