I have written about this before, but one of the most amazing experiences of my life occurred one October night about 10 years ago when I was hiking with some pastor friends on a remote trail in the backwoods of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. We had set up camp for the night, had just finished our evening meal, and were cleaning up when it started to rain and we could tell that the wind was blowing pretty severely in the tops of the trees.
We remained in our tents for the rest of the evening and in the morning when we arose it was still drizzling. We packed up our gear and proceeded to hike in the rain the five miles we had planned to get to the next campsite. By the time we arrived there the sun had come out, so we immediately laid out our wet belongings under the heat of the sun to dry.
The next day, we packed up and hiked out to our cars, only to discover there were no other cars in the parking lot. It was then we learned that the first night when it was windy and raining so intensely, the wind had taken its toll and had caused the authorities to close that portion of the park, primarily because there were trees down blocking the roads both in and out. With the help of a crew of park rangers, we were able to make our way out of the park and on to safety. They told us that two nights prior to that there had been winds in excess of 100 mph at the top of the mountains in the park, and the winds had been so strong at ground level that they had overturned campers and many trees had been uprooted and blown over. Our campsite had been in one of the lowest valleys of the park and was one of the very few that was protected from the storm. Ever since that time, we have referred to that place as “Passover Valley” and our camping trip as the “Hike Through Passover Valley”, because those devastating winds passed over us.
One of the principles that screamed off the pages of my journal in the days following that experience was the principle of the effectiveness of prayer. James tells us that “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). That night during the storm you could hear several of us praying that God would preserve and help us get through that storm. Yes, we knew it was bad, just not how bad. God was faithful to us then, and He will be faithful to you now, no matter what you are facing.
In our camping experiences, my friends and I found ourselves moving from campsite to campsite. One of the characteristics of each of these campsites was that they each had a significant and adequate ongoing water supply. On every occasion those water supplies were found in mountain springs, originating underground, and rushing to the surface. Then we would fill our canteens and bladders (our camping backpack water supplies) from the springs, but as we filled them, we would always run the water through a portable filtration system which we carried with us. We filtered the water, which was probably clean anyway, just to make sure it was pure and drinkable.
I was reminded of those springs as I meditated on Psalm 87:7, where we read, “All my springs of joy are in You.” One of the most amazing observations about those springs is that these small creeks and brooks could perpetually run underground, never drying up, never exhausted, and always fresh and cool.
Psalm 87 was a psalm of rejoicing for those living in Jerusalem, the Mountain of God. This city wasn’t built on a river or lake; it depended on the Gihon Spring for its water supply. But when the psalmist penned those words above, he meant that all his innermost resources were found in his ever-flowing and ever-overflowing Lord — all his courage, joy, resilience, optimism, hope, love, wisdom and patience.
No matter what we are facing today, the Lord Jesus is the source of that which refreshes our personalities and of all that makes our personalities refreshing. As Matthew Henry put it, “There is in Him an all-sufficiency of grace and strength; all our springs are in Him and all our streams are from Him.”
The challenge for each of us is to gain our refreshing spirit from the Lord. As we begin our day today, may we turn to the Lord for our strength, our energy and our joy!
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor. He can be reached at [email protected]