When was the last time you went for a bike ride? Were there hills along the way?
I lead a ride from Albany to Perth every year and I’ve become known for announcing at the start of the day, “There will be hills”.
I don’t say that to discourage anyone. I simply want people to be ready. I want them to have the right expectation because if they think that it’ll be all flat with a roaring tailwind they’ll be disappointed.
Of course, if they know there’ll be hills, they’ll prepare for them. They still might not enjoy them but they’ll know they’re coming.
Where did that hill come from?
I did a ride on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria two years in a row. The first year we climbed a very big hill called Lavers Hill. Many of us thought it was all downhill from there. No one warned us about the next big hill, so when we had to start climbing again it was tough. The second hill wasn’t as big but it still had some very steep sections. We had all been warned about Lavers Hill and so while it was a real work out, we managed to reach the top reasonably well. That second hill came without warning, after our bodies had already clocked off, expecting a downhill roll for the rest of the day.
The following year, I knew the second climb was coming. I worked hard to climb Lavers Hill but I knew that wouldn’t be the final climb for the day. When I reached the second hill I got over it surprisingly well. In fact I thought to myself, “Is that it?” Being prepared made all the difference.
Beaten before the climb begins.
On a ride across Australia many years ago there was a young, fit, eighteen year old who hated hills. Even though we cycled for five weeks, with an average day being around 160 kilometres and several days topping 200 kilometres, he still couldn’t handle the hills. I watched him a few times when we would see a hill in the distance. Even though we’d still be on a flat section, riding along really well, the hill would defeat him as soon as it came into view. His shoulders would slump and he was already beaten. From there he would just struggle. He had fitness and youth on his side but mentally he would crumble.
I wonder if some of life’s struggles defeat us because we’re expecting life to be flat with a tailwind.
When we recognise and understand that hills are a part of life, we live differently. We don’t just slump our shoulders and give up. We know we’re on a bumpy road and so we face challenges differently. The hills can still be hard, extraordinarily hard at times, but if we know they’re on the horizon it changes the way we approach them.
I certainly don’t want to downplay some of the big struggles and disappointments in life or pretend that they don’t matter. There are some things we face that we can’t just soar above but being able to face the many, and sometimes daily, hills along the journey helps prepare us for those bigger trials.
For those of us who have faith in Jesus, we know that struggles will come but we also have someone to walk, or even ride, alongside us in those times.
We can expect difficulties throughout our lives but we should also expect great things from God. When Jesus was talking to his followers about the kind of troubles and persecution that we may never face, he reminded them, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
Remember no matter where we are in life, there will be hills, but there is a God who loves us and wants to give us his strength for the journey.
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