Patrick and David hiking and at the top of Mt. Whitney
The summer after my son Patrick finished fifth grade, he went on the adventure of a lifetime, hiking Mt. Whitney with his dad, two uncles, and grandfather. Working their way to the peak—14,505 miles above sea level—would have been difficult enough without the challenges of Patrick’s autism. But Patrick determined to make his way up that mountain, and 7 days later, he was at the top!
I wrote about that memorable trip in my book, “Optimism for Autism.” Hiking Mt. Whitney in the Sierra Nevada mountain range included many trials, as well as triumphs. Some friends recently asked me and my husband David about the trip, and we got to relive the quest for the peak all over again as we recounted some of the most remarkable stories from their journey.
As I reflected on Patrick’s determination to climb that mountain (89,000 footsteps, according to Grandpa King’s pedometer), I thought of several lessons my son learned along the way. Those lessons can benefit all of us as we tackle the mountains looming ahead of us in life.
Look At Jesus
Patrick said one piece of advice he had for climbing Mt. Whitney was, “Don’t look down!” Some of the steep, narrow trails had drop-offs of 2,500 feet. (In perspective, the Empire State Building is 1,500 feet tall.) David instructed Patrick to keep his eyes on the trail in front of him, focusing on where he was headed instead of the scary possibilities of falling.
In the Bible, it says, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NASB). We can focus on our difficult circumstances, or on the One who sees us through them. We can keep forging ahead with the Lord. Peter walked on the water when he kept his focus on Jesus. He didn’t start sinking until he took his eyes off Jesus to look at the wind and waves around him (Matthew 14:22-33).
Don’t Give In To Your Fears
About halfway through their hiking trip, Patrick confessed to David that he was afraid of heights! He even got to the point that he didn’t want to take another step on that mountain. David told Patrick he needed to hike afraid. In other words, David encouraged his son not to allow his fears to rule his life.
Psalm 56:3, NASB says, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.” It says, “When I am afraid.” Fear is a natural human response, but when we feel it, we are to take it to the Lord and ask Him to help us with it. When the Lord directs us to do something, we should not allow fear to discourage, distract, or stop us. We should do it afraid, choosing to rely on the Lord to help us overcome those fears and triumph in Him. God doesn’t give us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
Control Your Thoughts
Patrick learned along his 7-day journey to think positively. All the way up that mountain, he carried a small piece of paper with a Bible verse on it: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, NIV).
“Whenever it was hard, I would look at that Bible verse,” Patrick said. His Grandpa King had given him that Bible verse at the beginning of the hike, and Patrick held on to it with his hand and his heart. We are told to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5); in other words, we need to watch how we are thinking and throw out any thoughts that don’t line up with what God says. His beautiful promises in His Word offer great hope and reassurance. When we think about what He says and who He is, our challenges don’t seem as imposing.
The mountains in life do not have to overwhelm us. We can experience intimate times with the Lord when we choose to climb those mountains with Him. In the process, we can each discover, “The Sovereign Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to tread on the heights” (Habakkuk 3:19, NIV).
Question: What mountain are you currently climbing with the Lord? What is He teaching you there? Comment at the link below.