“Some travelers never make it to their destination because they are unprepared for obstacles they encounter. Too often these obstacles leave pilgrims frustrated or disoriented, resigned to making little or no headway. Spiritual dryness, prayerlessness, temptation and discouragement can make us wonder whether it is possible or worthwhile to stay the course of Christian pilgrimage.” *
Obstacles, roadblocks, barriers – literal, emotional, psychological, physical – occur randomly or on a daily basis. Obstacles are part of the human dilemma. They are part of the fall of man but sometimes they are simply too much.
Some days are too overwhelming. Some problems too insurmountable and some losses seem too painful to keep going. You don’t think you are going to make it and at some point in this spiraling downward you are not sure if you even care. What’s the use? Why keep trying? Hopelessness begins to set in. The obstacles are too big.
If there were just someone to share the burden – someone who could give insight and offer prayer; someone who would stay with you in this place of struggle …then overcoming the obstacles might seem possible.
Simply knowing that obstacles are part of the journey offers relief. Knowing how to overcome them offers a way out. Knowing that our Risen Savior will never leave us or forsake us gives us a hook to hang onto however feeble is our grasp. Knowing there are ones who will journey with us – spiritual friends keeps me moving forward even though I may want to quit.
Didn’t Jesus say He would be with us? Didn’t He provide a way out? Didn’t He provide the Spirit to all believers whom He offered would pray for us when we do not know how to pray for ourselves? He knows all about the obstacles and in some cases longs to give you and me a different perspective on the obstacle. The perspective of seeing the obstacle as an invitation to grow not to despair of can offer just the shift upward we need in our spiraling down.
The prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament writes to the Jewish pilgrims, “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41: 10,13)
Mark Harris in his book, Companions for your Spiritual Journey, chronicles the lives of twelve fellow pilgrims from church history who have journeyed before us. This book reads like a continuation of Hebrews 11 in which we are given a window into others who struggled in and with serious obstacles, hardship and temptations but remained faithful. The Hebrews 11 fellow travelers and the ones in Mark Harris’s book such as John Newton, Origen, the Desert Fathers, Evelyn Underhill to name a few assure us that there is a way through these obstacles. Knowing there are ones made it through gives me hope.
God does not leave us abandoned in our obstacle struggle. Knowing obstacles are to be expected, knowing they are sometimes tools to refine our trust, knowing Jesus is with me in the struggle and knowing there are companions present or in books gives me hope. I can and will make it through this obstacle and will come out on the other side obstacle free… that is, until another obstacle presents itself. And then the whole process starts over again. From God’s perspective obstacles are a temporary distress that produce for us a transcendent Glory never to cease!
Consider : what do you typically do when faced with an obstacle? Do you see it as a hindrance or a possible tool? Who do you have to process this with who can give you perspective?
May God give us grace to trust Him and not give up when an obstacle looms before us – whether big or small.
• 51, Companions for Your Spiritual Journey