When I was sixteen, I was a camper at Outdoor Week. One could pick either a week of backpacking or a week of canoeing, and I picked backpacking. Knowing it would be hard work, I prepared by loading up a backpack we had at home with books and taking walks with it throughout the spring.

The week of the trip came. The groups met and packed and loaded the bus to be dropped off at our respective starting places in the Missouri Ozarks. It was a good week, filled with singing and sweat, mosquitoes and GORP, rocky rivers and wooded hills. Don’t forget the novelties of hand water filters, miniature gas stoves, and a small shovel that, when it was missing, meant someone was in the woods needing privacy.

All in all, it was a wonderful week. Friday afternoon it climaxed in arriving at the mouth of a wild cave. This was a planned spelunking trip, though unbeknownst to us, our leaders had planned a surprise meeting of the two groups. After an amazing trip through the mysteries of the earth’s deep, we were told that the plan was to follow the canoers back to their campsite for the evening, and from there to join them in a short stretch of river in the morning to where the buses would pick us up. This was my last stretch of backpacking.

As I settled the straps over my shoulders and braced myself to hoist the backpack up, one of the fellows from the canoe trip came over and offered to carry it for me. I declined.

“It’s heavy,” he objected, “And you’ve been carrying it all week.”

I had to admit he was right, but answered with my own protest: “This is my last chance, and then my week of backpacking will be over.”

Why did I want to? Is there something inherently pleasurable about lugging about a great weight on one’s back? No. But there was certainly a pleasing satisfaction of succeeding in it.

That is the type of attitude I need to have when following Christ grows challenging, when doing right becomes hard. Instead of sagging and cringing away from the difficulties, I should brace up and lean into the challenge. Unlike backpacking, however, it is not so much me overcoming. It is Christ in me overcoming. These are the times to dig in and exalt in seeing Him work.

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