Three Lessons For Facing Life’s Surprising Challenges

life's challenges

Don’t look down. Don’t look down.

These are the words I repeated to myself over and over on the Hidden Canyon trail in Zion National Park in Utah.

The Hidden Canyon trail is a path that takes you up about 1000 feet above the canyon floor. A trail that, at times, is only about a foot wide with a sheer drop-off to the side. A trail that I never would have believed I would climb.

If someone had described this trail to me and then invited me to climb it with them, I would have said, “No way. I’m not that daring. I’m not that brave.”

But we had heard that the hidden canyon at the top of the trail was worth the climb–and we didn’t know about the narrow portions where you were inches from falling hundreds of feet–so we started the trek up to the top.

As I was panting my way up this trail, I was struck by how what I was learning on the hike applied to life as well.

Life’s path often has surprising challenges. We aren’t often warned of difficulties up ahead. What can we do when our life suddenly seems as challenging as a mountain climb?

Here are three lessons I learned on the Hidden Canyon trail on handling surprising challenges:

1. Cling to the Rock. The Hidden Canyon trail had very narrow sections where you needed to hang onto a chain–attached firmly to the cliff–so that you didn’t fall off the foot-wide path.

DSCN3903 - Copy (2)When life’s path turns out to be more challenging than I anticipate, I need to hang onto the Rock of my life:

The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2

DSCN3903 - CopyWhen life seems uncertain, I need to cling to the One thing that is sure and unchanging. When I’m afraid of falling, I need to hang on the One thing that will never fail–God.

2. Stop and rest. Climbing up 1000 feet over the distance of one mile meant that at times I needed to stop and rest. My lungs demanded that I plant my feet and just breathe.

In life I don’t always pay attention to the signs that I need to stop and rest. I tend to keep plowing ahead when my soul is demanding that I simply stop and breathe. Even God knew we needed to rest, so He commanded a Sabbath:

This is what the Lord has commanded: “Tomorrow is a day of solemn rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord.” Exodus 16:23

God commands us to take a day of rest–a day to stop and breathe in His grace.

DSCN3880 - Copy3. Don’t look down. When I was on those very high and very narrow pathways, it was best not to look over the edge to the valley floor so far below. I needed to keep looking at my feet. I couldn’t even look too far ahead. I had to pay attention to the very next step.

I also get in trouble in life when I try to look beyond where I am right now. It’s easy for me to get anxious when I look down at all the possible things that could go wrong. Or to worry when I try to look too far ahead. I need to concentrate on what is happening right now. Jesus said:

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:34

So when life ends up being more challenging than you planned on, remember:

Cling to the Rock–the Rock of Christ

Stop and rest–breathe in His grace

Don’t look down–just concentrate on the next step

Have you faced an unexpected challenge lately?


  1. Janice Cauffman says:

    Hi Sharla: Yes, I have been through a great deal in the last 13 yrs. My husband died in 2002 and in 2003 I had Colon Cancer. So, I have been through a great deal, but I am stronger for that. He has made me strong and made me love him even more. I said that when my husband died that I was not going to let a chance go by without witnessing. So, when someone said to me that they were sorry about my husband dying I told them about how I had hope that I would see him again because we were both believers and I knew he was in heaven and I would join him someday. Sharla it is all that I look forward to, because he was my soulmate and we loved each other so much. So, our heavenly Father also loved us and his Son Jesus died on the Cross for our sins and if we believe in him and have him in our hearts we shall be in heaven, too. And that is my belief, I am Baptist, but that won’t get you into heaven, it is the believing in Jesus and having him in my heart that is the only way, the Truth and the Life and no man cometh to the Father, but by me (JESUS). Enjoyed your talk at St. Paul’s Ladies Spring Tea at the Doubletree Hotel in Alsip,Il.
    Janice Cauffman

    • Janice, so sorry for all the pain and loss you have experienced. I love what you said about using your husband’s death as an opportunity to talk about Jesus and heaven. I will definitely remember that and put it into practice when I talk about losing my father or my friends. Blessings!