My 14 year-old Golden Retriever is on borrowed time. Having already surpassed the normal lifespan of her breed by at least two years, she continues to do the things that she has always loved, including romping in the snow, rolling in the grass, and begging to go for a walk. There is only one major problem in her life: Stairs! With age, her arthritis has become so significant that even the simplest tasks of getting up from the floor or walking across the linoleum are challenges for her. By far the biggest challenge, however, is the stairs. More times than I can count she's tried to climb the stairs, only to slide--or fall!--back to the bottom. It has reached the point that she is actually afraid of stairs. Unfortunately for her, we live in a five-level house...

As her arthritis has worsened, we have set her up on the entry level of the home so that she doesn't have to climb a single stair in the house unless she chooses to. Her only problem, then, is the stairs she must climb in order to enter the house, and due to her her newly-developed stair-phobia, it is now necessary for one of us to hold her collar as she faces them.

It occurred to me today that this "collar-holding" serves two purposes: It provides her with some stability and assurance that she won't slide--or fall!--down the stairs, yes; but it also gives her that little "nudge" of encouragement she needs to even attempt the climb.

In life, there are many "stairs" we must face in order to move forward. Life's "stairs" generally look a bit more like trials and troubles than they do ascending and descending structures; but they still provide us with obstacles that inhibit our forward movement. There are times in our lives that we embrace those "stairs" with joy. Sometimes, however, the "arthritis" of life--the stresses, the emotional and physical pain, the broken relationships, etc.--cripple us to the point that we can't seem to face that extra responsibility, that new diagnosis, that sudden death in the family, or whatever it may be. Much like my dog, we find ourselves cowering at the mere thought of what we must face.

Unfortunately for our dog, we can't remove the stairs from our house. In the same way, we cannot remove the trials and temptations from our lives. Just like my dog must make herself climb the stairs in order to get inside to her food, her comfort and her family, we also must pass through the troubled times. Fortunately for us, there is Someone who willingly left the comforts of Heaven to make a way: "Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body..." (Heb. 10:19-20 NIV), and that Someone has promised to be: "...our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." (Ps. 46:1 NIV). He has promised: "It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed." (Deut. 31:8 NIV see also Deut. 31:6, Heb. 13:5, Josh. 1:9, Is. 41:10-13, Matt. 28:20, etc.). Thus, it is Jesus Himself who promises to "hold our collar" so to speak, ensuring that we don't slip and fall and enabling us to make it through.

Interestingly, sometimes He is there to give us the stability and strength we need; but other times we require the occasional "nudge" to move forward. That nudge may not feel good, for it may be that God is encouraging us to continue in a direction we do not wish to go; however, that nudge will always be accompanied by the strength and stability He promises us.

In the face of whatever new challenge has been put in your path, think about my arthritic dog and the hand on the collar that stabilizes and encourages her to go forward. Remember that it is the mighty hand of Jesus Christ that is always there for you. Let Him be your strength and stability, and when those gentle "nudges" come along, encouraging you to move onward even when you don't think you can, respond to them by doing just that: moving onward in His power and might. You'll be amazed at how much easier it becomes to be victorious through the trials!

In His love,
Lyn


Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author -- "
Aboard God's Train -- A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer", Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter
@lynchaffart.