(aka Why You Should Never Hike the Grand Canyon Alone!)
Hiking isn’t that hard, right? It’s basically just walking, and I walk everyday, so I can totally do this.
This is what I kept telling myself as my trip to hike the Grand Canyon from rim to rim in one day (roughly 26 miles with 4,000 ft of elevation lost and then gained) came closer and closer on the calendar. It’s easy to encourage yourself before you’re in the valley, whether your valley is literal, as mine was, or figurative, as they most often are. And it’s amazing how easily confidence comes when you are anticipating a season of change, but how quickly it disappears when you are actually experiencing it.
So how can we properly approach valleys in ways that ensure we will make it to the other side?
1. Prayer Preparation.
Looking back on my hike now, I can see how silly my little personal encouragements to myself were beforehand and how futile they became the moment I started hiking. Nothing I could have told myself would have prepared me mentally for what I now refer to as the hardest physical challenge I’ve ever accomplished. The same applies to us when we are approaching life’s valleys. Even as we see a season of hardship and change coming upon us, there is nothing we can tell ourselves that will truly prepare our hearts and minds for the challenge ahead.
Proper preparation for life’s challenges comes in large part through prayer. For all those enneagram fans out there, I fall under the category of a 9, or a peacemaker, which can mean I don’t worry about things too much. While this helped with anxiety before the hike started, it fell remarkably short the moment I needed some real mental strength during my hike. Prayer never falls short. It doesn’t ignore your burdens as my 9-ness tends to do, it carries them for you.
2. Fellow Travelers.
Luckily for me, I wasn’t hiking the Grand Canyon alone. If it weren’t for the mutual encouragement that my mom, our friend Wendy, and I brought to each other, the hike would have been nearly impossible for each of us. (I say nearly because Wendy and my mom are two of the most mentally tough and prayerful humans I’ve ever met, but even if they could have done it on their own it wouldn’t have been nearly as fun!) Having their assuredness that we’d make it to the other side, along with the knowledge that they were right there experiencing the same pain and exhaustion I was, was a huge encouragement.
When we are going through figurative valleys in our life, having people right there with us is so very comforting. You each carry your own burden, but the camaraderie gives you the strength to keep pushing beyond yourself.
This may seem like I’m reiterating the last point, but I actually something completely different. Let me explain. Wendy and my mom were my fellow travelers, but I also had a few close friends whom I had shared my worries and fears with before my hike. These friends that were praying for me and checking on my progress are my community. In the same way, not everyone can be a fellow traveler with you through your valley. Some valleys are only wide enough to have one person fit through at a time, but that doesn’t mean you are completely alone! Your true community consists of the friends that will walk along the top of that valley, watching your progress and yelling encouragement the whole way. No, they don’t fully understand the pain and the hardship you are going through, nor do you really want them to, but they are they for you when you need them and that can mean a lot. Find a few friends who are willing to walk alongside your valley with you and be sure to do the same for them. You won’t regret it!
4. Enjoy the view.
This one is hard, but just because you are in a valley doesn’t mean the scenery around you isn’t beautiful! It is arguably even more beautiful than the normal, run of the mill, hilltop view you’re used to. Sometimes you don’t recognize that beauty surrounding you until you look in hindsight and wish you had relished it a little more. While I have pictures to look back on to remind me of the breathtaking scenery I was immersed in for 10 hours, they don’t compare to the actual thing even a little! When you find yourself in a valley, stop and smell the roses. It is easy to want to reach the other side so quickly that we don’t even care to look around. Take some time to see the beautiful blessings the Lord has given you and then look encouraged towards the strong person you’re going to be when you reach the other rim. I promise the rim is there—it may just be hiding behind the next bend, but boy is that view spectacular.
Are you in a valley right now and in need of some encouragement? Who is your community that you can rely on to follow your journey? Have you experienced valleys in the past when you relied on encouragement from others to get you through? I want to hear your stories (literal and figurative valleys alike)!
Meet the Author!
Tallie Thompson is the daughter of CRBC's senior pastor, Rick Thompson. She is an artist that has a heart for missions and children's ministry and enjoys teaching grade schoolers on Sunday mornings. When she isn't traveling, she enjoys sipping on a cup of coffee with her family and friends in good ol' OKC.