Tuesday, August 2, 2016

A JOURNEY UP THE HILL OF DIFFICULTY

"Grammy, take my picture!" My granddaughter, Saradi, exclaimed after a steep hike up a mountain trail.



She rejoiced at the view, savoring the accomplishment. But the trip up had not been an easy one.


The path was rocky and steep. We had to watch our steps carefully. There were side trials that looked easier, but they were closed, and we had no idea where they led.

In John Bunyan's classic "Pilgrim's Progress" his character, Christian, must climb "The Hill of Difficulty". His two companions opted for easier routes and met with destruction. Christian knew that there was no avoiding this trek if he were to arrive at his destination, The Celestial City

What kind of  hills have you climbed? Are you panting up one now? Do you  feel like the author in Lamentations 3:1-2:

"I  am the man who has seen affliction
By the rod of the Lord's wrath
He has driven me away and made me walk
In darkness rather than light;"
In "Pilgrim's Progress" Christian also enjoys the 'Delectable Mountains' where he gazes upon the beauty of God's creation. He discovers a reward at the top. "…So they went to the mountains, to behold the gardens and orchards, the vineyards and fountains of water…"

After you climbed your hill what was your view like? Was it a new job? A new outlook on life?
I've climbed many hills, and fallen on some. I think the toughest hill a person can climb is parenthood. Leading our little ones through this troubled world can be treacherous. It is so tempting to take one of those seemingly easier paths, allowing them to bury themselves in media, sleeping in and skipping church, following questionable friends.

Proverbs 22: 6 "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from  it."

We used to battle with our son, Jarrod, over chores. Honestly, it would have been easier to do them ourselves, but we persisted anyway, hoping that the character lessons would stick. When Jarrod was 20 he went to stay with another family for several months. One of them shared this story with me."Jarrod watched my teenage sister arguing with my mom about doing the dishes. Mom wasn't feeling well, and she was really giving her a hard time. Suddenly, Jarrod turned to me with a tear in his eye and said, "Wow, I used to do the same thing to my parents."

Jarrod had climbed a hill of difficulty, and he was experiencing a higher viewpoint.

When my other son, Chris, was on treatment for cancer, that uphill included awful side-effects, and loss of childhood fun. We learned to cherish moments of pleasure when they came. Like colorful butterflies encountered along the mountain trail, we paused to appreciate beautiful sights.

Between treatments, I had the opportunity to take Chris to the 'delectable' mountains.
This is an excerpt from my book, 'Christopher's Journey"http://www.maribethditmars.com/: "We each grabbed a sled and trekked up the hill. We then hopped on and soared down. If we tucked our legs under Indian style we could almost fly…Finally, we sat poised at the crest of the hill ready for our final ride. We watched in awe as the sun set on the Wasatch Mountains, shadows creeping slowly upward from the valleys below. The peaks were bathed in sparkling pastel shades…Then Chris turned to me and said, "I'm so glad you're my mom."


I enjoyed a true mountaintop experience that day. 



Two years later, after Chris went to be with the Lord, I climbed another hill of difficulty. One of those easier-looking paths involved numbing my sorrow with large quantities of alcohol. Before I knew it, I had lost the trail. Eventually, I made my way up that hill. The Lord provided me with 12 steps to the top. And the vista from up here is unbelievably lovely! Like Jarrod, I had arrived at a loftier viewpoint.

As a result of the fellowship of recovery I have more friends than I could have ever imagined friends who will drop what they are doing and rush to my side if needed. I have had the high honor and privilege of mentoring struggling women as they trudge their hills of difficulty. God took my mess and made it my message. He can do that for you too. I believe one of the greatest callings that we can have in life is to help someone else with their hill of difficulty.

However, not everyone is ready to be helped. A particularly harrowing hill was our daughter's drug addiction. During that time I was already in recovery myself so I had all sorts of trail maps to offer her. She refused my help. She had to find her own way up her personal hill of difficulty. I had to pray and wait.

One beautiful blessing that came during that time was that we had the joy of raising our granddaughter for several years. She is back with her Mom now who has been clean for 2 years. My little hiking buddy and I enjoy a special bond. The Lord gave me some time with her so I could insert a little proverbs 22 into her life.


I am still climbing. My Jarrod also died young, and some days my grief clings to me like low hanging mountain clouds. Sometimes I feel just like the author of lamentations, but then I remember that  God doesn't let us suffer endlessly.

Lamentations 3:31-32: "For no one is cast off by the Lord forever.Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love."

But, when I think of the many hills of difficulty that I have already climbed in this life, I realize that grief, this most challenging of climbs, will eventually lead me to a view much greater than anything on earth.


Deuteronomy 8:7 "For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills;"

In the meantime I have the opportunity to live the remainder of this life as a woman of dignity and grace, sharing the hills with my husband, daughter and grandchildren.

Isaiah 40:9: "Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, Lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; Lift it up, do not fear Say to the cities of Judah, "Here is your God!"