Romans 5:3-5 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
"It will put hair on your chest," was what I always heard when I complained. My uncles had their way of telling me how to toughen up, without ever having to tell me to, "toughen up." Complaining wasn't something that was tolerated in the woods. If your elk hunting right you should suffer a little bit. Elk live in uncomfortable places. Bow, elk hunters are different breed. For some strange reason we look forward to suffering through September. What kind of crazy person does that? To most humans this is strange way of thinking, that's why its so counter intuitive to read Paul's words, "We Glory in our Sufferings." As one of those Crazy Elk Hunters I may offer some insight to what Paul was getting at. There are three things that stand out right away.
There is always knowledge to be gained through suffering. Yew wood is relentless, the more you push against it the more it springs you back. if you ever hunt the southern Oregon river bottoms you will eventually find this out. I am use to crashing through alder like a bear, but that tactic will teach you something about low growing yew wood, and yourself. I found myself trying to follow the X that marked the trail on my phones OnX app when I ran smack dab into a yew pocket so entangled that it looked like a wall. Knowing that a straight line is that shortest distance between two points (me and the trail) I decided to employ my alder crashing method. The technique seemed to work as tension rose in the yew limb. They stretched acting as if the tension would be released at any moment, once the outer sap decided to give. Just like alder right!? Wrong. The wood just stored more and more energy, as if it were the big bad wolf getting ready to blow my house down. I don't know about a house, but I barely lived to tell you, that yew branch feels like a ninjas knumbchuck as it strikes the meaty part of your leg. The blow brought me to my knees, which in turn loaded another branch to unleash a uppercut that even Mike Tyson would be proud of. You Know its true..The body will follow where the head goes. The knowledge suffering brought me that day was I'm not always in control of my path, if i kick against the yew tree of life I am more than likely going to get flattened..
Suffering brings us back to Reality. Our butts were thoroughly getting kicked! I mean Chuck Norris level butt kicking. We went all week without hearing a single bugle, yet every drainage had fresh elk sign. To add insult to injury our camp had 4g cell service at the outhouse, so our IG feeds of everyone else's success seemed to pour salt into the wounds received from ole Chuck. The hike out of camp was 2 miles of 1000'of elevation gain, sweat, and lactic acid. We climbed to the basin every morning for the last 10 days and with the dwindling hope of bugles in my mind the grind became a slug-out just to make it up the hill. Pain made itself visible across all of our faces, and eventually came out in the form of words. "This Sucks." I couldn't believe those words made it past my vocal chords, but they did. David, a bit perturbed, snapped back, "no complaining." When I decided to include him into our elk hunting group I made him swear that, no matter how hard it got, we capture our thoughts, and don't let negativity creep into our thinking. He was reminding me of my own words. Elk hunters wait all year for the Magical Month of September, and all that anticipation builds expectations that become a fantasy world that doesn't really exist in the elk woods. Add social media to the mix and we begin to think that bulls should com running to us at the first note passing through the tube. Reality is elk hunting, heck life, doesn't work like that! Its never easy, and if you kick against the yew patch it becomes down right dangerous. This is why the no complaining rule was invented, because complaining is just broken expectations. The reality is none of us deserve a elk. We don't even deserve, the sunrise, a air full of lungs, or legs with the strength to even climb the elevation. You see, once the unreal expectations get shed, we can start seeing all the blessings that we received to get us to even be able to set a foot in the elk woods. Every single aspect of the hunt is a greater blessing...and without suffering unreal expectations would continue to dominate our mind...No Complaining!
3. Suffering is the catalyst of Love. Suffering is the best tool to transfer love. The meat pulled turned my shoulder straps of my pack into saw blades that ground deeper with each step. knees turned a dangerous rubber as we crossed the scree field. Footsteps became individual efforts, and hamstrings brittle. Packing out meat is a test that takes you beyond endurance. The body screams "stop!" under the agony of the heavy packs, but the supernatural ingredients of Love outweigh the temporary breaking of body molecules. When John wrote, 'No one has Greater Love than this: To lay down his life for his friends, " he speaks to what we do. Heavy packs are a lesser illustration of the Love that love John talks about. If someone suffers for you you will love them. This scene plays itself out over and over each September as we help pack meat, or when a Dad goes without new shoes so his wife doesn't have to. Suffering for someone else is what love is all about, and God who is the source of Love, proved it through His own suffering. Jesus took on all of the suffering we chose, and traded it with all the blessing he deserved ...God took on mankind's suffering and replaced it with His life...The ultimate catalyst of Love!
Under this light, suffering...isn't what we make it. If the world were a mixture of time and random chance, suffering would be immensely evil. But, if there is a reason behind suffering, there is hope. The hope of bugling bulls is why we get up before light and suffer through the mountains. That small hope speaks to the Greater Hope, the return to the loving relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of the cosmos...Jesus.
So this season lets offer up our suffering as a offering to the Lord... a recognition of what he did for us on the Cross. Lets see Elk Hunting for what it is, as God never intended it to just be elk hunting, nope He intended it to be ELK HUNTING...a Metaphor that will lead us to true life...Him.
Romans 1:19-20 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Have a great season...Nate