Hard Road Journey – Part 5

We now begin a look into chapter three of Mark Atteberry’s book entitled “Walking With God on the Road you Never Wanted to Travel“.  We continue to study and learn together how to keep on walking forward when we find ourselves in a difficult place in life.  Often the journey is difficult and the road is long, but let us see what Atteberry’s next strategy is that can help us get through.  (If you have not read previous articles on this book, then click here to go back to “A Hard Road Journey – Part 1“.

The title of chapter three is “Travel With a Friend“, a principle that I totally agree with.  Whenever we go through tough times, often what happens is one of two things.  Either we withdraw and don’t open up to others about the difficult things that are happening in our lives (and then sometimes we wonder why “no one cares” because they do not call or visit).  Or, we approach people and are ready to talk about the tough things happening in our lives, but the people we approach are living such rapid and ragged lives themselves, it is nearly impossible for them to slow down to listen and to care for us.

The result is that for many of us, we live very lonely lives, even while we are surrounded by millions of people.  Now some godly people may offer truly genuine compassion when they tell the suffering person, “You are not alone!  God will never leave you nor abandon you.”  And they are right, God is with us at all times.  But for many of us who walk these hard road journeys, this spiritual truth and answer is just not quite satisfying in and of itself.

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I truly believe that for most people, and maybe I can be bold enough to say for all people, along with the Lord we need a real flesh-and-blood person to whom we can turn for help in times of great difficulty.  Atteberry says:

The hard roads of life are best traveled with a friend.  Even though God will be walking with you every step of the way, there’s a benefit to human companionship that cannot be denied.                                                                                                                                                          (pg. 28)

And then he says further:

And if it wasn’t good for him [Adam] to be alone in the safe haven of the Garden of Eden, how much more dangerous is it for him to be alone in a fallen world where the roads are hard and evil lurks in every shadow?”                                                                                                                     (pg. 30)

These words of Atteberry are quite wise.  And he expands on this thought of how important it is to find a friend to be with you while you walk through these dark valleys and difficult roads by giving us advise on exactly what kinds of friends we should be looking for.  Although there may be an abundance of friends who might look like good candidates of a person you might choose to have with you on this journey, not all friends are equal, and in fact some friends may actually be harmful to you.

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And so Atteberry tells us that there are four good qualities that people should have if they are to be the perfect friends for us, friends that can truly be helpful to us in our times of need.  First of all, it would be most helpful if your friend has also walked through a “wilderness experience”.  That person can empathize with us when life suddenly turns upside down for us.  Secondly, the “perfect” friend must have an intimate and daily relationship with God.  He or she can help you tap into spiritual truth and spiritual practices which will lighten the terrible load which you carry along your hard road journey.

The third quality that is so important for someone to be the perfect friend is that this hard-road companion must have a heart of compassion.  It is rather easy for people to say to others who are emotionally hurting something like, “Well, your husband isn’t suffering any more.”  That statement is true, but shows no compassion to the person who has just lost their spouse of 45+ years.

And the last good quality of a hard-road journey companion is that of loyalty.  Many friends will be there for you when you first encounter that great trial of life or experience the difficulty that turns your world upside down.  Long after all the other well-wishers have gone and are once again caught up in their busy lives, there are still some who decide to continue to stay by your side, and these are the kinds of quality friends that you need to associate with.  Then the hard-road journey you are on suddenly gets easier to walk upon and the burden gets lighter to carry.

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As I write this article, I think about a man whom we had never met before but who was there for us during a difficult period for our family.  His name is Christian.  (Pretty cool name, eh?)  At the time that I am thinking about, our first-born son Eric had been diagnosed with leukemia which caused us to leave the mission work in PNG and return to Canada.  While going through treatment, and by means of fascinating circumstances, Christian became aware of Eric’s situation.

And at that point, Eric had become a great fan of all Nintendo consoles and games and the Game Cube had just been released.  So as a surprise, and remember that Christian was a total stranger to us, he wanted to encourage Eric’s spirits, and he sent one of the first available Game Cubes to my son to help him (and us) face the hard-road journey that we were on, and would last for 33+ months of treatment.

Christian came alongside and became a hard-road companion to our family at the exact time we needed it.  Thankfully, I have been able to return the favor in recent years.  So stay tuned.  Two Saturdays from now (March 26) I will pick up this story about me and Christian.

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