While hiking the many trails of the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, my husband and I learned something highly valuable: It is easier to hike with a walking stick!

The advantages of the walking stick were first discovered (by us!) on the Coastal Trail, a 9 kilometer trail that skirts the Atlantic coast of the national park. We found that the walking stick helps us in just about every aspect of hiking, including:

1. Climbing: Provides leverage and support so that the legs don't need to do all the work.
2. Descending: Provides stability during slippery descents.
3. Tripping: Catches you and keeps you from falling.
4. Crossing rocky trails: Gives you added footage.
5. Boulder Hopping: Provides stability for slippery surfaces as well as security for making long jumps from one boulder to another.
6. Traversing heavily-forested trails: When held out in front, breaks down cobwebs across the trail.
7. Avoiding poisonous plants: Pushes poison ivy aside.
8. Resting: Provides something to lean on while catching your breath.
9. Protecting: Helps to ward off potentially dangerous wild animals along the trail.

Life sometimes takes us over smooth, level trails. Much more frequently, however, it takes us over rough, steep paths where we are left fearing for our footing, wondering if we will have the strength to arrive at the end, and afraid of the consequences we might find along the way. There is little scarier than the diagnosis of cancer or heart problems, for example; and when we lose our beloved spouse to death, or even to divorce, we are left feeling as if our feet will slip off the designated trail. Is there a "walking stick" for the paths life dictates that we walk?

Jesus said, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28 ESV). Wait a minute. Didn't the walking stick provide moments of rest, brief breaks for catching our breath?

Jesus said He, "...will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber." (Ps. 121:3 ESV). Isn't that what the walking stick was good for on the rocks and rough trail?

Jesus said, "It is the LORD who goes before you." (Deut. 31:8 ESV). Isn't that how the walking stick helped us with those cobwebs and Poison Ivy?

Jesus said, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10 ESV). Isn't this how the walking stick could have helped us against the wild animals? Isn't this how it helped us over the slippery rocks and steep descents?

It's true that we did not always fully appreciate our walking sticks. Because we weren't used to carrying them, we sometimes forgot them in the car. There were other times when we chose to leave them behind. After all, they kind of got in the way of taking pictures; and when the trail was level and smooth, the stick was just added weight...

In the same way, when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have access to all the advantages of the "walking stick" for our walk through life. We so often, however, tend to "leave it in the car", so to speak. Even though He is there, we don't ask Him to help us. Or we ask, but we continue to worry and fret. We refuse to lean upon Him for our rest. We try to carry it all ourselves. Just like the walking stick did us no good when we left it in the car, in order to safely traverse the trials of life, we need to use our spiritual "walking stick": we need to learn to rely on Jesus in all situations.

As we hike through the trials life has placed in front of us, let's remember that in the same way the walking stick is a priceless piece of hiking equipment, Jesus Christ is our ultimate in help. Let's don't leave Him "in the car". Let's allow Him to help us make it through!

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.


(To access the entire "Lessons From Cape Breton" mini-series, please click here.)