BECOMING A WOMAN WHO WALKS BY FAITH

For we walk by faith, not by sight.
2 Corinthians 5:7

Ironically, the mountain which I found myself clinging to for dear life was named, Oh Be Joyful. Truthfully, I would have described it as menacing, foreboding, or fearful, anything except, joyful. It wasn’t even a pretty mountain. Instead, it was a mass of ugly boulders, dark and gray, piercing the sky— very Lord of the Rings. And yet, there I was stuck and clinging to it, only an embarrassing twenty-five feet from the summit.  (By the way, have I mentioned I’m deathly afraid of heights? Yep, that little nugget of information explains why I found myself in a full blown panic, on the side of a mountain.)

I wanted to crawl back down, to forgo the thrill of seeing the view from the summit for just a taste of the familiar— the solid, flat ground I liked to call “safety.” But looking back down the mountain didn’t give me the sense of security I desired. No, looking down while still tightly gripping the rock face, I searched for an escape route. Looking back only intensified my fear. For, in fact, I couldn’t see anything but felt the immense distance between myself and the ground. A heavy fog descended during our climb, and a thick cloud obscured my view leaving me unable to see the way forward or backward.

Perhaps, you’ve been stuck in a similar situation. You look to the future, and you can’t see the way, the path doesn’t make sense, and you feel paralyzed by fear. And then, you look back, and despair creeps in at the thought of not moving ahead. These moments in life are faith testing seasons. Times when we are forced to believe God, to hope in His promises, and move forward even when fear pounds in our chests and the way is obscured.  These are moments when we are called to walk by faith and not by sight.

Moments when we can’t see ….

How the Lord will provide.

How the desire of our heart will be fulfilled.

How our bodies will be healed.

How the bank account will stretch.

How the dream will be realized.

How the relationship will be mended.

It is in these moments when the path is obscured, and darkness descends, that we tend to panic. That is precisely what happened to me that day on that mountain. That is, until I heard a voice above me say: “Keep moving. Don’t give up. Take one more step. Place your foot to the left. Lean your weight against the boulder and pull yourself up.” It was the voice of my wilderness guide encouraging me to press on.

Backpacking with friends was supposed to be fun: sleeping outdoors, gathering firewood, finding water, building shelter . . . you know … going granola. Speaking of granola, I’m sure this goes without saying that I’m not what you’d call a tree- hugging nature-girl. Now, don’t get me wrong. I love the outdoors. As long as my expeditions end each night with a hot shower and soft bed, I’m all good. I’m just saying—visiting nature is fine, but “becoming one with nature” is an altogether different thing. And at this point in the journey, I was so “one with nature” it was pathetic. It would be hard to discern where the mountain ended and my body began . . . we were “close,” if you know what I mean. As I huddled next to the rock wall, I reflected on the fact that this trip was supposed to be a simple learning experience about wilderness skills, and absolutely at no point was I supposed to be in danger. I was in the midst of this memo to myself when my guide called out again, “You don’t need to be afraid. Keep moving forward. Trust me. You are almost to the top.”

Move forward?

Into the darkness?

Let go of my comfort zone?

Sure, I trusted her, but at that moment I didn’t so much love the idea of proving this trust by moving forward. My guide continued encouraging me by explaining that I was only experiencing what wilderness experts call “perceived fear versus actual fear.” The fact that my route was unknown, the boulders slippery, and my vision restricted caused the situation to feel more dangerous than it actually was. She reassured me that this was a case of “perceived fear.” I was actually safe. I was in a good place. I would make it to the summit. Still clinging to my rock, I thought, “This fear seems pretty ‘actual’ to me.” But I mulled over her advice and reasoned it must be true.

You see, my guide knew the wilderness. She was experienced, knowledgeable, and well trained. The woman had skills: climbing skills, backpacking skills, and survival skills. She’d lived for months on end in the wild and hiked mountains across the globe. Needless to say, I felt I could trust her. Yet, I didn’t budge. I was torn. Gripping my rock, I decided to not go up and to not go down. Perhaps a stair with a nice handrail or a gondola would appear if I waited long enough.

Waiting.

Waiting.

Waiting.

Alas, no magical ski lift emerged to rescue me.

And there, on the side of that mountain, I would still be today if another voice had not spoken to my heart: “Marian, don’t quit. Don’t stop. Don’t fear what you cannot see. Don’t turn back because the way is tough. Press on. I have something for you at the summit.” Let me just say, I knew this voice. This was the voice of Jesus calling me to overcome my fear with faith.

I began to pray, “Lord, I know You are calling me to climb, but I’m afraid. Help me to reach this summit. Everything in me wants to go back to camp, pack my backpack, and hike back to the car, but I know You have a purpose in this journey. Help me.” And then, I heard the familiar words, “Walk by faith and not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7)

With that, I released my death grip on the boulder and took the proverbial “step of faith.” And then another, and then another, until I found myself at the summit. There I discovered the reason the mountain was named “Oh-be-joyful.”

Within minutes of arriving at the peak, the thick clouds parted, revealing the most stunning view. The only word to describe that moment was, yes, you guessed it, joy. Pure, indescribable joy filled my heart as I beheld the beauty of God’s creation. Now, with clear vision, I could see in the distance magnificent mountain peaks and lush valleys, clear rivers, and wild flowers—the view from the summit was absolutely breathtaking. I simply had no idea what glory was behind that cloud. Inhaling the sweet mountain air, I exhaled, “Oh, be joyful!”

Now faith is the assurance of what we hope for
and the certainty of what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1

Sometimes our journey of faith means our vision is obscured by clouds, and at times we face obstacles that evoke such fear that we would rather forsake the journey than keep going. And yes, sometimes following Jesus means we trust His voice even when we can’t see His face. This is what it means to walk by faith and not by sight. Faith, after all, is defined in the book of Hebrews as the “certainty of what we do not see.”  We often can’t begin to comprehend the glory that awaits us behind the clouds that obscure our path. When our physical eyes can’t see how God will answer, deliver, or provide, it is by faith that we move forward.

Faith is not so much certainty in a particular outcome, but faith in the Person of God. It is believing in Him and His goodness when the darkness obscures our vision and we can’t see to take the next step. When we can’t see the way, we trust the God who beckons us forward, into the cloud to a deeper place of trusting Him.

Over the past two decades of following Jesus, I’ve experienced countless moments where I had to make the choice to trust God and keep pressing forward even though I couldn’t see the outcome. Whether it was the long years of singleness that I had to trust God would provide the desire of my heart for a husband or the daily act of depending on God for strength as a bone tired mom to a newborn. There have been countless seasons in which I’ve had to trust God with the future even though my natural eyes could not physically see proof of how Jesus would deliver or answer the prayer. Friends, I’m not saying I know how to do this faith thing perfectly, but I will confess, that every day, even this day for reasons I can’t yet share, I’m learning to be a woman who walks by faith and not by sight.

Marian Jordan Ellis

{I pray this post was helpful to you or a friend. I want you to learn more about this topic, my book Wilderness Skills for Women equips readers to walk by faith.  You can buy yours in the Redeemed Girl store. Also, be sure to follow @redeemedgirls on Instagram for a fun giveaway we’ll have for this book!}

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