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Just Around the Big Bend: On Suffering & Satisfaction


I camped last weekend.

My friends Brian, Sarah, and I made the 10ish hour drive down to Big Bend National Park.

Our first full day there, we decided to hike to Emory Peak, Big Bend’s highest point. At 7,825 feet, this hike was more like a trek for an out-of-shape, wannabe adventurer like me.

It was rough.

Minutes into the walk, I was already panting. Then my calves began to hurt. Then the sun came out, and I sweated like none other.

I wouldn’t define my uphill battle as suffering, but I sure wasn’t thriving. I often asked myself, “Why was this a good idea?” Then I pictured me passing out and rolling down the mountain. Doubts and insecurities crept into my mind.

Mental illness is very much a part of human suffering. Bipolar disorder challenges me because I have little to no control of my moods: I can be happy one day, and hopeless the next.

When I am down, I feel like I am lost in the valley, desperately trying to find a way uphill to a better view, a better state. I doubt my ability to get better, I become insecure about every part of my being. Fear and uncertainty plague my thoughts and interrupt my dreams.

It was worth it.

The top of the peak offered some of the best views of the area below. Mountains and deserts and valleys unfolded beneath my feet.

It was a beautiful, breathtaking sight. My doubts and insecurities stilled. And peace and hope filled my mind.

There is so much satisfaction from overcoming challenges. Each time I come out of my depression, I am thrilled to feel like myself, like a human again. I call up friends and schedule outings, I just want to be around the people I love to show them my true self.

It’s a beautiful, breathtaking moment when you realize the storm has passed. Doubts and insecurities dissolve. And peace and hope reign.

We can make it through the valley to stand on the mountain.

I had a student minister who always said, “If you’re not in a storm, you either just came out of one, or are headed toward one.”

There will be storms, and they will tear apart your life without asking permission. Lightning will strike, thunder will roar, and you will hope and pray to be saved by sunlight.

Make it through the storms, withstand the tests and trials down in the valley. Look up to the mountain, know there is refuge and hope and goodness ahead.

Because the mountaintop view lets you see and understand the trek you hiked, the fears you battled, the storms you faced. The mountaintop moment satisfies you by knowing your suffering was worth it.

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