Adventures don’t have to be a negative experience. Neither does walking through the valley of the shadow. It all depends on our perspective, our attitude in the situation. (I’m not saying that the valley of the shadow of death is always fun, or even easy. At times it is filled with great sadness and grief, and I don’t want to diminish that or marginalize that experience.) But just because you are in a valley or a “wilderness experience” doesn’t mean that you must suffer through it or become solemn because, brother, I’m currently in a wilderness season.
I’ve heard it said that life is an adventure. That’s good or bad, depending on how you see adventures. The thing that sets an adventure with God apart from an adventure without God is that we get to trust that God has it all under control; that He cares and that He is good and will come out fighting for us.
At times when I have been in the wilderness, we have had some pretty epic adventures. There have been fun adventures, like the time we got to chatting with a park employee and he invited us to a private star show and to look through the park’s enormous telescopes. There is always the adventure of the unexpected; just what is around the next bend, or how are we going to scale this rock-strewn slope to reach the peak? But there are also the adventures that are not so exciting; that one might wish to avoid: a thundershower on a 14er, flat tires, losing a box out of the back of the van when we forgot to close the back door.
Still, we can find victory, or at least humor and / or enjoyment, in the more negative adventures.
An adventure being “negative” is more defined by our attitude and perspective about the adventure than the actual good vs. bad quality of the circumstances.
I can remember being at 12,000ft. above sea level, completely exposed in a snow-filled wasteland, when a thunderstorm came through. One of my intrepid companions found us all shelter under overhanging rocks in a side of the mountain so steep that the snow couldn’t stick (or something like that; the rocks were still very cold and there was snow under some of the rocks). From my hole beneath a large boulder, I heard others in my group talking as though to an electronic device. Unable to believe my ears, I called out to them, “Are you using a cell phone in a thunderstorm!?!”
I heard them laugh, and later they showed me the video they were taking of themselves, huddled under another boulder, one of them literally lying underneath a huge rock. After I called out to them, the woman holding the camera spun it around on herself and said, “I think the rocks are talking around here!”
It’s the attitude and perspective in the circumstances that makes the experience hilariously funny enough to joke that the rocks are talking or to mope and groan about being cold and complaining about the thunderstorm.
Personally, if I can help it, I’d rather go for the hilariously funny.
Less funny was when we ran out of water in the Grand Canyon with at least four more miles to hike back up to the top. But we got through it in part because we didn’t just sit down and mope and groan. We had to do something, so we did it with the best attitude we could muster, keeping in perspective that God was fighting for us. We saw it in action when one of our water bottles mysteriously refilled itself, but even without that sign, we knew that God would take care of us.
In life, our perspective will determine whether we see our adventures as good or bad. Some of it is “cup half full / cup half empty”, but there is more to perspective than being optimistic / pessimistic.
Perspective says that I will rejoice in the storm because God is good. Perspective says that I will keep my eyes on God because He is everything I will ever need. Perspective looks for the fingerprints of God in every situation rather than focusing on what God could have done better (at least, in our estimation).
I’m not saying I’ve always been successful. I can remember being pretty mopey about losing a jar of grape jelly because it broke when the box fell off the back bumper when we forgot to close the back doors. There have been rainstorms and wildfires I would rather have seen go some other place, far, far away.
The good news is that we are not limited by our circumstances. Even when the grape jelly breaks, even when our plans are thwarted, we can choose to overcome and change our perspective. I’ve found that the more I place my perspective on God, my perspective on the positive and not the negative, the easier it becomes to do so in the next negative adventure.