Trials don’t have to be Terrible

Kayaking on Black Creek a couple of years ago - it was too dark to take a photo of this bridge by the time we arrived here on this trek!  Rochester, New York
Kayaking on Black Creek a couple of years ago – it was too dark to take a photo of this bridge by the time we arrived here on this trek!

Last weekend, a couple of family members and I kayaked 19 miles.  That’s a long way, but not so bad for a kayak trip when you’re just going downstream.  The problem was that about half of the distance was choked with somewhere between 30 and 50 log jams – most of which required us to get out of our kayaks, pull them over or around the jam, and then continue downstream.  Add to that a not-so-early start, and we didn’t get down to our shuttle vehicle until well after dark.

A pretty typical view along Black Creek above Churchville, New York
A pretty typical view along Black Creek

By the end, we had it down to a science: one group member would pull up to the jam broadside, hop out onto the log, pull her kayak over, and then scramble back in.  Meanwhile, another group member would pull up to the bank, walk his kayak around the log jam, and cast off on the downstream side of the logs.  I’d follow whichever of them seemed easier – either over the log (my preferred method) or portaging along the bank.  It got to the point where we could be around a log jam in 2-3 minutes – not bad at all!

Approaching a tree fallen over Black Creek, Rochester, New York
Approaching a tree fallen over Black Creek

Ten hours, all those log jams, and getting back late was quite the adventure.  Yet somehow, we were still laughing on the other side.  Maybe we just have a wonky sense of humor, but all of the craziness hit our funny bone.

A painted turtle sunning itself on Black Creek, Churchville, New York
A painted turtle sunning itself on Black Creek

It reminded me once again that the difficulties in our lives don’t have to make us grouchy or discouraged.  I’m not saying that they’re easy obstacles to overcome – I’ve known plenty of Christians with impossible situations, not to mention a few in my own life.  How we view the problems and difficulties may very well determine how we succeed or fail in each situation.

Trees and bushes along Black Creek, Churchville, New York
Trees and bushes along Black Creek

For example, at the first few log jams on the creek, the obstacles seemed like minor annoyances.  By the fifth one, we were getting tired of this.  By the tenth, we were quite ready for a long stretch of open water.  By the twentieth, we’d pretty much given up on an easy paddle, and I was thanking the Lord every time a log could be navigated around without getting out of the kayak!

Approaching a tree over Black Creek, Rochester, New York
Approaching a tree over the creek

In those moments with the log jams, we had a choice on how we viewed the obstacles.  We could resent them.  We could moan and groan about all of the trouble we were going through.  We could wish that we’d never taken this kayak trip.  We could even blame someone else.  Can’t the DEC come in here with some chain saws and cut through these things?  Surely we’re not the only ones who try to paddle this stretch of river!

A dragonfly on my kayak, Honeoye Creek, New York
A dragonfly on my kayak

Yet somehow, either through nurture or nature, we didn’t make any of those choices.  We didn’t appreciate the log jams (especially as the daylight faded and we still hadn’t come to the end of the jams), but they were a necessary obstacle to overcome.  Sometimes we even laughed about the difficulty – like when I stepped on a log and it sank to the bottom of the river, bringing the water up to my knees!  (I laughed first, and they joined in.)  Every new log jam was a new adventure, something in our path that could be and would be overcome to make it to the end.

Bridge over Black Creek, Churchville, New York
Bridge over Black Creek

How do we view the obstacles and trials in our lives?  Are they a reason to complain, blame, resent, or even give up?  Or are they an adventure that you can and will overcome because God is on your side?  I know not all obstacles are as easy as a log jam on a river – and that some go on for years with no end in sight.  I don’t want to sugarcoat the trials and tribulations that we face in life.

Wildflowers along Black Creek, Churchville, New York
Wildflowers along Black Creek

But I believe that in the midst of even the darkest times God is still there.  He’s in the middle of the mess; by our side in the valley of the shadow; lifting us up when we have no more strength to go on.  He’s the God of the breakthrough, the Lord of the promise, and the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).  With Him, difficulties become adventures – maybe not easy, but adventures that will overcome the trouble because He will bring us through.