Climbing the New Year
By Curtis Peter Van Gorder
Even the best climbers need guides when they climb unfamiliar mountains. In fact, only a foolhardy novice would try to go without one—a novice like me.
Years ago I was on vacation in the Alps of Switzerland, and on the last day a friend and I decided to climb a nearby mountain. It was late afternoon by the time we got started, and we hadn’t gone far before we passed a rugged shepherd on his way down with his sheep, after a day of grazing them further up the mountain. “Darkness comes early and suddenly in the mountains,” he warned us. “Wait until tomorrow and hire a guide.” But tomorrow would be too late. By the next afternoon we’d be on a train home, having missed a unique opportunity. Impetuously we trekked on.
As sure as night follows day, we were soon in near total darkness. Because it was overcast, there wasn’t even any moonlight or starlight. We could barely make out the rocky trail right at our feet, let alone see the trail ahead. One misstep and we would go tumbling down the mountain. We would have to spend the night on the mountain.
We had one sleeping bag with us, so we decided to take turns sleeping in it.
Then it started to rain heavily. We were not only cold but also drenched, and so was our sleeping bag. We managed to take refuge under an outcropping of rock. After a long ordeal, dawn broke, the rain stopped, and we were able to make our descent.
On our way down the trail, we met the same shepherd we had talked to the previous afternoon. Seeing our sorry condition, he nodded and gave us a look that was a mix of amusement and relief. Had it gotten much colder that night, we could have died of exposure.
Taking on the challenges of the New Year is often likened to climbing a mountain: Although it’s a lot of hard work and potentially dangerous, it holds special rewards for those who rise to the challenge and don’t quit till they reach the summit.
But sometimes we may become too self-confident and feel that we can go it alone. If we’re smart, we’ll realize that we need the help of a mountain guide, and of course there’s no better guide than Jesus, whom the Bible calls the “Chief Shepherd” of our souls (1 Peter 5:4). He knows where the green pastures are, as well as where the dangers lie. If we stay close to Him, He will help us to reach our goals for the coming year, to conquer the summit and experience the thrill of victory.
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