Growing up at the foot of one of the most beautiful mountains in the West gave me a love and fascination for the highlands. I have summited mountains in the Andes of Peru, the Sierras of California, and the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. Throughout the year, you can find me on mountaintops skiing, biking, or backpacking, and no matter what I’m doing, I find myself engulfed in the aura, beauty, and majesty of God’s creations. However, I've learned that getting to these places of physical beauty requires effort and includes challenges. The same goes for summiting spiritual mountains: reaching new heights of faith requires effort and includes challenges. Enduring both types of growth have been priceless experiences for me.
To set the stage, here's a little about myself. I am married to the most wonderful woman and have two very active boys. My first son was born in 2011; my second was born prematurely in 2013. Exactly the same time my son was born prematurely, I completed a baccalaureate degree in construction management and had a job lined up in construction management. My wife and I thought this full-time job would be a break from student poverty, but surprisingly, our financial situation continued to get worse. I was on the bottom of the salary totem pole, and the expenses began to pile on. Rent increased significantly, our only car died, my company vehicle was sold due to company policy changes. School loan payments and medical bills started showing up in the mail. On top of all of that, I felt the need to start a masters program—a goal I'd always had—even though the feeling seemed so untimely, and starting my program only added to our family’s pressures.
One year later, with a completely exhausted budget, I was unexpectedly laid off. Immediately, my wife and I went from climbing a hill to climbing the Himalayas. After learning that I no longer had a job, I remember calling my wife with such bewilderment and fear. Providing for my family, accomplishing my goal of getting a masters degree, and having a successful career seemed impossible.
I want to compare that devastating event in my life to a recent biking adventure I had with a friend. He suggested we ride a challenging trail in the Wasatch mountain range, one that he frequently rides. I was slightly familiar with this trail—I knew it required a grueling 2,600-foot climb in the first five miles. Hesitant to attempt the ride, I still trusted my friend and went.
The initial one-mile climb on a paved road was challenging but tolerable. Then, we left the paved road for a, dirt single-track trail that was littered with loose rock and chalky dirt. I thought I could handle it at first, but I quickly began to wear down. The new, challenging ground required all of my strength to stay on my bike. What felt like an eternity of riding on this dirt trail ended up only being one mile. We had already climbed 1,000-feet—and we had another 1,600-feet to go.
The difficulty of the trail significantly increased. The rocks became larger, the hillside became steeper. I wanted to suggest that we simply turn around and enjoy the down hill ride—my favorite part—but I couldn’t give up and we biked on.
After pushing through the most challenging section of trail, we made it to the summit. The accomplishment was so relieving and rewarding. What I thought I couldn’t endure ended up being an amazing ride. My friend and I enjoyed the beauty God had created for us, and then went on with the much-anticipated downhill portion of the ride.
The road changed when I lost my job, and I simply wanted to give up. I wanted to turn around and return the way I came. I felt the climb ahead of me was unbearable. Fortunately, I was able to turn to prayer. I knew I had my Savior to see me through—who knew the challenges before me better than Him? While my life’s trail was suddenly rocky, dusty, and steep, I believed He knew what I was capable of accomplishing, and that encouraged me to carry on.
Four months of unemployment left us living on so little, and when my wife and I thought we couldn’t ride anymore—that we were at the end of the trail—I was offered a fantastic job. My new job not only allows me to support my family, the company that I now work for has made accommodated my goal to finish my master’s degree. Like the awesome moment I had at the summit of my bike ride, continuing on and having faith in my Savior became a sweet moment.
Though we are not completely out of the woods, we are on a path that will allow us to gain solid ground. Challenges, cradled with faith, make us better and stronger. I believe in the power of prayer and how it brings us closer to our Savior. I truly believe the Savior knows each one of us. He knows our needs and our desires. We have to do our part diligently and not give up, and as we do so, He is there to support us. Faith and works lead us to the summits of mountaintops.